By Mark MacLachlan
I was a wee bitty concerned when I was asked to write a piece for The Caledonian Mercury. A dull thud in the back of my head pounded out the question: “Why me?”
Paranoia kicked in. Was I leaving myself open for a kicking from the plethora of dribbling sockpuppets that infest the Scotsman comments undergrowth and who occasionally slither over to the Cal Merc board? Probably. Would it bother me? Yawn.
Was I expected to put the boot into the Tartan Overlord after he joined Labour in devoting an entire FMQ to little old me and my wayward keyboard ways? Nope, I’ve had loads of opportunities to do so in the Cheesy blog and haven’t felt the need to bellow half-naked from the rooftops, yet. Would I take the opportunity to do a Crichton/McKenna like fluff job on the SNP leader? As if.
So, dear reader, in order to avoid a spiral of paranoid stupidity, I decided to ruminate on where Scotland is today and why we should all be fearful of mediocrity.
The vintage age of 50 is approaching me like a joyrider’s stolen Suburu hurtling towards a bumbling bluebottle’s backside. There’s no way to avoid the impending thud of this date, so like the leisurely feller I am, I tend to find myself taking a dawdle down memory lane, wearing comfortable brogues and idly twirling my moustache, where like a chap who had a good war, I wallow in the fading glow of nostalgia.
I belong to that generation of Python-heads who at the merest mention of the word “blessed” can rattle off the sermon on the mound scene from the Life of Brian. I spent the early eighties living in the schizophrenic environs of west end Glasgow.
On one hand, it was the enlightened city that saw culture as a great regenerating force that created Mayfest and brought Peter Brook’s Mahabarata to a freezing-cold tram depot. On t’other, the venerable city fathers embraced their dark fearful side and prohibited screenings of the above mentioned film, lest wit and sacrilegious thought infest the city youths.
Like North Africans and Arabs have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express themselves, early eighties Pythonians would furtively gather in basement flats of an unemployable afternoon and engage in the nefarious act of listening to and reciting the long-player soundtrack of the film. I still have the somewhat faded vinyl album, complete with closing hymn, which all these years on reminds me of our venerable opposition in Scotland: All Things Dull and Ugly.
The one sketch that resonates to this day is: “What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?” – the debate between the People’s Front of Judea as they discuss life in Judea before the arrival of the Romans. It’s a bit like watching the weekly ordeal of FMQs. The opposition parties are convinced that the SNP government have done nothing for them and their constituents these past four years. Until a wee voice at the back of the mind of the most impartial viewer pops up and says. “The aqueduct”?
So, apart from the Aqueduct, what have the SNP ever done for us?
How about these for starters?
- Delivered an extra 1,000 police officers
- Crime in Scotland has fallen to 32-year low
- Scottish knife crime at a ten-year low
- Gun crimes falling to a ten-year low
- Keeping open local accident and emergency units as promised
- Prescription charges cut dramatically and about to be abolished
- Removed the tolls on all of Scotland’s roads and bridges
- A record number of modern apprenticeships
- Reversed a decade of decline in international educational comparisons
- Increased payments for free personal and nursing care
- Helped 70,000 small businesses with the small business bonus
- Oh and of course frozen the council tax for the last four years.
I could quite easily fill the page with other achievements both small and large that make a difference in everyday Scotland, but that’s not my job.
The opposition parties in their effort to contain the fiendishly successful machinations of the Scottish Government have gone out of their way to put party before country. Legislation for the betterment of all has been brought to a shuddering halt by the spending power of the vested interests. Those same parties who swear to their dying breath a desire to save small Scottish business, now nestle comfortably in the comfy pockets of the supermarket billionaires.
Therefore I’m more interested in: “What the SNP could have done for us, but were stopped from doing.”
The opposition parties block vote against the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol has potentially cost Scotland’s health and wealth a fortune.
There is, as we all recognise, a booze culture in Scotland where our youngsters indulge in necking the cheap supermarket stuff at home before going out clubbing or pubbing, thus avoiding the high prices often found at said establishments.
Having imbibed to beyond sufficiency, they then indulge in post-entertainment ribaldry and japes which more than often involves vandalism, pissing in shop doorways and vomiting in no-longer-working public fountains. Attempts at back alley amour usually end up with further exchanges of bodily fluids, just not the intended ones. This usually results in raised emotions, tempers are frayed and some poor blighter’s son or daughter ends up with a smashed bottle being ground into their previously unblemished faces.
