It’s the end of the year and I’m trying to be upbeat, really I am, but it’s hard when Scotland and Scottish politics seems determined, always, to take the low road.
The burd is feeling a little weighed down by the lack, particularly frustrated at the lack of an appetite amongst our politicians for a fight. Oor Parliament has become a wee, timrous, cowrin beastie. Our politicians have fallen into the trap Eddie Morgan warned them against. Oh it’s all so depressing.
Take Tommy Sheridan. No, please do. Who he did with whom and when is no longer of public interest, unless it has relevance to the current political scene. Let’s just agree that the public persona of left wing caped crusader did not chime with the seedy reality of his private life. He won’t be the only politician – nor indeed, ordinary person – to be guilty of that.
In political terms, Tommy’s antics have destroyed the left for a generation. They have no credibility thanks to his inability to keep his pants on. And they will need to work hard to restore it, particularly amongst women. The behaviour of the women in the SSP parliamentary group towards each other was almost as shameful as Tommy’s treatment of women – in all circles and from all walks of life – as pieces of meat ready to fall for his dubious charms. Tommy and the SSP group achieved much – an end to poindings, a focus on universal free school meals – and their presence in the Parliament forced Labour in particular, to put social justice and poverty at the heart of their policy programme. But these achievements will always be sullied and overshadowed by the court cases and their outcomes.
Yet, Scotland needs a dynamic campaigning political figure like Tommy Sheridan. Now, ironically, probably more than ever. To stir the masses against the cuts. To take on the vested interests whose berths in Holyrood and elsewhere in the body politic have become more comfortable, not less so.
While Scotland waits eagerly to be titivated by the next sordid instalment of his private life, his absence – or rather, the absence of an alternative “man/woman of the people” – is keenly felt. There are so many rotten burghs waiting to be exposed and held to account, an orderly queue is required. Or at least it would be, if any politician in the land could be bovvered to line them up.
Weir Group guilty men anyone? Nope, no takers. Scotland will keep the blood money to spend on ourselves, Lord Smith of Kelvin will continue to stalk the boardrooms and corridors of power in Scotland unchallenged, and men who were prepared to allow women and children to die in order to turn a profit will carry on their careers.
Glasgow City Council? How many grubby wee tales of graft and corruption do we need before Audit Scotland goes in with a forensic comb to uncover the big stuff? Is there a role yet for the Scottish Parliament’s Audit Committee? Possibly not, given it’s chaired by a Labour MSP. But anyhoo, why do our parliamentary institutions wait to be told or allowed to get involved?
NHS doctor fat cats? Am I the only person in the land who read this in Scotland on Sunday and almost combusted at the obscenity of it? Doctors providing out of hours cover over the Christmas and New Year public holidays are being paid up to £145 PER HOUR! The usual rate of £60 per hour for out of hours work is just not enough to compensate them for “giving up their family lives over Christmas”. The burd agrees that everyone who works – in any sector – working over Christmas and New Year deserves adequate financial compensation. But this is more than double time. And it’s taxpayers’ money. At a time when it is in scarce supply. Who is declaring war on the NHS fat cats on our behalf?
The economy? No one wants to pay and GB PLC is running out of time. Our debt is spiralling out of control, the international community is twitching at the prospect of the austerity measures hitting home and the only response is for we consumers to be urged out of our armchairs and on to the high street. Big business – as usual – is bleating about the rise in VAT needing to be postponed and for Swinney’s supermarket tax to be scrapped. Bankers carry on as before and the FTSE 100 celebrated reaching the high water mark of 6000 for Christmas. For an excellent analysis of the trouble we are in, go read Alex Porter at Newsnet Scotland. And be afraid, very afraid.
There is a political high road to be taken, but none dare or care to. Holyrood is fast heading the way of Westminster, creating a political elite out of touch with the big issues of the day and the concerns of ordinary folk. The focus for the next few months will be on getting back rather than getting on. The campaign refrains are being rehearsed and none of them involve upsetting the current order of things and offering a better, different way for Scotland. Yet, we have never been in more dire need.
Scotland deserves better? Be part of better? If only the rhetoric hinted at such ambition.