Could the SNP be losing its charm?

You might find it hard to believe, but this here burd has been hovering over devolution since its inception/reconvening in 1999.  I really have seen them all come and go, heard it all before, and am often amazed at having any smidgeon of idealism left.  I do – I have plenty, probably more than it deserves frankly.  One day, I’m sure, I’ll be stuffed and mounted in a suitably obscure nook and cranny in Holyrood.  This burd woz here.

The earliest days of the Scottish Parliament were like an adult version of How do they do that.  Suddenly a sharp and invasive light was being shone on the workings of government and politicians were lining civil servants up to explain themselves and their arcane workings.  Learning to be accountable – or at least to give sufficient semblance of it so that the parties and their sniffer dogs would go away – was something they learned fast.  They had to.

There were a number of stushies and scandals in the early days.  The biggest was something or other to do with exams and the SQA.  I’d go and google it if I could be bovvered but it is a sign of how things were in those frantic early times that the headlines were dominated for weeks by an issue that caused the nascent Labour-Liberal Democrat administration no end of pain but which now, few can remember the detail of.  Whatever, accountability for errors was demanded and truly received.  Various mandarins’ heads appeared on plates, the quango was reformed and we all moved on.

It’s hard to believe – it’s the kind of tale that historians will recount incredulously, I feel – that we lost a First Minister due to nothing very much at all.  Henry McLeish fell on his sword not because  of double accounting of office sub-lets, rents and parliamentary allowances, but because he could not explain himself on the telly.  I can recall his appearance on BBC Question Time with every toe-curling utterance;  by the time Dimbleby had finished with him, I was literally in the foetal position.  But to have an FM resign over this?  Yep, welcome to the bright, new shiny dawn of Scottish politics where we expect whiter than white and the ability to string a sentence together.

Then we lost a Conservative leader over claiming the odd taxi erroneously for parliamentary responsibilities when he had in fact been on party business.  That little episode was accompanied by the frantic rustling of expense claims all over the old PHQ (it’s now the Missoni Hotel) as staffers and MSPs combed through years’ worth of theirs.  There was also an awful lot of emptying of piggy banks as rogue taxi journeys were suddenly repaid.

When McLetchie finally did the decent thing and took the fall so no-one else had to – good job really or we might not have had an MSP left – the collective sigh of relief was tangible.  No one, least of all McLetchie who seems like a pretty honourable and straight up and down man to me, had ever claimed a taxi journey not quite for purely parliamentary business deliberately;  but that wasn’t the point.  Blood was scented, the political hack-pack got its dander up, and a resignation became inevitable.  In Scotland, like the best, wee country in the world we had become, we like our scandals wee as well.

Over the years, everyone settled down into a rhythm and it all became rather anodyne.   And something key changed the political dynamic, in that the SNP decided to focus on the pursuit of power instead of settling for harrying in opposition.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Once in power, the SNP, having largely forged its political craft in opposition, knew exactly the kind of pitfalls and traps it had to avoid.  Its ability to manage the agenda was made easier thanks largely to the redoubtable and remarkable talents of Kevin Pringle, for whom sleep and holidays are anathema.  Labour, meanwhile, has struggled to work out which way up one opens the box marked opposition and changes in the ranks of political journalists and the loss of specialist correspondents, as well as introspective concern for their own industry’s fortunes, seemed to sap the media’s energy for political dust-ups.

All these – and many more – factors have conspired to provide the SNP with a charmed life.

How else to explain how the SNP escaped unscathed from having the most MSPs, including high-ranking government ministers, of any of the parties to use (and some might say, misuse) the parliamentary allowance scheme which allowed them to purchase flats in Edinburgh, pay the mortgages at the taxpayers’ expense and then sell them, pocketing the often huge capital gain in the process.  Some deigned to offer to pay the capital gains tax – has anyone bothered to check if they did?  We did nothing wrong was the cry at the time, but it didn’t seem very right either.

Currently, we have a brew of incompetence and intransigence of potentially enormous proportions in the failure of the education system and its serried ranks of vested interests to implement in any meaningful fashion the Curriculum for Excellence.   A few weeks ago, the Education Secretary assured us the final and vital phase relating to a switch in exam qualifications would go ahead.  Then he was forced to throw some money at it to help make this happen and now, he has had to offer schools the opportunity to delay if they need to.  Today, the teachers’ unions are bleating for still more concessions.

