Respect agenda

November 22nd, 2010


Since the Tory Government took office, we have heard plenty about the so-called respect agenda.

Most people took this to mean respect between the two parliaments, in London and Edinburgh, and two governments, led by Alex Salmond and David Cameron.

Those of us sceptical about the respect agenda had our fears confirmed when it was announced the AV referendum would be held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections.

Ignoring the lessons learned from the 2007 debacle, where an overly-complex voting system led to thousands of wasted ballots, this decision was taken without the consultation of the Scottish people and their representatives in the Scottish Parliament.

In parliament this week, I called for an end to the pretence of a respect agenda and for our elections to stand-alone, free from diversions.

It wasn’t the only decision made at Westminster with implications for Scotland this week – the cuts imposed too fast and too deep by the Tories arrived on Wednesday in the shape of the Scottish Government’s budget.

The task fell to Finance Secretary John Swinney to outline how young people, hard-working families, the elderly and the vulnerable would be protected while he balanced the books.

By all accounts, he fudged it and delivered a budget that stored up most of our problems until after the election next May.

There was still plenty of bad news in the budget – huge cuts to housing and regeneration funds will have an impact on the progress made on these fronts in Inverclyde.

And the cuts to higher education and prisons will limit opportunities for young people and compromise safety in our streets.

But the big decisions on public services, such as higher education funding, on council tax versus charges, on elderly care, remain shrouded in mystery.

It will be no surprise that a respect agenda between politicians turned out to be little more than a soundbite.

But in their approach to these two fundamental issues, both governments have shown the real respect agenda that has failed is the one between politicians and the pu