Usually on Source Direct we give focused news analysis on one main item, but there are so many things going on in Scottish politics right now we are going to give you a brief snapshot of several different issues today.
1) Economic Recovery report response: Remember Bennie Higgins’ Economic Recovery advisory report for Scottish Government Ministers? The Scottish Government yesterday published their official response. To be honest there isn’t much to write home about. We weren’t impressed by Higgins’ report, which this response accepts the recommendations of, says it “validates” what they’ve already been doing, and despite calling it an “implementation plan”, there’s no actual detail here about precisely what they are going to do and how. I can’t put it better than the unusually barbed analysis of BBC Scotland’s economics editor Douglas Fraser, who said of the response: “It accepted the recommendations. But in turning them into action, it didn’t have to be this turgid. Instead of much sense of urgency, every proposal for tackling the deepest recession in perhaps 300 years is layered with a gloopy civil service policy syrup, combining defensive past commitments with often vague future plans. Some of the most difficult items are kicked further down the road. Some recommendations are accepted, but on terms that risk them becoming bogged down in a task force, further reviews or a scoping exercise.”
2) Aberdeen lockdown: The Granite City turned “eerily quiet” last night after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed a local lockdown for the first time, following a sharp rise in a cluster of cases linked to an outbreak at a bar. Cafes, restaurants and bars are now shut for seven days in the north-east city, in what Sturgeon has described as the “biggest wake-up call” for the country that Covid-19 remains a very live threat. But is it a wake-up call for the Scottish Government as well? No new national restrictions have been imposed so far on hospitality outlets, but surely if the aim is elimination then this has to be considered, now that a lockdown has been re-imposed on a city following a bar outbreak, just three weeks after restrictions on hospitality were lifted? We are just five days away from schools re-opening, with the clear risk of much of the good work of the lockdown in reducing the spread of the virus being undone. New lockdowns will hit hospitality much worse than tighter restrictions.
3) Douglas Ross new leader of Scottish Tories: The coronation is complete. The part-time referee and Moray MP has been named new Scottish Conservatives leader less than a week after Jackson Carlaw resigned, as no one else put themselves forward for nomination. What’s become clear is that this is a UK Government orchestrated move. Both Michael Gove and Boris Johnson went to visit Ross in the week before Carlaw’s resignation, as did Ruth Davidson, new member of the House of Lords and adviser to Johnson, who will now be back in the hot seat at First Minister’s Questions until the 2021 elections. Ross’ first move was to say he would be focusing on the economy, which would be a change from the party’s single-issue unionism. Time will tell if it will make any difference, with a distant second place finish at next year’s election always on the cards. One feels this is more about Johnson and Cummings wanting to feel like they are in control in Scotland, than a master strategy to undermine SNP hegemony.
4) Pupil grading row continues: This one is not going to go away quietly, not least because it’s pupils themselves at the head of the charge against the SQA’s controversial system for moderating results. Lauren Steele, 16, from East Kilbride has written an open letter to Education Secretary John Swinney, while a protest is being organised with hundreds of school students expected to gather on Friday outside the SQA HQ in Glasgow. Students are accusing the government of “classism”. Swinney’s line had shifted slightly yesterday, away from saying it was fair for every pupil to: “What I would accept is that there will be individual results which will cause disappointment.” The Education Secretary is actively talking up the appeals system as the “final stage” of the process, but it remains unclear what the methodology is, with transparency issues still surrounding the SQA’s approach to this. With criticism coming from teaching unions and a wide-range of educational experts, this is a mess that is not going to be cleaned up easily.
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