This is the major flagship education reform of our time.  It is huge and has been nine years in the making.  Work started on implementation as soon as the SNP came into power, five years ago.  And still we are not ready.   To be fair to Mike Russell, he inherited this mess rather than made it and is doing his best to sort it out.  But failure to get this right threatens the life chances of a generation of Scots – it is that serious.   And yet, no one has suggested that heads need to roll.   He is clearly deploying a policy of appeasement in order to get the job done but surely at some point, there needs to be accountability.  The problem is that having learned how to be accountable, many have spent these middle years of devolution mastering the art of how to bury the evidence and get away with it.

Health might prove a turning point.  This week, we’ve had not one but two stones skimmed across the political pond, and they are creating a bit of a bounce.  In the Health Secretary’s back yard, Labour alleged that old people were being left to shiver without blankets in hospital.  Nonsense cried the Government, but then Labour presented the First Minister with Exhibit A – the pensioners in person – this week in Holyrood.  One example does not a scandal make, but if Labour can find more hospital patients experiencing the same indignities, they might be on to something.

If they want to land a blow on the Health Secretary, they have their work cut out.  What’s the best way to diffuse a potential timebomb?  Announce it yourself.   Hence, Nicola Sturgeon, whose political streetsmarts were always way beyond her relatively tender years, laid bare the false accounting of waiting times going on at NHS Lothian and condemned it utterly.  Labour is now asking for an audit in other health board areas.  Deliberate massaging of key health policy is unforgiveable and if there has been wholesale fraud – in its truest sense – then an awful lot of senior health managers and chairpersons might want to start clearing their desks.

At last, Labour is showing small signs of getting its act together in being able to nose out potential scandals that might stick.  To date, the Scottish Government has shown huge skill at delivering on manifesto headlines, even if the reality behind the scenes is much less clearcut.   It has bossed the news agenda to a remarkable degree (despite what the SNP rank and file might think); its attitude to government enthused many government officers and that helped things along.  This gloss, in particular, is wearing thin and implementation “issues” are starting to appear.  Crucially too, the SNP has also enjoyed a very large dollop of luck.

So far, the wind has been set fair for this Scottish Government;  it will be interesting to see how it copes with a change in direction and these, and other as yet unidentified, squalls on the horizon.

37 thoughts on “Could the SNP be losing its charm?

  1. @Annomymus the government that is hacking teachers (and everyone else’s) salaries and working conditons is the UK Westminster Government NOT the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government is costarined by the finances that are contained within the block grant, if public sector workers want decent pensions then you have no option to vote for independence.

    Take for example the LABOUR/CONSERVATIVE-WESTMINSTER McCrone Report which I QUOTE – “An independent Scotland in control of all her oil revenues would have the strongest currency in Europe with the exception of Norway and What is quite clear is that the balance of payments gain from North Sea oil would easily swamp the existing deficit whatever its size and transform Scotland into a country with a substantial and chronic fiscal surplus.” AND “It can be credibly argued that Scotland would be more prosperous should the Union of 1707 be repealed”. This report was CLASSIFIED by the LABOUR (James Callaghan) government of the day to (their words) stop the SNP from gaining Scottish independence.


    Article from the HERALD 1997 – Exclusive CLINCHING evidence that there has been a huge net flow of funds from Scotland to the Treasury since 1979, came in an answer from the Government in the final hours of the old Parliament last Friday, the SNP will reveal today.

    Not only do the latest figures destroy the last main argument against the suggestion that Scotland paid #27bn more than was received in public spending, they suggest that the actual figure was nearer to £31bn.

    Mr William Waldegrave, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has been forced to concede figures in Commons questioning in recent months, which show that if Scotland’s share of North Sea revenues had been allocated since 1979, then the net flow in favour of the Treasury from north of the Border ran to £27bn – a figure which the SNP used to refute previous claims that Scotland was subsidised.

    As soon as Mr Waldegrave saw the implications of the figures he had released in January, he attempted to backtrack, and Tories in Scotland fell back on trying to question one key figure – Scotland’s share of the UK deficit. This was 17.9% in 1994-95, almost double the per capita share, and disputed by the SNP.

    But Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth called the assumption that this figure of 17.9% was constant over the 18 years a ”ludicrous assumption” which ”hugely distorts calculations”, and his objection was picked up by Right-wing commentators, and even by Labour campaign co-ordinator Henry McLeish, who described it as a ”heroic assumption, a fundamental flaw”.

