Elizabeth-Anne Callaghan says while we keep re-fighting yesterday’s constitutional question, Scotland’s communities are suffering. The Scottish Parliament must do better.
I wrote at the beginning of April about Moving on from the politics of excuses, setting out my views as a Yes voter on politics in Scotland today. But the independence vote of 2014 continues to dominate the Scottish political landscape, and indeed this was reflected in the Scottish Parliament elections last month. It’s proving impossible to get away from it, much to my annoyance.
To be clear, I’m not annoyed that Scottish folk want independence or to remain part of the UK. I’m annoyed that this seems to be their priority above all else, and this reflects in our Scottish Parliament. Is it similar to Westminster becoming a platform for EU leave/remain and not much else? Is this a ridiculous comparison? I’m not so sure.
Listening to the maiden speeches of new MSPs, I was struck by how much I agreed with Richard Leonard saying the Scottish Parliament was becoming complacent. If we aren’t the worst at something, then we tell ourselves we are doing well. The Scottish Parliament has control over social work, education, health, housing and homelessness and much more, yet we seem more interested in what is, or isn’t, happening at Westminster. Our NHS, our children’s education, services to support Scotland’s most vulnerable, all within Holyrood yet we seem constantly to be looking elsewhere. Who does that?
Last week saw Scotland’s education in the spotlight, as depressing figures highlighted a stark inequality gap, a gap that to our shame, is growing. The reply on social media – ‘WHY IS THERE NOT MORE IN THE MEDIA ABOUT TORY ELECTION FRAUD’? Good question, but as education is devolved, Tory election fraud on the front page won’t make this education gap any smaller!
As someone who did vote Yes, it won’t come as a surprise that I favour a less centralised UK and less central government. When Tony Blair came into power in 1997 and delivered the devolution vote, I was delighted. To be fair to Tony Blair, he also challenged head on the dissenting voices of the No campaign, and devolution was won with 74% voting in favour of a Scottish Parliament and 63% voting for the Parliament to have powers to vary the basic rate of income tax.
It seems obvious now that the Scottish Parliament would become a platform for independence and the argument would dominate. It certainly led to an increase in the support for SNP (a party in existence for over 80 years). I don’t have a good history with the SNP since their vote of no confidence in the Labour Government in 1979 – a vote brought about by opposition leader Margaret Thatcher to enable the passing on of Tory cuts to Scotland’s communities.
Everyone in Scotland now seems to have a ‘side’, Yes or No. Some wear the badge with absolute pride, the stickers are on cars, on social media profile pictures, the t-shirts, the flags… And I saw a recent opinion column in the Herald where we now seem to have journalists having a go at one another depending which side they are on. Obviously depending on the side, they take the moral high ground and get praise from others on the same side. What an easy piece to write.
And that’s the point. In all this sound and fury, I’m still not seeing any moving on from the ‘politics of excuses’ or any real questions being asked regarding the thousands of job losses in Scotland’s councils and public sector, most of which is within the Scottish Parliament’s control. Around 1 in 12 people in Scotland are employed in council services. That’s 1 in 12 in Scotland with their job under threat and the services they provide. Is a task force getting set up for them? Not that I’ve heard.
Serious questions now must be asked of the way we are conducting the Scottish Parliament and our political debate. While we fight over yesterday’s question of Yes and No, Scotland’s communities are suffering, and I can see no end to this.