Last week’s ferries debate in the Scottish Parliament showed the SNP Scottish government at its arrogant worst.
Led by transport minister Humza Yousaf and finance secretary Derek Mackay – both of whom the presiding officer was forced to reprimand for their antics during the debate (she described them as a “double act” for regularly interrupting, laughing etc), the SNP sought to distract attention from the issue at hand with an amendment and speeches which took obfuscation to a new level.
“But, but, but … look at the other ferries,” SNP MSP after SNP MSP tried to argue. “No, wait. These weren’t really commitments,” they claimed. But facts, the SNP’s kryptonite, suggest otherwise.
In 2014 the Scottish government stated that it “understands the significant financial challenges that can fall on individual local authorities, and is committed to the principle of fair funding in the provision of ferries and ferry infrastructure”. It went on to say “the Scottish government recognises that the provision of transport services should not place a disproportionate financial burden on any council”. In 2016 the commitment to fair funding was repeated.
So, the SNP’s previous commitments are clear. And the will of the parliament is now clear too, having unanimously backed both the Liberal Democrats’ motion and my amendment to that motion (which specifically recognised our internal ferries as lifeline services with social and economic importance), while voting down the SNP position.
So that’s pretty clear, right? Well, not if you’re the SNP, it seems. The next day, their spin machine went on the offensive. The SNP’s Maree Todd (who hadn’t spoken in the debate) claimed local Liberal Democrats were putting their party before their constituents.
Derek Mackay then repeated the claim, seemingly trying to argue that it was for another party – i.e. not the SNP – to include the SNP’s commitment to fair funding in the SNP’s budget when the SNP wasn’t prepared to do so.
The idea that the SNP Scottish government can renege on its own commitments to fair funding but expect opposition parties to pick up the baton is disingenuous nonsense. And now both Messrs Mackay and Yousaf have apparently confirmed that fair ferry funding will not be in this year’s budget but have tried to blame someone else.
For those who are lost – as the SNP intended you would be – in this wave of information, here’s a brief summary:
• The SNP repeatedly makes commitments on fair ferry funding;
• The SNP repeatedly fails to deliver on their commitments;
• The SNP suggests someone else should deliver on its commitments;
• The SNP blames someone else because the SNP won’t deliver on its own commitments.
Another SNP mess of the SNP’s making. But people in Orkney and Shetland won’t be fooled.
Jamie Halcro Johnston
Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands
The Scottish Parliament,