    But last Friday, as MPs were leaving Westminster – some for the last time – a final written answer to a question from Mr Andrew Welsh, SNP MP for Angus East, emerged.

    Mr Waldegrave gave the figure for Scotland’s deficit share for every year since 1979, and the average turned out to be almost exactly the 17.9% first identified.

    A jubilant Alex Salmond said last night: ”The Treasury answer – wrung out of it on the very last day of Parliament, and after a month’s delay – has blown the last shreds of the Tory subsidy myth out of the water.

    ”For the second time, William Waldegrave has been caught out telling the truth. This new Waldegrave admission proves beyond doubt that it is Scotland which subsidised the rest of the UK – not the other way round.”

    He claimed the Scottish subsidy to London now worked out at £6200 for every man, woman, and child in Scotland. The same Treasury analysis, showing an upturn in oil and gas revenues, shows a projected surplus over the next five years of a further £12.5bn.

    Now that that key figure disputed by the Conservatives has been shown to be accurate, the only other line of attack for critics of the SNP analysis will be to dispute Scotland’s share of oil and gas revenues, and only last week, the Government suggested that the North Sea belonged to a ”region” of its own, the Continental Shelf, rather than to Scotland or England.

    However, Aberdeen University oil economist Professor Alex Kemp, a member of the Scottish Secretary’s panel of economic experts, said last night: ”This is clearly not very sensible or logical.”

    I aplogise for the lengthy posts and if I seem to have gone off topic but I wanted to emphasise my point that Scotland is a naturally rich county and yet most of our money is drained to the South of England and specifically London. An independent Scotland could utilise these resouces to ensure that the education poilicies and teachers were properly resourced and paid. The Scottish government as part of the UK as it presently stands CANNOT be blamed for the effect of Westmnster cuts.

  2. Oh dear how patronising especially when you don’t seem to get plain English.

    Your final comment was “We are under staffed, morale is low, pay is falling behind, pensions are being fought over etc etc … yet teachers still turn up and do a professional job day in, day out.”


  3. “We are under staffed, morale is low, pay is falling behind, pensions are being fought over etc etc … yet teachers still turn up and do a professional job day in, day out.”

    Just like the rest of the country eh? Only we don’t have the time of you enjoy or the gold plated pensions. etc etc

  4. “yet teachers still turn up and do a professional job day in, day out.”

    Teachers like nurses are not infallible, there are some bloody awful ones out there. So less of the pious bleating. The problems you have as a teacher are not a bit different from that of the rest of the population and in fact you are better paid and pensioned, with much more time of. Their is a very strong political undercurrent in a lot of teachers actions and sentiments. Labour strongholds have a vested interest in the failure of SNP policy the records show they also have the worst compliance record. Stop portraying your selves as Scotlands martyrs, you are far from it.

  5. Is it perhaps the case that the reason earlier FMs were done for due to such trivial matters was, at least in part, due to the trivial nature in which their parties treated Holyrood?

    The first thing the SNP did was change the name from Scottish Executive to Scottish Government. But this has been more than a mere name change, as they have proceeded to act like a government, rather than just a bunch of people executing policy. As a result, it takes more than minor misdemeanours to see heads roll. The few issues that SNP ministers have weathered – Nicola’s involvement with a constituent’s legal wranglings, for example – would perhaps have brought about the end of ministerial careers in the previous administration. But the esteem that SNP ministers are held in – coupled with their sheer political skills – has seen them rise above it all.

    Except snow. Nobody can beat the elements. Or the BBC when it has decided it wants to kill someone’s ministerial career…

    • I have, of course, bizarrely decided to pretend that McLetchie was FM at some point…

      (Hopefully the main jist of my point shines through regardless.)

    • The BBC did not kill the minister’s career – he did it himself and there are those at high level in the SNP who were glad to see him go.

      I’ve heard every reason for why he hadn’t done anything wrong, even to the point where someone blamed the BBC for not getting the weather forecast right.

      The reason he had to go was that he baulked when faced with a real issue. Why do you think Mike Russell and Kenny McAskil had to be rolled out, on something that was not in their portfolios.

      • I hate to nitpick but the BBC did not get the weather forecast right because the Met did not get the weather forecast right that particular day. The forecast was for snow showers which is why the schools opened and people went to their work as normal – but it turned out to be a blizzard rather than snow showers and that was why everything went horribly wrong.

