Scottish Labour’s new leader, the ninth since the Scottish Parliament opened for business in 1999, made his first big speech since assuming what is now regarded as a poisoned chalice. Accompanied by Jeremy Corbyn, Leonard set out his three goals as leader: to become First Minister, to “make real change” and to strengthen Labour in Scotland to help secure a victory at UK level. He confirmed the creation of a tax commission alongside policy reviews covering local government powers, housing, improving children’s health, climate change and green energy and public ownership.
In his enthusiasm for the nationalisation of currently privately owned utilities he called for the return of Scottish Water to public ownership. Unfortunately Scottish Water is publically owned and not surprisingly the SNP made much of his apparent lack of knowledge. Still he has only been an MSP since May 2016!
Meanwhile Police Scotland continued on its road to total meltdown. With Chief Constable, Phil Gormley already on special leave following misconduct allegations, further senior officers have been suspended from accusations thought to include alleged criminal activity and illegally discharging firearms. Their departure, temporary or otherwise, forced Justice Secretary Michael Mathieson to make a parliamentary statement to announce the temporary appointment, or otherwise, of two officers to fill the unexpected vacancies.
Susan Deacon, former Labour MSP and the then Scottish Executive’s first Health and Community Care Minister, has been appointed as the new-and third-chair of the Scottish Police Authority. And with former Labour Leader, Wendy Alexander being appointed to the SNP government’s newly formed Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, there have been calls from Labour MSP’s for the SNP government to stand down and hand over to Labour.
And in the run up to December’s Scottish budget discussions the annual financial review of local government produced by the Accounts Commission has found that Scotland’s council’s funding has reduced while costs and demands have increased with more councils are using reserves to fund services. Some £524 million was cut from councils budgets in 2016/17 and £79m of reserves were used to pay for services. Labour’s estimable Jackie Baillie asked an emergency question and a war of words over who was responsible ensued; Holyrood, Westminster or those Labour councils who decided not to increase council tax by 3%.
Further bad news for Fife commuters as the recently opened Queensferry Bridge is to have lane restrictions until September 2018 to allow for “snagging” work to be carried out. The suspicion grows, particularly since engineers became aware of problems in August before the bridge was opened, that pressure was put on the contractors to have the bridge opened as soon as possible at all costs and to worry about “snagging” later.
Kezia Dugdale missed all of this. Still in the jungle purporting to be a celebrity, her attempts to use her new status “to get Labour’s message across” to viewers appears to have failed! Difficult to get your message across when you are crawling through piles of beasties. Still with her experience at Holyrood she should be able to handle vermin and snakes.