Something has changed in the world of politics.
Maybe it was the indyref, which caused bitter divisions between friends and families and the arrival of the social media trolls, or maybe it was the Brexit result which created all sorts of unedifying debates in parliament. Perhaps the arrival of the pandemic, or a combination of all three.
But the political mood has shifted. If you had asked me a few years ago: “Why do people come into politics?” I would have said to improve the quality of life for the population. We all have the same aim, its how we achieve it that is different. And that’s where the politics come in.
But recently I’ve seen examples of silliness where party politics has become more dominant than public needs.
MPs are playing a popularity game
Conservative MP Andrew Bowie suggested the Scottish Government introduce children’s centres to deal with long Covid in young people. A system which works successfully in England. A perfectly sensible suggestion.
However, the Scottish Government almost immediately rebuffed the idea, presumably because it came from a different political party, saying there are many ways to deal with the infection in children.
The second example was during a TV debate where the participants were discussing payment for residential care for the elderly. MSP Drew Hendry smugly claimed that in Scotland we don’t sell off homes to pay for residential care. That statement was, of course, untrue.
We do have to sell our homes to pay for care. There are a couple of exemptions – for example, if you have a dependant relative living there. But the bold statement that we “don’t do that” in Scotland was an attempt to make Scottish nationalists look better than the rest of the UK when, in fact, we are similar.
Elected members appear to be looking for popularity from the media rather than addressing the issue. The people who lose out are those most affected by the populist statements.
Time to promote the north-east?
It was disappointing to see newly elected Conservative MSP Douglas Lumsden attempting to influence Labour Party internal politics over the case of the Aberdeen nine independent Labour councillors.
The affable Mr Lumsden may wish to reflect on the large hole in Aberdeen council’s budget due to Covid-19 and the number of capital projects which ran over time and over budget during his period as finance convener and co-leader.
It might be useful to promote the north-east and turn his fire power onto the Scottish Government who have consistently underfunded Aberdeen city and the surrounding area – something he must know.
Mixed messages have caused confusion
The whole debate about wearing face masks has been similarly affected. The leaders of the four nations met to discuss a common approach out of lockdown easements.
As usual, no agreement was reached. Wales and Scotland keep the mandatory requirement, whilst England leave it up to people behaving responsibly.
In a perfect world that would work. But as we have seen in recent weeks there are a lot of irresponsible folk out there. People who just can’t or won’t accept the need to consider others. This is bound to cause frustration and anger between responsible folk and those behaving selfishly.
Each party is looking to see what benefits they might gain in the popularity polls, rather than considering the impact on the health of the public
Had the governments reached a consensus, there would have been one simple message. Mixed messages have caused confusion and people are interpreting the rules to suit their own situation. And, as we have experienced, even the parliamentarians reinterpret the rules to suit themselves.
It seems impossible for four leaders to agree on this. Nothing to do with following the science. Each party is looking to see what benefits they might gain in the popularity polls, rather than considering the impact on the health of the public.
This leads to a blame culture where no one takes any responsibility, and it’s always someone else’s fault.
I wish inspiring, caring people would stand for election
It’s little wonder that Scotland is sleep walking into the state of independence, as the opposition parties continue to kick lumps out of each other whilst the nationalist government gets a free run.
Spare a thought for our carers and nurses out there who have worked long shifts since March 2020. They are exhausted but have little option, with rising coronavirus cases amid public confusion and low staffing levels. We are all grateful for their continued dedication.
On a more positive note, it was reassuring to see Dame Katherine Grainger, five-time Olympic medal winner, using her roles as Chair of UK Sport and Chancellor of Glasgow University to raise awareness of the part universities can play in improving community health post-Covid. A tremendous initiative.
I wish more people like that would stand for election.
Len Ironside is a former champion wrestler who served as an Aberdeen councillor for 35 years, with four years as council leader