        The reason SS resigned was because he did not realise the seriousness of the situation for people who were trapped on the motorway. That was it really. He misjudghed his tone. The whole thing was really rather silly in hindsight. Scottish politics has a pettiness about it at times which is quite depressing shown in that example, as well as the whole Hemry McLeish saga over which I agree resignation was unnecessary.

  6. The ‘confusion’ over the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence is nothing new. Each material shakeup in the educational system meets resistance and complaints from those who must implement often rashly worked out practices with too few resources. CfE is just another in the system.

    There was the dumbing down of Standard Grades so no child would be labelled as having failed but, of course, everyone saw through that one. There were the changes to the Highers and huge confusion and unhappiness over the rushed and kack-handed introduction of Higher Still. Let’s not even go to 5 to 14.

    Nine years in the making of CfE seems quite long enough if everyone has been doing what they should have, including providing a stock of resources, and it occurred to me that the often Labour-led teachers’ unions were possibly using the changeover to score a few political points against the SNP government. It wouldn’t matter what Russell had said or done – changing the curriculum is always going to met with resistance. Schools, employers and universities have been here before when the ‘woe is me’ cries have gone out that the new set-up isn’t ready. If schools are ready for CfE they will work through it fine. For those who are dragging their feet then they will put their bairns through the old exams and they will be accepted as before. It won’t make an iota of difference to anyone except perhaps the style of teaching in the classroom and the experiences the youngsters won’t get from the delaying schools.

    I too am wondering how long it will take for the SNP government to lose its sheen. Any Party in power for a length of time runs out of goodwill as the finances become tougher to deal with. This is surely a danger as time ticks for 2014 but it is inevitable that attacks from the union side will gather pace towards the referendum and it is important that government ministers are on top of their briefs.

    There are able and less able in the government – and the bloody irritating – but I think the greatest danger to the SNP is a tendency to allow its majority in parliament to stop up its ears so it doesn’t hear what we, the Scottish public, are saying. Not the opposition – we didn’t vote for them – but the people who put their trust in the SNP. (And in Aberdeen we’ve seen the mistake this has been – reinforced by Alex Salmond’s insensitive congratulating of big business’ while trampling on popular opinion.)

    • Just on your last point – obviously I shared your criticism of the City Garden Project, but I’m not sure we can accuse Eck of trampling over popular opinion when we’ve had an actual vote to determine popular opinion, and our side turned out not to be the popular one. Similarly, I’m not sure we could claim there to have been popular opinion against Trump’s golf course (at the time of it getting started) – I’m fairly sure if a referendum had been carried out on that, it would have gotten a bigger yes vote than the CGP one, if only because the site in question wasn’t nearly as prominent to most people as UTG is.

      Unless by “popular opinion” you don’t necessarily mean the most popular one – in which case just ignore me!

      • Eck was propping up the Wood scheme before the results of the vote came out – when the results of the first poll indicated a huge majority against the development. He ought to be more circumspect about alienating SNP support (given the tight vote and the already unpopularity of one of the worst councils in years in Aberdeen).

        It’s curious that on the day when everyone is talking about ‘cash for influence’ at Westminster that we have a case here of wealth jiggling the wad and plans being changed to accommodate it. There are lessons here for all political parties – and their leaders.

        On the Trump case I agree that initially in the northeast opinion favoured his development – overwhelmingly so – and it was Trump and his organsiation which squandered this support.

      • Again, although I agree that the first poll showed a majority against the development and thus should have ensured it went no further (I’m assuming we’re talking about the 55% against result at the public consultation), I don’t think we can call that a huge majority, and the number of people who actually voted in that is not enough to warrant calling it popular opinion. There are two reasons I say that:
        1) there are people currently claiming that as half the population didn’t vote in the referendum, and only half of those that did actually voted for the project, then this means there is no popular support for it; these people don’t realise it, but such an argument merely makes a mockery of the idea of paying any attention to the result of a public consultation where under 12,000 people took part;
        2) 55% is hardly miles away from 52%. It’s certainly a majority, but I wouldn’t call it a huge one.

        Anyway, my pedantic nit-picking aside, I suspect for many it was the eventual “Granite Web” concrete monstrosity design that put them off, because I know a lot of people who voted no but would have voted yes if it had been the more respectful winter gardens design that had been chosen.

        I dunno, as an SNP member the whole thing has been pretty sad for me, making me consider voting against my party when the council elections come along, and I agree I would have liked it if Eck had completely distanced himself from the issue. However, I can only recall him putting himself on record as being in favour once, and that was around the time of the referendum when STV and the BBC asked him about it, but he made clear he would have nothing to do with future decisions on the project since he’s an Aberdeenshire MSP. I still would have preferred he had nothing to do with it, but I’m not sure it would have been possible for him to do so without being accused of ducking the issue.

