THESE days there is a bit of a spring in the step among some of our more excitable Labour colleagues at the City Chambers and it has nothing to do with the KerPlunk or Lego sets they got from Santa this year.

After years of allowing the SNP and Greens a free pass to cut a wedge through Scotland, leaving the Scottish Tories to do the heavy lifting while they followed comrade Corbyn down the road to the left; suddenly, they may be back in the room. The opinion polls show signs of a Labour revival.

Commentators across the country point to this as, perhaps, being a pivotal moment when the conversation in Scotland moves away from endless debates about the constitution and referendums to actually discussing the issues that matter most to voters like health, education and the economy. However, before you get the bunting out to celebrate the return of bread-and-butter politics, pause a moment and consider how we got here, and the possible future promised by Labour.

I am old enough to remember the pledge made by New Labour back in 1997 about how the devolution settlement and the setting up of a Scottish Parliament would end the threat of break-up of the United Kingdom and nobble the SNP forever.

Yes, that worked out, didn’t it?

In the 25 years since devolution, 18 have seen Holyrood controlled by SNP and latterly, heaven help us all, Green administrations. Scotland has become an increasingly divided nation, while the promised improvement to the economy and public services (run from Scotland not London) has disappeared quicker than a Brigadoon mist.

Having worked in education pre and post devolution I have first-hand experience of how insidious and unfettered the SNP government has been to our once world-leading school system.

It’s not that devolution in itself is the problem, but the system bequeathed to us by Labour has meant that the SNP has run Scotland with enormous power but without any real responsibility.

Ask the average person in a street in Glasgow or Dundee who they blame for the state of the NHS or schools and the answer will come back – Westminster or the Tories. Scotland enjoys more public spending per head of population than in England and yet our education outcomes are significantly worse now than since the SNP came to power, with similar problems in the health service.  

We have a situation in Scotland where a party that has presided over worsening public services and poor economic outcomes, despite record funding, is allowed to divest itself of any culpability and blame the UK Government.

The Labour Party in Scotland have been as much a victim of this as other parties, however their solution is to promise yet more powers to any future SNP/Green governments. Devolve powers and forget…

What Holyrood needs, as last week’s Covid enquiry has proven, is not more powers but more accountability, scrutiny and transparency. The SNP were quick, and right, to jump on the failings of the UK Government during the pandemic. They were able to do this because, while you may disagree with the actions or indeed the existence of the UK Government, it is accountable and open to scrutiny.

Holyrood in recent times has become not just a one party but a one-woman show.

The more we hear about Sturgeon’s Scotland, the more concerned we become but it has taken a UK enquiry to expose the secrecy at the heart of the SNP in government. It’s the Scottish Parliament that needs more powers to scrutinise the existing powers of the governing party before any further devolution is promised.

As Labour celebrate being taken seriously again in Scotland, I ask you to recall who created the system of governance that got us here in the first place and what they are promising for the future. Careful what you wish for, be even more careful what you vote for.