The other entirely negative argument that the nationalists in Government use is that they are powerless because this Parliament does not have full economic and legislative powers. Let me say in passing that I do not remember that being said when Glasgow won the right to host next year’s Commonwealth games. However, take the environment—a word that was barely mentioned in the recent budget speech setting out Scottish spending in the years ahead. This Parliament passed world-beating environmental legislation—a claim made consistently by ministers—but the carbon-reduction targets under that legislation have been missed by this Government ever since they were set. The environment is secondary to independence, as are our schools, the hospitals that we depend on and the buses to work. This nationalist Government is sadly fixated not on Scotland’s needs but on its own.
I confess that I misjudged Mr Salmond’s Government. I actually thought that the SNP believed in a decentralised state, with decision making involving local people in their own towns, villages and communities, but six years of nationalist Government have shown how wrong I was. The most striking change to the Government of Scotland under nationalist rule has been centralisation. The levers of power are pulled in Edinburgh, with command and control of the public sector by nationalist ministers. Local government has been removed of financial powers—thank goodness the local councils are now led by David O’Neill, who will stand up to that. The police have been centralised into a national force, with policing now based on Strathclyde Police writ large—I have no doubt that a more enlightened decentralised Scottish Government in the future will have to address that wrong policing policy.
The quango state across Scotland is just not worth having. The nationalist Government should go the whole hog and subsume every quango into the centre. Today, the pretence that VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise are anything other than wholly owned and directed subsidiaries of the nationalist Government is gone. The quango state—unelected, undemocratic and a tool of Government ministers—is the reality of nationalist Government today. One certainty about next year’s referendum is that the Electoral Commission will be powerless to stop the Government machine being used entirely for political purposes.
The Scotland that I want is a decentralised country that relishes and enjoys its economic, social and geographical diversity and in which decisions are taken at local level to benefit local people—consumers, businesses, teachers and nurses. That is why, when islanders meet in Kirkwall tomorrow, we will be working out what we want, not what Edinburgh or London wants. “Our islands, our future” is about recognising that the best people to decide the future of the islands are those who live and work there.