jimtoggleJim O’Neill says we must continue to hold the Scottish Government to account, and highlights serious failings in education and transport which suggest the SNP is barely governing at all.


One word on Chilcot (well, a few). There are many more qualified commentators who have filled many column inches on Chilcot. My only comment is that it was one of the proudest moments of my political life that I went to Scottish Party Conference on behalf of my constituency to oppose war in Iraq. Despite being abused and spat upon by protesters who did not know how to make friends and influence people, we forced the Scottish Executive to put a debate on the agenda by continually referring back the agenda. A victory, even if in a losing cause.

But to business. Some of my critics on Labour Hame have accused me of continually attacking the Scottish Government while ignoring their successes. I suspect that these people don’t understand the concept of opposition. Opposition means attempting a forensic critique of the government’s actions and bringing these to the attention of the public. It is not my job to praise them. God knows, there are enough out there who do that. So let’s carry on.

In the last week we have seen a worrying report by Audit Scotland which showed that it is more difficult for young Scots to get to university in Scotland. This is after a series of promises by successive education ministers which, among other things, first set up an access fund for poorer Scots and then shut it down. A betrayal of the old Scots tradition of the lad o’ pairts. It is also following massive cuts in Further Education which have seen hundreds of thousands of access places disappear, especially in areas which would have enhanced our economy by developing skills needed by any growing economy.

It looks like we are seeing the dumbing-down of Scotland, either by deliberate or incompetent policy-making by the Scottish Government. Add to this the problems in secondary education and teacher recruitment highlighted last week, and we are seeing a management of education in our country which is destroying the futures of a generation.

Let’s turn to another area – railways. There are reports of substantial time and cost overruns in the Edinburgh – Glasgow electrification project, the Highland mainline and the Aberdeen – Inverness route. And what was the response? An investigation into the governance by Transport Scotland. Can anyone tell me how many such investigations have now taken under this Government? Surely by now they can get it right? This goes back at least as far as the fiasco over Edinburgh’s trams, when Transport Scotland called in the project and proceeded to screw it up further. It took the election of a Labour and Co-operative administration in Edinburgh City Chambers to sort it out. Mind you, I don’t think I would want to cross Cllr Lesley Hinds!

And at the same time we are faced with a dispute between the RMT and Scotrail, the company handed by the Scottish Government to Dutch state rail provider, Abellio. That despite the many calls for a people’s rail project in Scotland which finally scuppered the Scottish Government’s pretences to be pro-co-operative. This dispute has the potential to cause serious disruption to the Troon Open, which should be one of our showcase events, and which could damage Ayrshire’s economy.

In past days, the relevant minister would have had both sides in and banged heads together, but this laissez-faire government is continuing its hands-off policy. What exactly does the transport minister do all day? No control over major transport infrastructure projects and no involvement in a major transport dispute.

So, I will continue to identify the failings of the Scottish Government and I will continue to draw the public’s attention to them. It seems the right thing to do!

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14 thoughts on “Opposition means critique

  1. This site just gets stranger and stranger. Labour is imploding all over the place. It has lost the bulk of its support base in Scotland. It appears to be in grave danger of being supplanted by UKIP in much of the North and Midlands of England. Its parliamentary wing is at daggers drawn with its grass roots membership. In Scotland the party is moribund.

    What we get from columns by people like Mr. O’Neill is the familiar litany of SNP baaaad articles, generally based on misunderstandings or, more generally, misreporting of events. If the Scottish Government (and the UK government as well) is so bad why is Labour in apparently terminal decline?

    1. Which of what I say is inaccurate? Please correct me, if you can

  2. Well done on IRAQ, though you were no different from most people who were not Labour MP’s.
    Education. Its a fact that the ending of free education by Labour/Tory Parties, and the introduction of tuition fees in rUK had consequences for Scotland. But I noticed a letter in the Herald claiming Scottish places at Uni were ring fenced and could NOT go to other students. I also recall seeing stories in the Scottish press decades ago about Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities being mostly populated with English students at that time. Dont remember Labour being upset then. As for the “cuts” to colleges—why does Jim think full time courses are wrong?
    When the pits closed in East Ayrshire, miners were offered 6week (month???) courses to become electricians, brickies, joiners, plumbers etc—not one person ever got a job at a trade with those qualifications. Total waste of money—is that what Jim wants to bring back?
    If Labour/Tory governments hadn’t privatised everything, we would still have publically owned utilities.
    The fiasco with trams? Is this a joke—it was Labour/Tory/LibDumbs who forced trams on Edinburgh—the SNP wanted the money to upgrade the A9, if I recall.
    Did the Scottish government have the power to nationalise railways when it gave the franchise out? I don’t think it had.
    What does Jim think of the actual dispute–it seems bogus to me.
    Do continue to identify “the “failings of the Scottish Government”, but please don’t do so until you have exhausted examining the failings of those who actually have day to day responsibility for those issues—Teachers, head teachers, Directors of education, Health Boards, hospital administrators etc etc

    1. I note that the English Rail Minister has resigned because of the failure to resolve the Southern Rail dispute. So Humza Yousaf. What is your position?