The “harder” type will of course endeavour to display his weaponry skills and often sever a companion’s major artery resulting in massive loss of blood. The resulting costs in police, ambulance, nurse, doctor, mortuary, undertaker and social worker services are of course perfectly acceptable when balanced against the “do-gooders” attempt to curb excessive alcohol consumption.
Here’s a stat for you: in dearest Dumfropolis, 92 per cent of all ambulance calls on Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday morning are booze-related. So if your child turns blue and stops breathing in their cot on a Friday night, or your husband clutches his left arm, turns puce and plants his face in the G-plan glass coffee table, chances are your ambulance crew are going to be a bit late getting to him or her, because they’re currently trying to peel a shit, piss and puke-encrusted half-dressed teenager off a precinct floor, whilst their mates wail, moan or jeer along.
Naturally, those lovable rapscallions are only expressing their right to go out on the lash – and anyone, from “big brother” or the preferred “nanny state” government who that tells them they can’t do that, can like go forth and prosper, right? However, the facts exist that money spent on mopping up the mess caused by cheap booze means there is less money to go round on things like nurses, doctors, specialists, ambulances, hospitals, GPs etcetera.
But hey, don’t let that bother you. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories, those supine friends of the supermarket lobby, voted against legislation that allows our kids to go right on swallowing that Carlsberg Special Brew, White Lightning and delightful tonic wine Buckfast until their little livers pack in.
The reality is there hasn’t been an effective opposition in Holyrood. The Greens have grown from being the curly-haired scamps that everyone had a fondness for, into belligerent teens that’ll huff and puff and throw a hissy fit until every house in the land has loft insulation made from kitten fur. Spurned at Budget time, they now coyly bat their eyelids in the direction of Labour.
The conjoined twins of the Tories and Lib Dems are fused at the hip in Westminster, similarly so in Holyrood. You’ll rarely hear a Tory slam a Lib Dem or vice versa. Prior to last year’s Westminster election they reserved their bile equally for the SNP and Labour.
No, the real opposition in Scotland relies on the concerted efforts of the Labour group of MSPs and their friends both north and south of the Border in state broadcasting, along with their pro-Union mouthpiece chums in the dying-tree press.
Here SNP achievements are twisted, distorted, partially reported or taken out of context. Hypocrisy and deceit have become central to the very being of the Labour party in Scotland. The SNP are talking about revolution, the Lib Dems, Tories and Greens devolution, whilst Labour still ponders over the benefits of evolution.
Civic Scotland has become infested with Labour placeman. This isn’t the party that looks after their voters – they simply look after their own. Much like we require applicants who plan to work with children and vulnerable adults to undergo a Disclosure Scotland check, maybe it’s time to apply something similar to the various HR departments across the public-paid estate…
Yet despite this, the Tartan Overlord and crew continue in their cheery positive way, ignoring the negative, not wallowing in the politics of character assassination. This does not always endear them to their supporters, who sometimes want to see some backbone, a flash of teeth and a bit of forcing the lies and the hypocrisy back into the lying liars’ mouths…
But, if truth be told, the Salmond mantra of positivity is working. He’s got it right. His example puts the old adage about politicians of “they’re all the same” into a fresh perspective.
At the last election, the SNP were elected for a number of reasons: malaise with the bright shiny right-wing party that Tony Blair had created, a deeply unpopular war predicated on lies, but above all else the SNP benefitted from Labour’s failure to improve the significant problems our country faced.
Does its election campaign today suggest that they have the policies to do so now? It’s as if time has stood still and they’ve settled into a default setting of carping and girning like a petulant child. Labour’s London handlers must be looking askance at the collapse of Fianna Fáil across the Irish Sea and fearing the worst.
Today, it looks as if people in Scotland have woken up to the fact that the past four years of relentless negativity from the Labour Party has shown that they have not matured as a socially progressive party, their failure to cast aside tribalism to vote for the common good declares them to be as extinct as a parrot what has joined the choir invisible.
Mark MacLachlan blogs at The Universality of Cheese. He has not been a member of the SNP since December 2009. The above witterings are his and his alone.