Comment: Power and responsiblity

John Devlin. 08/08/15 . GLASGOW. Ken Macintosh address. The Scottish Labour leadership candidate set�"s out his pitch to party supporters and undecided members, before being questioned on stage by Holyrood Magazine editor Mandy Rhodes. Music Room, Glasgow Concert Hall, Buchanan Galleries, 2 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3NY.
John Devlin. 08/08/15 . GLASGOW. Ken Macintosh address. The Scottish Labour leadership candidate set�"s out his pitch to party supporters and undecided members, before being questioned on stage by Holyrood Magazine editor Mandy Rhodes. Music Room, Glasgow Concert Hall, Buchanan Galleries, 2 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3NY.

The SNP Government is in a very strong position at the moment. It has an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament, it is riding high in the polls and the First Minister is enjoying an extended political honeymoon.

Such moments do not come along often.

The last time my party enjoyed such a position of political strength was probably 1999.

That term in office was marked by notable successes and achievements: a huge expansion of nursery and higher education, the restoration of public services, investment in teachers’ and health workers’ pay, the school-building programme and the introduction of free personal care.

Even if we acknowledge that there was then a different political and financial climate, we must recognise that it was also marked by landmark legislative successes, including the Land Reform Act, the abolition of feudal tenure, the smoking ban, the abolition of section 28 and the Adults with Incapacity Act. I could go on.

If I am entirely honest, I am not sure that the current Scottish Government’s record, nor its vision for the next decade, stands comparison.

The language is often grandiose, but the programme feels more worthy than inspired.

I welcome some of the announcements, on tackling educational attainment for example, but they feel like an attempt to correct past mistakes and to put right some of the poorer decisions that have been taken, rather than a step in a new direction.

I am also unsure how the Government’s stated plans for the next few years sit alongside day-to-day reality for most of us.

The council is trying to wrestle with some horrendous public service cuts affecting our children’s education and care for our elderly and disabled; local residents are anxious about long waits for hospital treatment never mind how to get to hospital in the first place; there are concerns over our centralised Police Service; and every week sees new evidence highlighting the housing problems that face many Scots.

These are difficult issues and my Labour colleagues and I have tried to put forward as constructive a set of proposals as possible, willing to work across party lines on education, recruiting and training more GPs, supporting refugees or building more homes.

There may have been a few positive noises from ministers, but instead of addressing those worries head on, this week kicked off with more complaints about supposed powers we don’t have accompanied by further speculation about a second referendum.

The SNP have been in power for more than eight years.

If there are problems in our schools or hospitals, with our police or with housing, these are all devolved areas for which we already have full control.

Isn’t it time the Scottish Government stopped trying to blame everyone else, stopped trying to stoke discontent with the rest of the country and simply got on with the business of government?