  3. Fiasco over the Edinburgh trams project ??? ; and you honestly think no-one remembers exactly who was responsible for that particular “FIASCO “, it was one of the biggest labour, Tory & libdem ballsup their ever has been in Scotland.

    Pull the other one, its got bells on.

    1. Who intervened to hand responsibility to Transport Scotland, and then reversed the decision?

  4. No Jim its the people of Scotlands job to hold the Government and the opposition to account its the oppositions job to offer either support for policies they see are working for the benefit of Scotland or to offer alternatives to policies they believe don’t work for the benefit of Scotland.

    Opposition for opposition sake does nothing but serve party politics not the people its supposed to serve.

    We see the people of Scotland holding both the Government and opposition to account by the manner in which they vote who is in Government and who is not even the main opposition.

    I don’t think you people are even trying to win back support anymore I believe that if the red Tories can no longer control the party they will be content to destroy it completely. You seem to hate Social Democracy as much as you hate the SNP.

  5. The dumbing down of Scotland?
    I have a stake in the system. I have a son who has just started S6 and 2 grandchildren, one about to start P7 and one about to start P1.
    My son attends a fairly typical urban High School with a roll of about 1200 and its catchment includes some of the poorest areas of the town. The school building is 8 years old and superbly equipped, certainly compared to the 1930s-era school I attended in the 1970s.
    My son has been encouraged and supported through every step of his education by his teachers. In S4 he achieved 8 National 5s and is currently awaiting the results of the 5 Highers he sat in S5. He is studying a further 4 Highers this year as well as continuing to take tuition in saxophone and bass guitar on a non-certificated basis.
    He is *vastly* better educated than I was at his age. I sat my Higher Maths in 1978 and I think he surpassed my knowledge somewhere in the middle of S4.
    My granddaughter attends a medium-sized Primary School with a roll of around 400. The catchment is, once again, mixed. She is also benefiting from a very high quality educational experience. She has been imbibed with a love of learning and is looking forward to going to High School next Summer.
    My grandson is about to start P1 in the same Primary School. He has benefited greatly from the guaranteed hours at Nursery and can’t wait to go to “big school”.
    Are these experiences exceptional? I doubt it.

    1. I also have a stake in the system, my son starts grammar after the summer and the primary he has just left was twice in the top three primary’s in Scotland in the last five years. He has no fear about learning or attending his new school, as the induction he received was excellent.

      And this is the norm in our area, even with a shortage of teachers.

    2. Great news about the school. How was it paid for and who found the funding?

      1. If you’re asking about my son’s high school, it was one of a contract for 4 schools built using a NPDO structure.

  6. “Opposition means critique”, fair enough Mr O’Neil, but that does not give you carte blanche (I know French stuff too) to just make stuff up.

    Education in Scotland is fairing well when compared internationally, and especially when compared to the rest of the UK. The “State of the Nation: Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (chaired by Labour’s Alan Millburn) and the OECD’s PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) testify to that.

    As to your claim to be dismayed at Abellio being given the Scotrail franchise; really Mr O’Neil? “Scottish” (sic) Labour’s own “Powers for a Purpose” document from 2014 categorically states Labour would have done the same thing the SNP did over the rail franchise in 2015. That is, tendered the franchise for the period of 2015-25 and THEN looked at a nationalised “People’s Railway for Scotland”. As an informed and active Labour Party member, you should know this; and I believe you do. So when you try to mislead people with claims of SNP-bad over such things, it undermines both “Scottish” (sic) Labour’s credibility and, more importantly, yours.

    As to the Edinburgh trams fiasco …. really!!! You just embarrass yourself in trying to lay that blame on anyone other than the Unionist Parties that foisted it on an unwilling Scottish Govt (who perceptively knew it would be a disastrous white elephant) in order to “defeat” the newly elected SNP executive. Not for any high motives of good government …. just petty Party politics …. half a billion pounds worth of petty Party politics.

    So “critique” all you like Mr O’Neil. Just don’t expect people to take you seriously when you are so obviously prepared to mislead them.

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