        But I suppose the fact that a lifelong SNP supporter (i.e. me) is even considering placing his vote elsewhere actually backs up the wider point you’re making. So why am I being so fussy about the language? Because I’m a pedant. Also, why am I conducting a conversation with myself in a comment on a blog post? And why am I about to press “submit” instead of deleting this nonsense?

        We’ll never know.

    • lenathehyena,

      Can I just highlight this from your last post?

      I too am wondering how long it will take for the SNP government to lose its sheen. Any Party in power for a length of time runs out of goodwill as the finances become tougher to deal with. This is surely a danger as time ticks for 2014 but it is inevitable that attacks from the union side will gather pace towards the referendum and it is important that government ministers are on top of their briefs.

      (I hope that worked!)

      Anyway, the arguement surely is that any contraction in the Scottish budget is down to these nasty Tories?

      It is perhaps a tough, but honest, truth?

      Where the blame lies, lies the result of the referendum, perhaps.

      • Of course Scotland’s spending is dependent on what is supplied through WM but there are still decisions over how that money is spent here and continuing accusations that all cutbacks/lack of investment are due to WM may well begin to ring hollow by 2014.

    • One final point I forgot – I would actually argue that the idea of putting it to a referendum will end up neutralising what could have been a local electoral disaster for the SNP, as many people will end up thinking “well, can I really blame them, or does the fault lie with the gullible idiots I share this city with, who voted for the stupid thing?”

      Certainly, if the project had just gone ahead without being put to a referendum, there would be no question about me changing my vote in May – it would have been a foregone conclusion. I reckon that was a pretty clever move.

      • Hi everyone – thanks for all the comments here and lovely to see you all having a dialogue on various issues this post touched on. I’ve kept out of it, cos not sure I can add anything useful – you are all much better at it than me!

        Only perhaps to comment on my inclusion of blanket-gate in my (very short, it has to be said) list of potential banana-skins for the SNP. There’s nothing fair or reasonable about politics or which issues prove the most enduring or sensible, as I hope the ones I listed as ones which caused resignations show. Sometimes, it is the very small, people-oriented ones rather than big picture shows which cause the most problems. Think back to Gordon Brown and that wee wumman last election. Jennifer’s ear etc.

        I’m not suggesting the FM or the Health Secretary should be held accountable for old folk shivering through the night in a local hospital but officials and managers certainly should. And it was indeed cynical of Labour to exploit this but that is what opposition politics is about. Don’t make it right but if I thought hard enough I could find examples of SNP doing it in opposition too. Ultimately, the two people concerned brought their issue to Holyrood as thousands of others do, day in day out. The fact they felt they had to do this in order to get it addressed speaks volumes about the lack of response at local level.

        Politicians rarely cause the problems that trip them up – including Stewart Stevenson who was very badly briefed on the message to put out to the nation on the night of the snow chaos – but officials are very good at ensuring they end up without a seat when the music stops.

  7. Douglas Clark and Garry

    Thank you.
    I was too disgusted and actually disappointed to actually sit down and expand on my thoughts. I had believed this blog to about the best and usually well balanced .

    Piffle is the best word I can call to mind to describe Labour’s efforts at FMQT.
    They are pathetic. Why do they treat the Scottish Parliament like a community council?.
    Jackie Baillie cast a large shadow……. Let me rephrase that. This is typical JB stuff – her of the fantasy claim of 11,000 jobs dependent on Faslane which the STUC has shot completely out of the water. But this drivel is all they have to offer.

    I can just imagine Ed Milliband using up PMQT in attacking David Cameron over the lack of toilet rolls in some hospital ward in Hartlepool.

    I am, by the way, a retired teacher. They complain all the time about everything. It’s a bad move to make concessions to them. They’ll be back for more.

  8. “How else to explain how the SNP escaped unscathed from having the most MSPs, including high-ranking government ministers, of any of the parties to use (and some might say, misuse) the parliamentary allowance scheme which allowed them to purchase flats in Edinburgh, pay the mortgages at the taxpayers’ expense and then sell them, pocketing the often huge capital gain in the process. Some deigned to offer to pay the capital gains tax – has anyone bothered to check if they did?”

    You make it sound as if the CGT was to be paid voluntarily, but since it wasn’t their main private residence any such tax would be compulsory on any profit made?

    Of course, it was spun to make it look like the profiteering MSPs were doing the taxpayer a favour in subjecting the gains to tax, but the reality is that they were making a virtue of necessity.

  9. Of course, if there were any genuine scandals at work, like for example the scandal of Scotrail having their contract re-newed by a quango who employ key employees with financial links to First Group, then you would expect the Scottish press to completely ignore it completely. Allan you cynic!

    Health might well be the turning point because of Sturgeon’s naive ignorance of the real problems at the heart of the Scottish NHS – the overpaid heads of the health boards. The RAH (the hospital at the centre of “Blanket-gate”) astonishingly comes under Greater Glasgow health Board, who have form with unpopular decisions surrounding the RAH. Last year they imposed unpopular car parking charges that was more detrimental to hospital staff and to neighbours of the hospital. It was probably this issue that did for Labour in Paisley.

    Rather than pledge for increased spending for the NHS, prehaps Sturgeon should have looked into re-organising the Health Boards up and down the country, citing best practice issues and a need for value for money – which these organisations do not provide.

    BTW, Gary has clearly no knowledge of the very public spat over this played over the past two weeks editions of the Paisley Daily Express as George Adams the local SNP MSP, and Douglas Alexander MP have waded into this argument in their fortnighly columns in that particular organ. How does he know that the two “innocent victims” have not attempted to bring this to the attention of the powers that be, onlt to be fobbed off.

  10. Where the article is right is on the trivial nature of some of the issues that appear to exercise the fourth estate. Minister resigns because of failure to deal with snow in Sub Artic nation comes to mind.

    We are now, as Dave McEwan Hill says, expecting our First Minister to micro-manage to a level that is utterly ridiculous. If there is a failing in relation to the pensioners and their blankets then it is whoever was in charge of the ward that deserves censure. Assuming, that is, that it is not government policy to freeze patients half way to death.

    I am not at all impressed with Johann Lamont and her pantomime antics in the chamber. ‘It’s behind you’ is maybe appropriate in a matinee performance of Puss in Boots, but it is really pretty pathetic as an opposition strategy.

    There have been at least two substantive issues over the last couple of days, firstly the release of the SCCRC documents, and secondly the apparent agreement on the Scotland Bill. These two issues both have the potential to enhance and tarnish the SNP administration and have, at the very least, some substance to them. I wish we were, as a nation, discussing that rather than blankets!

  11. I have to say that ‘blanketgate’ demonstrates just how far Labour has fallen. To present two innocent victims of operational shortcomings in public and try to spin it as some kind of failing in policy or in ministers is abject and shameless. It is perhaps no surprise Jackie Baillie is associated with this.

    Just what is the point in playing this episode out in public? What is the policy that Labour believes has failed these unfortunate patients? And, by extension, where is the ministerial failing? The answer is, other than provision of unlimited funds and resources, there is not a single thing that a minister could have been expected to do to prevent this.

    The grown up and mature way to handle these operational failings is to raise it privately and have the minister (or indeed the health board or even the primary health trust itself) sort it through the chain of command. Ultimately, something has gone wrong in the management process and if it is a systematic problem it needs to be sorted. The chances are, though, that some poor unfortuate has just made an honest mistake and it will probably now cost them their job because of the political capital Labour has tried to make.

    The real failing which all this demonstrates, however, is that Labour has nothing, absolutely nothing, to contribute in terms of alternative policy or public service reforms to make things better. Each of their spokespeople simply call for more resources for their portfolio and refuse to tell us which of their colleagues’ budget should be sacraficed for their own largesse.

    Has it really come to the point where Labour’s only line of attack is to try to build individual constituency cases into attacks on the Government? Do Labour really think this comes anywhere near demonstrating their ability to govern?

    Labour is replacing the difficult stuff like policy development with ambulance chasing and they can’t even seem to do that properly.

    • Gary, had a Labour administration had a similar issue, the SNP would have done exactly the same. That is what you do in opposition. And to be frank, I’d prefer such shortcomings to be aired publicly to stop them happening again.

      What do you want? All nice touchy-feely stuff to make things easy for Eck?

      The SNP do need the occasional kick up the backside.

