Every Adventure Requires a First Step

By Fiona Grahame

Fiona GrahameIt is over 60 years now since Scotland voted for a Conservative Government and yet we have had one 9 times out of 16 during that same period.

One of those was a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. In 2010  the Liberal Democrats had 11 out of the 59 seats in Scotland , the Conservatives had 1 seat but we got a Coalition Government that inflicted Tory policies on us despite very few people voting for them.

Those were the years when Labour dominated the political scene in Scotland but when there are 650 seats in the House of Commons, Scotland’s 59 – no matter how we vote – will make no difference.

Since the Thatcher years Tory ideology has continued to dominate the flow of ideas so much so that the language and methodology of the market place has invaded our great public institutions: the NHS, Education and  Welfare. We have to have ‘value for money’ and we impose targets which value that which can be measured. Of course  what really makes a difference cannot be measured but that is of no importance to politicians who have become obsessed with quoting statistics at one another. Just watch any episode of First Ministers Questions to see that.


childcareStandardised Testing is making its come back in Scotland. I really thought we had finally got rid of it with 5-14. The Curriculum for Excellence based on sharing good practice, an emphasis on the acquisition of skills, critical thinking and assessment is for learning has been betrayed. Inclusive education has been betrayed.

And what is the standardised test for? What is its purpose?

Well it will produce a bunch of statistics that politicians can yet again fire at one another based on how well a kid did on a particular day with some narrow questions. A teacher’s professional assessment to improve the learning of individual pupils is not to be trusted. And there’s absolutely no place for creativity, the ability to collaborate with others, critical thinking, or any of these other skills which are the ones which do count because you cannot put a number on those.

It is a major backwards move for education to adopt these 20th century methods when we had made so much progress. Our education system should be looking forward but instead has gone into reverse – due to pressure from where? Not from teachers and not from pupils. And not from most parents because they get a huge amount of information from schools about the progress of their child.

And let’s be clear on this – when you are testing – you are not teaching. When you are being tested – you are not learning. Standardised testing has sneaked in from the right and seeks to become normalised in Scotland because the popularity of the SNP means it is very difficult for those who oppose it to be heard.


careScotland is building a welfare system with respect at its heart. Scotland’s Social Security System Takes Shape

This gives us a glimpse of what we could do in this country if we had the ability to make all our own decisions. But we don’t and whilst the Scottish welfare system will have respect at its heart the UK one does not. And that matters because the UK social security system still controls the really big payments.

Benefits that remain reserved to the UK Government

  1. Universal Credit, which replaces: Jobseeker’s Allowance
    Employment Support Allowance
    Income Support
    Working Tax Credits
    Child Tax Credits
    Housing Benefit
  2. Contributory Job Seeker’s Allowance
  3. Contributory Employment Support Allowance
  4. Child Benefit
  5. Maternity Allowance
  6. State Pension
  7. Pension Credit
  8. Bereavement benefits:Bereavement Allowance
  9. Bereavement Payment
  10. Widowed Parents Allowance

Benefits devolved to the Scottish Government

  1. Ill Health and Disability Benefits:Disability Living Allowance
  2. Personal Independence Payment
  3. Attendance Allowance
  4. Severe Disablement Allowance
  5. Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  6. Carers Allowance
  7. Sure Start Maternity Grant (replaced by the Best Start Grant)
  8. Funeral Expenses
  9. Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
  10. Discretionary Housing Payments
  11. Some powers in relation to Universal Credit (e.g. the ability to split payments between household members)

The result of this is that Scotland will have to spend its finances not just supporting those payments it does have responsibility over but also to mitigate the ones the Tories are cutting back on at a UK level.

You can read more about the effect of those by visiting @respectisvital Life of a Universal Credit Sufferer.

Foodbanks, virtually unknown 10 years ago are now found in every part of the country. Orkney and Shetland have Foodbanks – when did we ever think that would happen?  Families, our friends and neighbours do not have enough money to buy food. And yet we are not outraged – it has become the norm. Even our local MP Alistair Carmichael stated in a public meeting in the General Election of 2015 that people used Foodbanks because they weren’t good at managing their money and built up debts. This false perception continues to be punted out. The victims of Tory austerity are to blame for their own poverty.

We sit in one of the world’s richest countries for natural resources and skilled people yet poverty is stalking the land inflicting a toll on the most vulnerable that leads some in complete desperation to end their lives.


NHS_Scotland.svgI have written several articles in the Orkney News about Scotland’s National Health Service and its commitment to remain free at point of need. A Health Service to be Proud of

It costs a lot of money to run. Does that matter?

Tory ideology has sunk so far into public attitudes about the NHS that in England people pay for their medication. Vital prescriptions that a person needs have to be paid for. In Scotland they remain free although the Tories want to make Scots pay for them just like folk in England have to. That’s not happening. And it’s not happening because there will never be a Tory Scottish Government.

The Tories in Scotland have 31 MSPs sitting in the Scottish Parliament out of a total of 129. That is peak Tory. 24 of those Tories are  list MSPs which means people did not vote for them personally. They were selected from a Party List and portioned out according to % votes cast. Indeed in Orkney the Tory was soundly rejected by the voters and lost his deposit but due to the election of Douglas Ross (also a list MSP) as an MP he now sits in the Scottish Parliament.

Where do we go from here?

Last week we watched as 35 of Scotland’s MPs were laughed at for standing up for the Devolved Settlement and the Scottish Parliament. Even on the anniversary of Grenfell Pete Wishart, SNP MP was heckled by Tory MPs whilst paying tribute to those that lost their lives in that dreadful and completely avoidable tragedy.

We are literally being led down the rabbit hole by Tory Brexiteers who have no plan on what to do when we Exit the EU except to turn the clock back to the 1950s. The powers of the devolved administrations will be removed to be controlled by a Tory UK Government.  And this is all happening despite the fact that Scotland voted for none of it.

Scotland will have a big choice to make soon.  We can forever remain a part (not a partner) of the UK –  like a county –  with decisions being made by a Government we never elected. Or we can trust in our own abilities to get it right and sometimes get it wrong and determine our own future.


Arthur Rackham via Wikimedia Commons

“Where should I go?” -Alice. “That depends on where you want to end up.” – The Cheshire Cat.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass


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