Nobody ever goes near a court without there being severe stress involved. Whether it’s for a criminal matter, because you’re in debt or going through a horrendous family situation, being able to access the justice system easily is critical. The SNP Government in Scotland seeks to centralise court proceedings, meaning long journeys and increased pressure on already over capacity city courts. Last week a Holyrood committee, with a majority of SNP MSPs, backed the Government’s approach. What was striking was that they all spoke up for their own local facilities before voting to close them.
Tavish Scott used his Scotsman column this week to take these MSPs to task. Tavish is no stranger to acting on principle to stand up for his constituents. He resigned as Deputy Minister for Parliament in 2001 when he could not agree with measures taken on fisheries by the Scottish Executive.
If those SNP MSPs had done the same thing and voted to save their local courts, what would have happened to them? The Government’s overall majority is on a knife edge already, so they would have got little more than a hard stare from the Chief Whip.
Tavish writes in the Scotsman that putting party unity first in the hope of achieving independence in the referendum next year won’t do them much good in the long run.
The big picture still points to 18 September, 2014. The independence referendum provides a laser-like focus for Nationalists. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of the objective that remains the only factor that unites all SNP members.
Divided parties do not look good as the electorate looks in on parliament. Look at the embarrassment of the SNP’s numerous positions on the currency an independent Scotland would adopt. Alex Salmond’s assertion that Scotland would walk into a sterling currency zone is hotly disputed. Not only by the UK government, but also by leading advocates of independence. The chairman of the Yes campaign openly disagrees with Salmond.
But the loyalty demanded by SNP ministers of their back-benchers must have come at a cost. A new constituency member such as North East Fife’s Rod Campbell voted this week to close Cupar Sheriff Court, despite arguing to the contrary. Uncomfortable stuff. Mr Campbell must be hoping the Kingdom of Fife forgets this before the 2016 election. He is not alone.
Could it be that these back-benchers are so wedded to nationalism that the greater goal of independence must be put before local people who elected them to represent their interests? Will these backbenchers ever say no to the great leader?
The whole article is available here.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings