THE disproportionate furore over the proposed car parking tax is symptomatic of a much wider malaise in Scottish politics.
Those of us with long memories can recall that when the Scottish Parliament was set up, the intention was that it would be a less adversarial legislature than “two swords’ length” Westminster. This would mean even the most contentious issues could be decided by rational and pragmatic discussion and that parties would combine to get the best possible outcomes in the governance of the country. In the early years of Holyrood, this concept was upheld by the Labour/LibDem coalitions, and by the SNP/Tory arrangement that followed.
However, then came the independence referendum of 2014, and the reckless populist Yes campaign which specifically set about demonising every party that did not support independence. Few can forget the way in which the SNP and its supporters traduced those who disagreed with them, calling them traitors, quislings and cowards.
It was the duty of the Scottish Government to bring the nation back together after that bruising and divisive episode. Instead we have had to put up with an utterly irresponsible First Minister who could not even find it in herself to attend a service of reconciliation. She has since then continuously worked to undermine the decision taken by the Scottish people in 2014 in naked pursuit of party political advantage, urged on by her fanatical support.
As a result, the situation in which Scotland now finds itself is one where even modest changes in public policy become proxy battles in the Yes/No culture wars. Likewise a single awkward question being asked of the SNP on a late-night television panel show sparks conspiracy theory outrage.
The populist genie is out of the bottle, and we cannot expect political debate and decision-making to improve at any time soon.
Peter A Russell,