Letter from Edinburgh 16.01.09

What would you presume when someone declares a problem to be “resolved”? Maybe sorted? Fixed? Over? Or dealt with? All of the above I would assume.

Last week Alex Salmond told me at First Minister’s questions in the Scottish Parliament that a problem with the delay to the funding of a particular body was “resolved”.

In his usual style Salmond then wondered why I continued to ask him to show some evidence of that. This was particularly important as I had a copy of a redundancy notice the organisation had given to one of its employees. After questions fin­ished at 12.30 I checked with the organisation concerned whether the funding had indeed been resolved before I asked about their future. They told me that their funding had not been “resolved” at all.

That is what is known as mis­leading parliament. In short Salmond, whether deliberately or unwittingly, told a porkie. Does it matter, I hear you ask? Politicians being economical with the truth, in that wonderful phrase of some years back?

Well it does in a parliamentary sense. In a previous parliament, the then sports minister had to apologise after he missed the start of questions when still eating lunch. He said he was delayed by a meeting. The same afternoon the minister, to his great credit, came back to parliament and said, sorry got that wrong and that was the end of it.

I would expect Salmond to do the same. But no. If he was in opposition he would be calling for ministers to resign with a show of rhetoric and TV appearances. But now in govern­ment … well it’s different isn’t it. Well no!

The other more difficult related issue for me here is the parliament’s presiding officer Alex Fergusson. I like him. He is a good guy. But he hasn’t stood up to Salmond and asked him to correct something that needs to be corrected. That is what David Steel and George Reid made sure happen­ed in the first eight years of the parliament.

I hope now that Fergusson will make sure that it happens in this parliament. We all say wrong things, in life as in politics, and saying sorry quickly is the best way to deflate the issue. It certainly doesn’t help the public’s view of politics if the First Minister is allowed to get away with misleading statements. I await a change of heart.

I know this is very much an internal issue but it is important. Meanwhile, in the real world, the economy stalls and declines. But in Shetland? I haven’t seen much sign of any downturn. Certainly it’s bad news to lose a butcher from Com-mercial Street. But with building and construction seemingly busy, with the major refurbishment works at Sullom Voe, and with the hope of new gas finds coming to the terminal, the increases in unemploy-ment sweeping Scotland and the UK don’t appear to have gravitated to Shetland. I hope that we can continue to buck these worrying trends.

Tavish Scott MSP


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