By Alex Robertson
The leaders of the opposition political parties in Scotland were given a masterclass lesson in integrity and propriety these last two days by the Scottish government.
Firstly the absurd claim that somehow the Scottish consultation on the referendum was being rigged by permitting anonymous contributions to be submitted, was immediately countered by the announcement that henceforth no further anonymous contributions would be permitted, and that all previous anonymous submissions would be discounted from consideration of the result.
Secondly came the announcement that the First Minister had reported himself to the Standards Watchdog for entertaining the record breaking lottery winners, and longtime SNP supporters, to tea and biscuits, using the FM’s own teabags and biscuits, in his private apartment in Bute House.
Both actions were taken in response to complaints from Labour MSPs. Both complaints seemed, to most of us, spiteful and unfounded. But by taking the actions they did, the Scottish Government has drawn the poison intended in the accusations.
True to their conduct since 2007, the action is crisp, clear and shows the confidence of this SNP government. But in responding in this way there is an additional political wrong-footing of the Unionist parties.
Compare the FM’s action in inviting his own conduct to be examined and adjudicated by the Standards watchdog with that of Glasgow Labour’s Stephen Purcell who fled abroad when his conduct was drawing attention.
And compare independent rigour that will be applied to the Scottish Government’s referendum consultation with the refusal of Scottish Secretary Michael Moore to apply the same independent scrutiny to the UK coalition’s version.
In each case, the Scottish government has behaved with a prompt submission to examination and removal of any question of impropriety which has been a hallmark of the Salmond government since it first took office in 2007.
But I believe there is even more to this than perfect transparency and political rectitude. One of the unspoken but critical missions of the Salmond government is to raise the standard of public behaviour and to raise the Scottish people’s confidence in governing their own affairs and not being scared of standing up to their accusers and detractors in an open and transparent way, confidently and upfront.
After all the spin and fiddle of the Labour government in Westminster, both the Blair and Brown varieties, followed by the self-serving arrogance of the LibDem/Tory government now, how refreshing it is for Scots to actually feel proud of their government and to trust it to always put Scottish interests first, fairly but firmly, and to behave with exemplary propriety.
I believe there is a need for standards of behaviour and responsibility to be raised by all of us. But it a lot easier to do that if the example from the top is an encouraging one. Happy Easter everyone!