Jim O’Neill takes a look at the SNP’s Programme for Government and sees some good, some bad and some flannel.


The old saw used to say that “the proof is in the pudding”. Now with the advent of shows such as Masterchef and Big Bake Off, the new presenters are showing that the proof is in the eating. No matter how fancy the presentation, if it doesn’t taste good, you will leave the show.

Nowhere is this more true than in Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government. After a desert of legislation caused by her obsession with Indyref2, with only one act in the past nineteen months, we are faced with a veritable smorgasbord of bills for parliament to get its teeth into. Some of these bills are very welcome, some are contentious, and some have spending implications which are not yet clear.

As a former Children’s Panel chair, I very much welcome the long-overdue increase in the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. This does not mean that younger children will get away with crime. It does mean that children under 12 will be dealt with in a very different way and will not have their childish actions following them around all their lives. Scotland’s unique Children’s Panel system is well equipped to provide the care and intervention needed to turn these young people’s lives around, and should be given the resources to do so.

Similarly, the bill to pardon men convicted of offences related to sex between men that are no longer crimes, and Frank’s Law to provide care to those under-65s suffering dementia and other similar illnesses show a caring image, but the key major change is the removal of the pay cap, a victory for the public sector unions. This, however, is one of the areas in which we will have to wait to see the outcome. If the Pay Review next year decides to award a substantial, catch-up, increase, will the Scottish Government accept it? If so, how will they pay for it?

Among the more contentious proposals is the education bill, which will give effect to the changes in educational governance that are John Swinney’s “big idea”. This will diminish the responsibility of local government for the delivery of quality education, at a time when it has been reported that there are fewer HMI inspections of schools than ever before. I am sure that Labour will mount a strong challenge to this, just as they will to any lessening of local government powers in the local government review. This has been a centralising government over the past ten years and a reversal of that trend would be welcome.

The plan to commit £50m to attack child poverty, which has insidiously grown since the loss of the last Labour Government, which had halved child poverty in Britain, is good news but again the devil is in the detail and until we see how that money is to be spent to create a sustainable cut in child poverty, I think we must hang fire on any welcome.

Some of the proposals will create government costs which are neither spelled out nor funded. These include the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars by 2032, the National Investment Bank and the Climate Change Bill. Mr Mackay will have a lot of late nights finding the funding for these.

There were some disappointments in the statement. There was no mention of how the government is going to address the many crises facing the National Health Service, such as the recruitment of GPs and the growth in the time that people have to wait for operations. This is an area where Shona Robinson seems lost, as have been so many Health Secretaries before her. There was also inadequate comment on the need to rapidly increase social housing across the country, where waiting times and homelessness are increasing. And there was no mention of the implementation of the Scottish Benefits Agency, or actions to be taken to mitigate benefit cuts such as Universal Credit as it rolls out across Scotland.

So, there was much to be welcomed in the First Minister’s programme, not least in that it gives parliament a number of bills to get their teeth into. I trust that government will welcome opposition amendments rather than taking the dogmatic approach they have taken in the past. But there is also much to challenge in the programme and it looks like Scottish politics may have woken up from the torpor induced by the focus on constitutional matters.

In the end, however, as I said, the proof will be in the eating.

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15 thoughts on “The proof is in the eating

  1. Very good analysis Jim. Worth pointing out that the educational “reforms” are not really John Swinney’s “big idea” though. They are pure Thatcherism, from her late 1980’a plans to bypass LEAs in England.

  2. Where to start? Funding is good. While Saint Jeremy only wanted to tax those earning above £80,000, the Blessed Kezia wanted us all to pay for repeated invocations to use “the powers of the parliament”. How much in the last year alone? At least 10p in the pound.
    A couple of points. The constitutional thingy is still to the fore, with Labour backing Tory Brexit separatism. Perhaps Jim missed that.
    I am here, spending some of my miners pension, in sunny(30′ today) Occitania and yesterday’s Midi Libra had a story of a teachers strike( they only finished their Summer Hols on Monday). Reasons? Overcrowded classes: curriculum: lack of training: bad management. Or—–the sun is still shining. Cynical me.
    My sister in law had an infected mosquito bite. Phoned the doctors in Magalas, got an appointment that afternoon. Bad reaction to the prescribed antibiotic. Phoned Beziers hospital and saw the on-call Dr that evening.straight away–no waiting. Of course the French health system is vastly better than the UK(with Scotland the best performing and staffed in the U.K.) far better funded etc. It cost us money certainly, but that will be claimed back.

    Talked to some English ex pats here. They are out of their wits with worry, and cannot comprehend the separatist nationalism driving British politics. Some nasty things are easier to see from a distance.

