Gordon Macdonald is my MSP. He does not have much of a profile in my constituency (Edinburgh Pentlands), I have only ever seen him once since he was elected in 2011. On that occasion, a debate in my church, he boasted that he’d been fighting Labour for 40 years. Think about that, he didn’t say he’d been fighting the Tories or poverty. He didn’t say he’d been fighting for independence. He said he’d been fighting the last Labour Government when they were lifting 2 million people out of poverty, increasing the state pension and doubling NHS spending.
Keep in mind that parts of Mr Macdonald’s constituency have the highest burglary rate in Scotland, but he has not raised a single question about Police Scotland’s performance in Holyrood. He has, however, been fighting Labour (who are not even in government).
All this made me think that he may not have been reselected as the SNP Holyrood candidate for 2016 as surely there must be others in SNP Pentlands to take forward the party’s disingenuous anti-austerity message. As if to reassure me, I had his tax payer funded “newsletter” delivered to me this week.
The cover is virtually identical to his August newsletter and retells almost verbatim the tale of Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to the constituency it to talk about the February launch of the SNP’s Attainment Fund – a sticking plaster to cover the 4000 teachers lost and dropping standards under the SNP.
Somewhat unbelievably, the front page Macdonald’s newsletter also makes mention of some controversial planning applications in the constituency and reports local concerns. However, he fails to mention that these decisions were made by his SNP Government against the wishes of local residents and the City of Edinburgh Council.
Most of the rest of the tax payer funded newsletter lacks focus. For example, Bills are listed which have received Royal assent without any effort to explain how they benefit or impact on Scotland.
Page 3 does, however, contain some details which are worth looking at…. although much of it has been cut and pasted from the Scottish Government website (Mr Macdonald has been too busy fighting Labour to give his own perspective).
Free School Meals P1 – P3
Free school meals have been available to those on low/no income all of my life. I know this as I enjoyed them (really!) in the 70’s and 80’s. David Cameron’s 2010-15 government extended free school meals to all P1-P3 pupils – even the very richest. This meant that the SNP Government received Barnett consequential funding…. and they did nothing for months despite having pledged in 2007 and 2010 to role out free school meals to all. After some fierce criticism, they did eventually act.
Whilst extending free school meals to families who can more than afford them is not a bad thing, one has to wonder if the money could have been spent more wisely… particularly when we have families queuing up at food banks.
Mr Macdonald claims the SNP have spent an additional “£127m for frontline healthcare in our NHS taking our total additional resource investment for 2015-16 to £383m”. Notice the focus on “resource” spending? This is because the NHS budget comprises capital and resource components – the SNP have been cutting the former to fund the latter. Sneaky!
Like Mr Macdonald, I welcome a £390m investment in affordable homes… if they are truly affordable. But what about investment in social housing for those who can’t own their own home? The last Scottish Labour Government’s record on social housing was not great, but the SNP have failed to even meet that standard!
Mr Macdonald trumpets extra spending on childcare (I thought that could only be achieved with independence?) in the same week that parents raised significant concerns about the SNP Government’s attitude towards childcare.
Council Tax Freeze
Mr Macdonald proudly supports this policy even though it makes inequality worse in Scotland and has been damaging to public services. If the freeze is “fully funded”, Mr Macdonald must explain where that money has come from and why it could not be used to reduce inequality in Scotland.
Supporting 1000 New Police Officers
Again, Mr Macdonald is proud of this flagship policy. To maintain the police numbers and balance the budget, Police Scotland must cut administrative posts and have police officers take on more paperwork. This is not new – even before Police Scotland was formed the SNP were boasting that they’d appointed “1000 new officers”, but failed to mention that half these officers took the place of 972 sacked civilian workers. Unison’s George McIrvine: Police officers being paid around £35,000 a year are now doing the jobs previously performed by civilian specialists on £25,000.
Protecting the Local Government Budget
Mr Macdonald needs to be honest. The City of Edinburgh’s budget has not been “protected” by the SNP. If he paid attention, rather than just fought Labour, he’d know that budget cuts mean that The City of Edinburgh Council is facing up to 2,000 job losses.
At best, Mr Macdonald’s newsletter is misleading. He omitted key facts and is clearly out of touch with what is happening in Edinburgh Pentlands. Perhaps it’s time that I had a MSP that put his/her constituency first and did not engage in tribal politics.
PS – What exactly is Mr Macdonald’s position on TTIP. Scottish Labour oppose it wholly, Mr Macdonald’s has “concerns”. See: