Tavish Scott has written a column for the Scotsman criticising the SNP Government for abuse of power and neutering the Holyrood Parliament. His comments come in the wake of a row about the Education Secretary Mike Russell effectively engineered the resignation of the Chairman of Stow College in Glasgow. Kirk Ramsay had been a vociferous critic of Russell’s cuts in the sector.
The story so far:
Ramsay records Russell’s on-the-record remarks at a meeting with about 80 people present at which the Cabinet Secretary was discussing his plans for the Further Education sector. He did so because he suffers from Tinnitus and wanted an accurate record to pass on to members of his staff who weren’t present.
Russell got wind of this and, according to the Herald, wrote to everyone else who went to that meeting not only to inform them of the recording, but to add that he had no confidence in Ramsay and demand his resignation.
When a Government minister publicly calls for the removal of one of his biggest critics in the sector he’s responsible for, some may see that as a serious, outrageous even, abuse of power. Ramsay felt hat his position was untenable and fell on his sword. He felt that to stay on when the Minister had said that he couldn’t work with him would harm the college.
Not surprisingly, the opposition parties wanted the Parliament’s Education Committee to investigate Russell’s behaviour. This Committee has an SNP convener and an inbuilt SNP majority. Its convener flatly refused to have any sort of enquiry, saying that the facts were known. So much for scrutiny.
Tavish Scott, recently returned to the Holyrood frontline, said that the SNP government looked “out of touch and arrogant”:
Parliament should question Mr Russell on his role in this shoddy affair. Did he speak directly to Mr Ramsay? Did he have his civil servants contact others to support his campaign of vilification of Mr Ramsay? Is this part of a pattern where Scotland’s colleges are told by Mr Russell to take their funding deal or else? Why was a meeting of 80 college representatives secret? Yet, in refusing to hold an inquiry, a Nationalist convener has put his party before the committee and parliament.
This goes to the heart of how this government behaves. Parliament is neutered by the SNP’s absolute majority. The government stopped the European committee investigating the EU and an independent Scotland. Opposition MSPs cite numerous cases of the Nationalist majority on committees being used to mitigate any criticism of the government. In the 2007-11 parliament, when the SNP was in a minority government, the finance secretary paid considerable heed to committee recommendations on spending. Now the government uses its committee majority to block any opposition proposal.
You can read the article in full here.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings