In last week’s column under the heading ‘No winners in this sorry Salmond saga’, I wrote about the internal battles within the SNP over issues which have arisen around the former First Minister, Alex Salmond, and how they have been dealt with.
After winning his case in the Court of Session – that the Scottish Government’s handling of the inquiry into two complaints of sexual misconduct was unlawful and unfair – the Information Commissioner’s investigation team is now dealing with the Scottish Government in an attempt to identify who leaked details of the complaints to a Scottish newspaper last year.
The current First Minister has since referred the matter to independent advisers, to determine whether or not she breached the ministerial code by attending meetings with Alex Salmond as well as having telephone conversations with him.
I wrote: “The latest sequence of events has divided party activists at a time when they should be applying themselves to the political opportunities that have been presented.
“Instead this issue is likely to drag on for some time to come and the party will not be forgiven if it allows itself to divide and become embroiled in internal battles that, if allowed to do so, can only inhibit its ability to seize the moment.”
Of course, Alex Salmond cut his teeth on political battles both within and outwith the party, where he is renowned for his tenacity and his willingness to take on opponents head-on, so his recent comments on the issue offer a welcome respite from hostilities both perceived and real.
He has now gone on record that he wants to see an end to the “uncivil war” that has been evident over the last few weeks and he will use his best endeavours to bring the dispute between his supporters and those of Nicola Sturgeon to an end.
He has said that he is not going to get involved in further exchanges after accusations that some individuals were attempting to smear Nicola Sturgeon and has instead implored her to focus on independence for Scotland and that “Westminster’s Brexit difficulty should be Scotland’s opportunity”.
As I said last week: “All of this could not have come at a worse time for the SNP. As the UK Government disintegrates before our very eyes and Brexit looms on the horizon, this is a distraction the party can ill-afford”.
Salmond’s olive branch can now hopefully lay matters to rest (for the time being at least) and allow the party to concentrate on what matters most – independence and the means to achieve it.
The events witnessed at Westminster over the last few years, and more recently, have been nothing short of staggering and the mess that has been created could and should have been avoided.
As someone who voted Remain, I am ever now more fearful of what may be in store for the people of the UK and in particular Scotland, which voted 62 per cent to 38 per cent to Remain. All 32 council areas voted likewise, thereby demonstrating the breadth of support for membership of the EU that exists across the country.
As Deidre Brock (the SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith) expressed in Monday’s paper: “Never has Westminster politics felt so out of touch, so backward and so utterly broken.”
In the light of this, SNP and Yes supporters will be preparing for another campaign, laying the groundwork, setting out the arguments, organising locally and attracting more support in order to be as ready as possible when the date is announced. The timing of another independence referendum will be crucial if it is to have any chance of success, but with every passing day, with every self-inflicted body blow suffered by Westminster, the question is surely not if there will be another vote, but when.
Councillors will have to budget for public flak
This newspaper has rightly devoted many column inches to the City of Edinburgh Council’s budget proposals and the potential effect that they could have on residents, workers and visitors to this city.
Everyone is affected one way or another by services provided by the council, from waste collection, road repairs, schools. sport and leisure facilities, libraries, community policing and health and social care and many more besides – they all play a part in day-to-day living in the city.
It is no easy task then to identify £42 million worth of savings over the next year without having some adverse impact on the populace but the council has a legal obligation to balance the budget and has to get on with doing just that.
Identifying what that will impact may prove to be a little more difficult however, as the devil is always in the detail and it is devilishly difficult at this stage to ascertain just what the detail is and, what’s more, its likely impact.
That is not to say that the current consultation exercise is not without merit as the council endeavours to attract feedback on its proposals. But after the budget is passed on February 21, more detail is likely to emerge which the Edinburgh public may have a view on, so I have no doubt that budget issues will be the focus of some attention for some time to come.
Council meetings and those of its committees are available on podcast and, although unlikely to attract many viewers from spectacular daytime TV shows like Come Dine With Me, it is nevertheless worth a look, particularly for those who want to follow through on budget matters, or for those who want to know what is exercising the minds of councillors and their performance in the City Chambers.
New spark from bedroom remedy
I was recently reminded of an old uncle of mine who was worried that as he got older he would be unable to ‘perform’ in the bedroom.
One day somebody told him that the Comanches swallowed a little gunpowder every day and that they fathered children well into their 80s and beyond. So for 40 years he took a little pinch of gunpowder in a glass of milk every morning and when he died he left eight children, 14 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren – and a great big hole where the crematorium used to be!