By Campbell Martin
I don’t often get the chance to watch First Minister’s Questions these days, but when I do, I am always struck by the paucity of talent in opposition parties.
The SNP’s landslide victory in 2011 saw the Labour Party, in particular, lose some of the MSPs it considered to be ‘big-hitters’. However, under the dual-track electoral system used for Holyrood Elections, Labour’s polling in the regional vote saw it receive more ‘List’ members than had previously been the case. This did not do the party any favours.
Labour lost very experienced politicians, such as former Ministers Tom McCabe and Andy Kerr, and saw them replaced by second-rate (that is being generous) party timeservers like North Ayrshire councillor Margaret MacDougall – a woman whose only previous entrance into the limelight had been when the3towns.com revealed she submitted mileage claims in relation to attending Armistice Parades held to remember those who gave their lives fighting for the country.
Labour’s backbench is populated by people who were not supposed to get elected. So confident was the party that it would always secure the election of its favoured candidates by winning constituency seats, it allowed deadwood, no-hopers to fill regional lists in the ‘knowledge’ they would never be elected. Put frankly, they were just there to make up the numbers.
Such arrogance on the part of Labour did not allow them to even consider a situation where they would lose constituencies to the SNP or anyone else. A position that was to take for granted the people of Scotland, and which has resulted in the party now being represented in the Scottish Parliament by people who, in the main, have been elevated way beyond their abilities.
Every Thursday at mid-day, viewers of BBC2 are allowed a live 30-minute glimpse into the Chamber at Holyrood for First Minister’s Questions. The issue of this being the only live coverage we see of our national parliament is another matter.
Each week Johann Lamont rises to question Alex Salmond. As Labour leader she is, presumably, the best the party has got: let’s not forget, she is the person who would be Scotland’s First Minister if Labour formed the government in Edinburgh. But almost without fail Ms Lamont is exposed as being completely out of her depth in attempting to challenge the SNP leader. A fast-asleep Salmond could easily see-off the best Labour has to offer.
As for the other opposition parties, well, they actually make Johann Lamont look quite good.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson always looks as if she is ready to either vault her desk and run at the First Minister to show-off her judo moves or simply burst into tears. The Liberal Democrats were reduced to just five MSPs at the 2011 Scottish Parliament Election (five too many given their propping-up of the Tory Government in London), and are now lead by a grinning eejit who would be out of his depth in the chamber of North Ayrshire Council. His name escapes me at the moment.
Last Thursday (March 14), Ms Lamont and Ms Davidson continued their British Unionist partnership by both questioning the First Minister on what their London-based parties consider to be a principle reason why Scotland cannot be a successful independent nation – the ‘volatility’ of oil prices. Of course, the British Unionist position ignores the fact that much of UK Government spending is dependent on revenues accruing from Scotland’s oil.
Despite independent expert analysts predicting a new oil boom in the Scottish sector of the North Sea, with the average oil price calculated at $113 a barrel (much higher than the UK Government’s forecast), the Lamont-Davidson British Unionist line continued to portray Scotland’s abundant natural resources as if we had been hit by a ‘plague of oil’. So negative is the British Unionist campaign that even being home to the EU’s largest oil reserves is a ‘disaster’ for Scotland.
Needlessly to say, Alex Salmond effortlessly dealt with the twin-track attack from the Labour-Tory partners, noting that for the past 40 years Scotland’s oil wealth had poured into the coffers of the Westminster Exchequer in London, and that only independence will give us the power to make sure the Scottish people receive their share from now on.
In joining with the Tories, so-called ‘Scottish’ Labour is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the party that is imposing on Scots the Bedroom Tax and so many other cuts to benefits and tax credits, moves that hit the poorest hardest. The absurd position of ‘Scottish’ Labour is that they would rather see Scotland governed by Thatcherite Tories in London than have a Labour Government in an independent Scotland.
In the Scottish Parliament Labour joins with the Tories and Liberal Democrats to talk-down the ability of Scots to run our own country. Even if ‘Scottish’ Labour had not lost its ‘big hitters’ at the 2011 Election, the party would still be siding with the Tories against the right of the Scottish people to govern their own country, because that is the line dictated to them by their leadership in London.
Scots have the abilities and resources to make Scotland a very successful nation, with our fellow citizens enjoying a far-higher standard of living than is currently the case. What really would be a ‘disaster’ for Scotland is if we were taken-in by the Labour-Tory-Lib Dem partnership and believed that savage austerity imposed by a government in London was as good as it gets for us.