      • It is fair enough to kick the SNP up the backside if there is an issue of policy or a government decision which is causing problems. So it is fair enough for example to call for an enquiry into whether other health boards have been massaging their waiting list figures as Lothian has. But it is not fair enough to hold the Health Minister or indeed the First Minister personally accountable for a cock-up with blankets on a hospital ward. Unless you believe that the Health Secretary personally oversees every ward in every hospital? I would be a bit worried about that myself given that she is not a doctor or a nurse!

  12. I cant agree or disagree with your article because I don’t know the facts you base your blog on. I may or may not be wrong but you would appear to have information that the mere punter does not have , so only the parties or the people like you will know the info you are writing about.

    Surely this is more important ,whether you are right or wrong, should we not all be in possession of the facts good or bad , we have a mixed bag of a press who shoot from different places, blogs with a flavour, commentators with a slant, how do we get pure news available to all not just those who know, and those who like you get their info from digging around and maybe the odd here ya go ( I dont know that ).

    I voted SNP to support indy, after Indy I will look again, but I want change because the whole political system is corrupt, some are not so bad but in the current system some good people can get sidelined .

  13. Erchie, I think you are being unfair with your comments. Supporting independence does not mean you must support the SNP. Likewise, those who support the SNP may not necessarily be in favour of independence. But I’m sure she can defend herself!


    Back on topic, I think the SNP’s opponents are getting smart. They have stopped attacking the personalities, and are now aiming at the policies. The issue over the blankets was effective. It wasn’t aimed at a resignation, but it was a little chink into Sturgeon’s armour, and she is probably the most fireproof of all the SNP.

    I expect to see more and more little attacks, all designed to wear down the image of efficiency that the SNP has. The usual calls for a resignation won’t be there, unless there is a major ballsup.

    The SNP have had it relatively easy. But with a smarter opposition, things are going to get more difficult.

    • Aside from wily operators like Johann Lamont and Jackie Baillie, I’m not sure the opposition is all that smarter. They’ve played the Curriculum for Excellence morass appallingly. The blankets thing, yes. The waiting times/lists – Nicola Sturgeon uncovered that and made it public herself. The point I was trying to make – and clearly failing to, judging by other comments – is that much smaller stuff caused problems for previous administrations, yet here are some big policy issues, tied to SNP’s own key policies, which appear to not be working as they should. They may or may not result in political problems for this administration.

      • I think the smartness lies behind the scenes. The dangerous politician to me is Davidson, surprisingly enough, because she has been to date quite articulate. Time will tell however.

    • Hi

      I concur as regards the SNP.

      I voted Green 1st in both 2007 and 2011

      2011 I wavered a bit, because I thought Patrick Harvie was over-playing his hand and was feeling out for a deal with Labour, but I stuck with them

      I have a Green Councillor and hope that his replacement is equally as commited (and get elected)

      However, it’s an odd thing reconciling your “SNP have it easy” given the vitriol poured out from the press against them

      However at least they get some kind of coverage

  14. Sorry, Burd
    Utter nonsense.
    Perhaps Alex Salmond should be counting the sausages in the hospital canteens.

  15. Ms Higgins

    I am not a member of the SNP, nor do I see any inclination in myself to join them

    However, I’ve been reading your posts and tweets for some time, you seem, while still Independence minded, more comfortable with Labour people.

    Your stint on Betternation, reinforces that. Jeff, Malc & James used to challenge each other, I have yet to see you challenge, for example, Aidan, when he attacks the SNP on a council tax freeze, but is silent on the Stirling CT cut.

    In fact, the impression you give is “I was with the SNP when they were uncool, now they’re mainstream I don’t like them much”

    I thought it was bands people did that with

    • Thanks for personalising things. What or who I am is of no matter. And as usual, everyone is reading a slant into this analysis which says more about their own predilections and insecurities than mine.

      Much smaller fry derailed previous administrations – the SNP has got potentially some big policy issues going awry coming down the track. The fact that they have escaped becoming mired in scandal or at least, “events” to date is actually a testimony to their strengths and skills. I think the post makes that plain.

      • Hi Ms Higgins

        My point is I think your analysis has a very personalised under-current

        It is a failing of the press here that, because they are so fixated on Alex Salmond and Independence, that they neglect “meat and potatoes” reporting.

        I imagine SNP supporters would say that that is because the other parties couldn’t bear the scrutiny, but, for whatever reason it’s what we have to deal with.

        You mention what might be sharp dealings with regard to SNP expenses claims. Care to name names and provide details?

