Letter from Edinburgh

Parliament is just about to resume in Edinburgh and this week I was hightailing it down the Royal Mile towards the office with half a speech in my mind. I was debating whether the Scottish Parliament would have a role given the majority government. An earlier discussion with someone who had helped to create the Parliament’s rules had reminded me that no-one in 1998 ever envisaged a majority government. “It’s not going to happen with a proportional system of voting and anyway, we wanted to make sure that Labour couldn’t control the Parliament.” Ah, that seems so long ago.

So I was contemplating how to make this argument, and mentally composing a few choice phrases when I alighted on that oh so sad site. A Shetlander contemplating his financial future outside an expensive dress shop where his wife had already spent some considerable time. There’s nothing like the reality of life to stop the creation of political rhetoric. Indeed after we had exchanged tales of melting credit cards I realised that time was pressing. So I ran. The debate was lively as it featured ex-leaders and wannabe leaders. Former First Minister Henry McLeish chaired. David McLetchie and I constituted the former leaders. Labour’s Ken McIntosh is likely to stand for the vacant job in his party. He’s a mate as we both “play” for the parliamentary football team. And he held his seat against the Tories in May when everyone said he would lose. The SNP’s Derek McKay completed the panel. He’s a bright new kid on the block, and will be a junior minister within a couple of years. I hope the audience enjoyed a debate made all the better by the range of questions we got.

One we didn’t is why the government’s health ministers are not going to attend the annual review of each health board. There are only 12 boards so one a month doesn’t seem much to ask! So at home we now can’t ask Nicola Sturgeon or her two deputies why people are losing their jobs at NHS Shetland or being “redeployed” because of “out-sourcing” – another particularly ghastly piece of management speak.

Or when Fair Isle will get the new nurse’s surgery that the Island has been rightly arguing for over many years. Or what happened to the monies available to health boards to upgrade dental surgeries, specially and in my view rightly, aimed at practices which do NHS work but where the partners run it. Or that health boards don’t collect the waiting times information for a quarter of their patients. Why not?

All these issues can be raised in parliament and are. But I thought the willingness of health ministers to turn out and meet the public was a good thing. Pity that’s changed. Wonder if it’s anything to do with being a majority government?

Tavish Scott MSP


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