Most observers of Scottish politics would concede that the last few weeks have proved to be rockier for the SNP Government than they have been used to. Mistakes have been made in more than one statement, resulting in a level of baying from the opposition that would do credit to any passing wolf pack. Hugh Henry accusing the FM of lying and “deliberately fiddling the figures” or Johann Lamont asserting that no-one “can believe anything the first minister says ever again” is strong and rather intemperate stuff from their heaviest hitters.
Opposition requires a measure of judgement as to the seriousness and the intent of any errors uncovered and no administration—whether in Holyrood or Westminster—has brought perfection to the art of governing, let alone of keeping the people informed in a manner that keeps the Opposition happy.
Whether Parliament was or was not misled—on legal advice on the EU or on funding for tertiary education or whatever— is for others to decide. But even an openly partisan blog like this is prepared to concede there appears to be evidence for questioning both. Whether either will justify the level of venom currently being pumped into posing those questions is entirely another matter.
Should Jackie Baillie be disciplined for attacking SNP custody of the NHS with figures that date from her own stint as Health Minister? Should Margaret Curran get her jotters for pillorying SNP use of 4G phone license allocation monies when, in fact, Scotland gets none because they lie out-with the Barnett Formula? Probably not, even if both were deliberate (unlikely). In politics, some rough-and-tumble comes with the territory; those posing as holier-than-thou are often early casualties.
Partisanship is fine, provided it has a healthy degree of perspective attached. Which is why we should all be grateful to the Scottish political press who, despite the best efforts of their editors, often achieve that rare creature: a partisan piece that ought to be recommended reading for all politicos. In this context, I cite Alan Cochrane’s frequently mordant but thoughtful broadsides in the Torygraph (try http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/9687005/Scottish-Labour-hot-under-collar-over-Salmonds-figures.html.)
But an even rarer gem is an informed and incisive observation that surpasses any partisan intent and simply puts a complex and thorny issue (over which elected high heid yins are squabbling to their mutual detriment) into a lucid context that the 90+% of Scots (whose healthy cynicism about the hale jing-bang grows by the day) can not only understand but believe it to be as good a formulation of the truth as they are likely to see.
For that in this context, try Iain Macwhirter’s latest blog at: http://iainmacwhirter2.blogspot.no/2012/11/facts-are-chiels-that-winna-ding-is-one.html