      • i don’t – I repeat what is a statement of fact re expenses for mortgage payments. And the taxi thing could have been anybody who inadvertently mixed up a party activity and a parliamentary one. Often the two are concurrent and hard to discern which is which – or people were quite relaxed about that until taxi-gate.

        SNP are probably better than others. Their record speaks for itself with no expenses scandals in twelve years.

  16. I think maybe you should try and be a little more insightful into your claims and that teachers unions are ‘bleating’ for concessions. If you have the insight to look deeper than the surface of the issue of Curriculum For Excellence you may leanr something a little more tangible and factual. Those ‘bleating’ unions said from the get-go that without proper investment CfE would struggle to be implemented. What is effectively,in a nutshell, happening in the everday school is that teachers are having to create the entire curriculum themselves with very little, if any clarity, and there is no proper funding in schools to carry the task out.

    When you have teachers working at capacity in terms of timetable commitment and then you have all the administration to do .. testing, reports, marking, piles of form filling, meetings, school trips, preparations etc etc … and then you think we can also devise an entire curriculum that here is very little solid information on !!!!!! . I think you severely miss the point.

    Unions argued from day one that if this was to work correctly then proper investment was required … there was none !!! What had to happen here is that some subject teachers in every school had to be taken ‘off-line’ so as to develop the courses, to meet with local authority representatives, to go through to Edinburgh for meetings, information etc and in effect create the entire curriculums. This isnt an ‘off the shelf’ idea but an abstract idea that teachers are supposed to implement!!! We dont even yet know how the final assessments will look yet courses still have to be built. How can you know where to go when there is no map for where it finishes?

    So if I were you i’d put aside your anti-union sentiments and try and think rationally. Too many people these days want to ‘teacher bash’ and no wonder children are losing respect for education and those hard working people in it. Despite what the general public think I know the vast majority of teachers work their behinds off and do the very best they can for ‘their’ kids. We are under staffed, morale is low, pay is falling behind, pensions are being fought over etc etc … yet teachers still turn up and do a professional job day in, day out.

    • See that final statement is why a lot of people get quite peed off with teachers to be honest. You seem to expect congratulations for turning up and doing your job day in day out despite the fact that you are under staffed, pay is falling, pensions under threat etc.

      You and most other people. It’s not like everyone else is in nirvana with jobs which never change, pay rises every year and gold plated pensions.

      Things are tough for everyone right now.

      • Hey Indy,

        I appreciate your comments however misguided they are. First of all you appear to think that what I say in relation to morale falling, pay cuts, pensions etc should have people ‘peed off’. I am sorry if you think fighting for your rights and for fairness of contract and for adequate remuneration, and workers general rights is something that should just be accepted. If people get ‘peed off’ with others fighting for their rights then its a sad world indeed we live in.

        I dont expect congratulations for the job I do, its never given anyway, but I expect the contract I signed to be honoured … like you would yours. I am not about to roll over, and neither is the profession, to a government that is hacking and hacking at peoples conditions and eroding them continually.

        I have yet to see, as have any unions, the governments figures that the pensions are unsustainable .. I think we have been waiting 12 months now … silence!!. And as for Gold Plated Pensions .. that classic line ….. if people again did their research prior to firing out the old cliche’s they hear then maybe there could be some progress. The average teacher has a life expectancy of 7 years upon retirement (many dont even get to retirement) and they input 7% of their salary for near on 40 years. A quick sum will tell you this equates for the average teacher to nearly £200,000. That is actually an under-estimate but think of that figure if it was invested correctly etc would have a very nice return over that period. Now bear in mind the average teacher will get a maximum of £17,000 per annum pension …. there we now have about 13 years of pension. Also bear in mind the figure I gave you excludes government pension contriburions. So where is the ‘gold plate’. I think you will find teachers paid their own way and were given nothing. So please try not to listen to proaganda and have a mind of your own to research information before making such grandiose claims.

        Also the average teacher works 55 hours a week .. and is paid for 35. In the private sector thats 80 hours a month overtime or time in lieu. We get nothing and do it willingly for the benefit of kids and their education. Plus schools simply cannot run with teachers working their contract.

        Which brings me to my next point … it appears that teachers in Scotland will shortly be working to contract and maybe at that point people will see the commitment that is given by professionals that care about what they do. Schools will soon ‘grind to a halt’ and all those school trips, teams etc will cease. Teachers dont want to do this but feel it is being forced upon them with continual attacks on our contracts. But of course the way you commented we shouldnt care about our contracts should we? We should all just accept it happily including you.

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