    1. Left a comment to you on Neil Findlay Blog.
      Hope you are enjoying your hols . When you get back it will probably be to rain and winds ha ha
      You mention the English ex Pats.
      You don’t need to go to Spain for that .
      Years ago when Edinburgh was in gridlock because they were digging the roads up for the trams .
      I went on a bus day trip to Edinburgh see the castle etc.
      I saw people coming out of the shops and shouting racial abuse at the guys digging up the roads . Some of the people doing the shouting owned the shops . I could not believe it I had never seen that kind of thing before
      And it was not an isolated incident . I wonder if the present Trams enquiry will hear of incidents like that.
      I am a firm remainer as regards the EU . About 2 weeks before the ref I was on the bus going to my doctors surgery in Irvine. At that time the scheme the surgery is located in had a load of roadworks it was the Gas board.
      I heard people on the bus saying look at that Polish guys doing our guys out of jobs.
      I knew immigration would play a big part in the vote. When I heard that I thought maybe Scotland will vote to leave.
      North Ayrshire is in chaos on the roads waterworks we all know it has to be done.
      On the bus going to Kilmarnock . Guy says the men working in Kilmarnock are all so and so Poles don’t speak a word of so and so English. I don’t know any of them but we have this stuff here as well.
      I hope it does not creep into our Labour Leadership election.
      I know that politicians of all parties are subject to this.
      And I still say the FM nicked labour policies for her programme for Government. And Why was it Tuesday before we saw those new policies

  3. Oh Jim Bob you’ve completely left out the FACT that Labour in Wales have voted down removing the pay cap. Havent mitigated the bedroom tax havent mitigated any Tory cut have the worst Education, NHS, public service, welfare record in the UK.
    Wales is the perfect example of what Labour does when it has the power to do stuff instead of spending its day making up SNP bad stories.

    Labour in Scotland can keep trying to pretend there is no abysmal Labour record in Government presently tearing the soul out of Wales but everybody else isn’t.
    Labour in Wales is what Scotland can expect from Labour in Scotland given the dire chance of power as both are run by Labour in London and are a single entity.

  4. Gavin enjoy your hols . Don’t worry you are coming back to rain.
    The SNP new programme for Government is crammed with 16 new bills . I support most of them they are Labour Party policy.
    I wander if they will get all of their programme through as STV said there are still 8 bills outstanding from the last session . So what happens to them. Funny what can happen when you lose MPS and voters. Suddenly you start to contemplate tax rises that you ruled out before the election. Until the voters handed a lot your MPS their P45. What to do well those Labour Party people kept going on about lifting the pay cap.
    Might as well although we said we wouldn’t . And it will annoy the Colonel ha ha so there.
    I will wait to see what they do on the NHS I think pouring in money is not the entire solution
    I have to use the NHS system a lot . From what I see in my area the GP surgery is not just under strain its broken . When an older doctor leaves because of the hrs it takes 2 younger doctors to replace them. In my surgery we get great service.
    The discussion paper on the use of tax papers I back this idea
    Fracking wait and see
    The Barclay report will have big implications for everyone from business to council Leisure Facilities
    A Scottish National Investment bank. I would say great
    Most of what the FM is proposing is Labour Party policy. Maybe I should give our local SNP people join the labour Party Leaflets
    Today I watched FMQS .We were told slightly different rules. No what are you doing today etc.
    I thought The FM at last showed signs of trying to answer. The Colonel completely over the top as usual Alec Rowley highly competent great questions.
    OK the Presiding Officer threw a hissy fit at the end. Questions and Answers to long etc
    One other thing no mention of Indy a lot of Nationalists wont like that or let it continue.
    The SNP moving towards Labour then for all our problems Labour have always done the day job
    Bold programme so we will see what happens its up to the Government

  5. “The SNP new programme for Government is crammed with 16 new bills I support most of them they are Labour Party policy.”

    Since when? The only place Labour have any policies is in Wales and none of the 16 bills is policy in Wales. None of the 16 bills was policy under Blair or Brown. So me thinks you’re being a tad dishonest or delusional.

    1. Ok try this in the 2017 manifesto Labour proposed a Scottish investment bank with 20 Billion pounds of lending behind it .
      Labour supported Franks Law in the 2017 manifesto Scrapping the public sector pay cap was a Labour manifesto pledge.
      The SNP were against that until Tuesday.
      That’s just some of it There is more but suddenly the SNP are in favour can you explain that.
      As I said I support most of what they produced on Tuesday at least someone read the Labour manifesto the SNP

      1. So its all a load of vows and promises of intent then? That’s not actually delivering policy now is it? Its certainly not happening in Wales so where is the credibility?
        Labour are promising to deliver policy and ideology they haven’t bothered to deliver in Wales.
        You do see why folk would be sceptical in regards to Labour vows and promises surely?
        We see Labour actually in action in Wales and its by that they can be measured not by a load of rhetoric and empty promises.
        Is that unreasonable?

