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The latest goings on at Holyrood

Mike McCartney

25th January 2021

Another example for students of the negative outcomes of devolution

Devolution has not resulted, as proponents had hoped, in a new form of politics, free from the tales of corruption which are so often associated with Westminster life. For instance, In Scotland, the MSP Tommy Sheridan was the centre of a very high-profile court case against the News of the World where lurid sex allegations surfaced. Sheridan won his libel case, but he faced perjury claims soon after. Hopes that new assemblies would be sleaze free zones were also optimistic. A series of revelations about false expense claims led to a number of party leaders resigning, and then there is the tale of the imprisonment of one MSP who got so drunk at a political awards night at a hotel he set fire to a set of curtains. Meanwhile in Cardiff Bay, there have been calls for the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to resign after the death of Carl Sargeant. Therefore, while devolution may have brought government closer to the people, it has brought sleaze and incompetence closer to the people as well.

To quote an excellent report from the Institute for Government, entitled “Has Devolution Worked? The First Twenty Years”:

(Available as a pdf here: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/has-devolution-worked-essay-collection-FINAL.pdf)

“James Mitchell once remarked that devolution appeared to have repatriated not just Scottish politics, but also contempt for politics, politicians and Parliament. Rather than a clean break with Westminster ‘sleaze’, rows over office sub-lets and lobbying signalled that devolved politics was still politics.”

And this brings us to this week’s events. While the governing SNP have laid out a new road map to independence, it has been clouded by further allegations of sleaze, this time in relation to what Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon knew or didn’t, did or didn’t, or whatever, regarding the court case(s) against her former boss, himself a former First Minister, Alex Salmond.

As The Guardian reports:

Asked by Marr about the ongoing Holyrood inquiry into her government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against the former first minister Alex Salmond, Sturgeon insisted she did not mislead the Scottish parliament as her predecessor has suggested.

She said: “There are false conspiracy theories being spun about this … by Alex Salmond, by people around him, you can draw your own conclusions about that … but what is forgotten in all of that are the women who brought forward these complaints.

“At the time I became aware of this I tried hard not to interfere with what was going on and not to do anything that would see these swept aside. The Scottish government made mistakes in the investigation of that and that’s part of the subject of the inquiry, but I didn’t collude with Alex Salmond and I didn’t conspire against him.”

Later on Sunday, a spokeswoman for Salmond responded: “The two inquiries under way are into why Nicola Sturgeon’s government acted unlawfully. Alex has submitted his evidence as requested and the parliamentary committee is now challenging the Crown Office to produce some of the text messages which they believe are being suppressed. The evidence, if published, will speak for itself.”

Oh dear. Whatever the outcome, it's not a good look.

See: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/24/scotland-independence-referendum-nicola-sturgeon-snp-wins-may-

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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