Jim Mather, MSP for Argyll & Bute, is in feisty form at the start of the new parliamentary session at Holyrood.
The Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism has divested himself of an energetic tour d’horizon of the lack of enterprise evident in the performance of the Labour group leader, which he describes as ‘desperately dispiriting and negative’.
Even the most tribal of Labour loyalists would be hard put to champion the hapless Iain Gray with any credibility. This is the man and the party group that so profoundly lacks the expertise and the work ethic to scrutinise financial measures that they have adopted the idiots response – just oppose everything.
Labour party chiefs in Westminster – no natural friend to the SNP, have themselves criticised the Holyrood party contingent for this incompetent strategy, admitting that there are some effective financial measures being proposed by the current Scottish Government. Like the electorate, they too saw that the responsible contribution to Scotland is to support the supportable and oppose the opposable.
Championing what he calls: ‘a challenging and radical speech from the First Minister about the future of Scottish Water, Energy and the powers of the Scottish Parliament’, Mr Mather immediately lines up a flurry of blows to the unmissable chin of Labour’s front man.
Last night he said: ‘Today in the Parliament, First Minister Salmond put forward a radical vision putting the natural assets of Scotland at the heart of our economic future yet the opposition wholly failed to rise to the challenge or the occasion.
‘Poor Iain Gray, the Labour leader, had nothing to offer but empty rhetoric and funding proposals based on the old, tired and failed PPP repayment methodology- a system that has already piled up spiralling debt to be repaid over the next 25 years.
‘While Labour fiddled and fudged about getting rid of Scottish Water the SNP government is seeking ways to make it work for the benefit of the Scottish people. Where Labour over the years failed to take meaningful action to enable the Scottish people to reap the immense benefits of our natural oil resources the SNP government is ensuring that we are well place to reap the rewards of our renewable wind, wave and tidal potential. While Labour blocks proposals for a fair and progressive form of local taxation they wholly fail to come forward with any alternative. Perhaps most telling of all is their determination, in the company of their Tory and LibDem allies, to deny the Scots a say in how they should be governed. They don’t trust the people.
‘Another opportunity for Labour will arise when the Scottish budget proposals are shortly to be debated. It will be interesting to see if they have any positive proposals to bring forward at that time. Certainly they will have to improve radically on the tired old clichés that they trotted out today’.
There is no doubt that the wildly expensive and long term duration of the Private Public Partnership and Private Finance Initiative funding programmes deployed by the previous Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition governments in Holyrood have left Scotland with a legacy of indefensible debt we will struggle long to clear.
We can also only hope that whatever plans the Scottish Government is developing to seek ways to make Scottish Water ‘work for the benefit of the Scottish people’, are seen that way by the Scottish people when they get the details.
Mr Salmond has become increasingly less nimble as time has gone on in this government. His political judgment has been suspect in some critical and financially wasteful incidents:
- like the shrill fight to the high court in Edinburgh to get in on the national televised party leaders’ debates when the nation could not have cared less;
- and like persisting with the Independence Referendum when any keen nose to the wind back in the Autumn of 2008 would have sensed attention necessarily shifting elsewhere.
We did suggest much earlier, when the evidence of the hardening of political arteries was clear to us, that, from his party’s perspective, their best strategy was that the First Minister should stand down in favour of Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in good time for her to shape the party’s platform for the 2011 election. Too late now.