        1. Mike left a comment for you on Neil Findlay blog its about some of the stuff that has come out about devolution 20 years ago .
          And the trouble party leaders had getting it through

      2. You should look at Corbyn’s manifesto. It’s a straight lift of S.N.P. policy.

    1. Thanks for your comment .I always like to see other peoples point of view .Its my view you get not the party. The FM has said she wants to lift the pay cap refuses to rule out tax increases.
      Labour has in the past been attacked for this. SNP voted against lifting the pay cap. Abolishing the pay cap amongst other things the SNP now want was in Labours 2017 manifesto.
      So what changed was it losing MPS and voters.
      Why were all those new policies not introduced earlier.
      The TUC have warned the UK government today do not cherry pick when it comes to pay awards.
      May I suggest the FM takes note.
      I got an ill health retirement in 2015. The people I used to work with in the leisure industry I can assure you have not had any wage rise for years . Also they will be looking for a lot more than 1 per cent.
      Initially this will have to be funded by local authorities .
      Those local authorities no matter which party is in control will have to go to Central Government for extra funding.
      This means no excuses . No we haven’t got the money Austerity is over.
      The Labour tree well it seems the FM has her own money tree. 14 special advisers etc.
      She says she wants to lift the pay cap .Great I agree shout not have waited until the voters threw a bunch of her MPS out
      They should have done it earlier
      I hope and expect everyone who comments on those blogs to applaud our FM for adopting Labour Party Policy on this issue and to use comments to demand that her Government fully funds local authority and other wage claims when they come in.
      And to put pressure on them to actually try and enable the bills they have said they want to pass
      And I mean hold SNP MSPS to account if they don’t both in the blogs and by contacting them .
      Its their programme so no excuses

  6. I like to treat the blogs as a discussion forum . I am in the labour party its not their view you get its mine. I like to see other peoples views
    So at present I am sitting in front of the telly . Oxygen on laptop on my lap. Trying not to spill my medication or even worse my coffee.
    No mean feat with a wobbly table.
    I have been thinking of this for a long time. Last week I think it was in Germany they evacuated 70thousand plus people. After an unexploded ww2 bomb was found. Right now I am looking at tv news reports that 5.6 million people have been told to leave their homes in Florida . Because of Storm Irma and Storm Jose is right behind it .
    0ne poor soul leaving in a car with his family waved at the camera. He will never know one guy in Scotland waved back and wished him luck.
    5.6 million more than the population of Scotland .
    What if it was us. When was the last time Civil Defence or any large scale exercise to evacuate was carried out.
    Do we know what to do where to go etc .
    I am talking about a civil disaster .Could we cope with a large scale evacuation like the Germans did .Over 70 thousand people moved out at 24 hrs notice. And I think that’s the 2nd time this year . That Florida evacuation figure just went up to 6.8 million.
    Last night on CH4 news the Virgin Islands were asking why the British Military help did not arrive until late on. The French and American military help arrived in nearby islands before the storm hit.
    Last night some junior minister was on trying to say how well we had done. And the men we sent worked wanders brave men and women.
    But should have been sent sooner.
    Just watching a street in Jacksonville a resident is telling us one side of her road is part of the evacuation zone .
    A road like mine but no one has even boarded up their windows cars sitting in the driveway.
    The other side of her road not part of the evacuation zone windows are boarded up people leaving.
    I am watching reports Virgin Islands people complaining UK response hopeless . All food comes in from Miami .
    Not happening Virgin Islands resident telling us this is crying as he says the prison was flattened Prisoners escaped .
    The water plant is destroyed . Fear of disease He says they have 250 soldiers available they need thousands .
    It is 7 28pm as I type this and the Government Cobra Committee is meeting Is that what would happen to us.
    I would like to hear your views on this.
    PS got an email Labour Leadership arrangements puts it in perspective don’t think so

  7. Meant to say in a disaster like those people are having .You don’t think of No food supplies coming in the prisoners on the run .Water plant out etc

  8. I take it everyone as I will be supporting the Scottish health Service Unions in their fight to get their members a pay rise of 3pt 9 per cent plus a 1 of bonus of 800 pounds .
    The FM is already doing the need to be affordable bit .
    A lot of workers including my former colleagues in the Council Leisure Services will be talking to local authorities about their wages .
    That will mean no matter which party is in control Holyrood will be asked to fund it.
    The FM to save her party in my opinion did this to look good . She has also refused to rule out raising taxes .
    For me Austerity is over it was not needed it was a political decision and excuse to implement Tory and Lib Dem coalition policies .
    Sadly The SNP in Scotland used the same excuse to pass on Austerity cuts on a gigantic scale to local authorities
    No sign of restoring the cuts.
    The FMS programme for Scotland a lot of it very welcome . But the question needs to be asked why now and why were these new policies not introduced earlier .
    The NHS pay claim will be a very big test for the Scottish Government .They I believe have not lifted the pay cap yet . Its an aspiration .
    We will see how they deal with this As Nicola is about to find out dealing with wage claims like this every year is a big part of Government.
    They haven’t had to yet. Now they do. Its my views you get here not the Labour Party

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