WE have one scandal after another at Westminster, and interest rates have been hiked 10 times in a row, adding soaring mortgage and rent costs to the problems facing household budgets already stretched to breaking point by sky-high energy bills and food inflation reaching more than 14%.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is circling over the carcass of the Conservative Party like a vulture biding its time until it can swoop in for a feast. Strike action proliferates throughout the public sector and transport sectors while UK Government ministers are far more interested in performing a hard-man act than in negotiating to resolve the disputes.

Britain certainly does not have its troubles to seek – problems created by 13 years of Conservative austerity, and tax policies which prioritise the protection of corporate profiteering over raising money that could be spent on the public services and infrastructure those corporations rely on in order to run their businesses.

Then, of course, there is the self-harm of Brexit, about which both the Conservatives and Labour have agreed not to talk about. We have now reached the point in British politics where the only consensus is a consensus of British nationalist delusion – don't talk about the harm caused by Brexit, no matter how self-evident it may be, and don't admit that British nationalism is indeed a particularly toxic form of nationalism even as both the main parties wrap themselves in the flag and demonise migrants.

But today at First Minister's Questions, we had the perfect illustration of why neither Labour or the Conservatives are serious political parties which deserve the support of the Scottish public.

Douglas Ross continued with the Tories' culture wars theme, ignoring all the havoc and sleaze in which his colleagues at Westminster are mired. According to Ross, the most pressing issue facing Scotland today is whether Nicola Sturgeon personally believes that a convicted rapist who now identifies as trans is a woman or a man.

It has already been determined that this individual will serve their sentence in a male prison, as will all those trans people convicted in future of crimes of violence against women – a decision supported by Rape Crisis Scotland and by Scotland's leading trans organisation.

So, the answer to the question about whether this individual is a man or a woman is – who cares? If they were only claiming to be trans in order to have an easier time in the prison system, as Ross asserted, it clearly has not worked. Whether this person is genuinely trans or not makes no difference. They have already been identified as a rapist and steps have been taken to ensure that they will not pose any threat to women while in custody, as will any other individuals convicted in future under similar circumstances.

But Douglas Ross prefers to focus on this issue as a convenient distraction from the mess his party are making of the economy, of standards of decency and probity in public life, and the threat the Conservatives pose to democracy itself. He'd much rather try to cynically make political capital from women's legitimate fear of male violence and from prejudice against a stigmatised minority group, the vast majority of whom pose no threat to women, or indeed to anyone else. This is gutter politics, but it's what we have come to expect from Douglas Ross.

For his part, Anas Sarwar also chose to treat First Minister's Questions as an opportunity for cheap political grandstanding. Sarwar led with a question about cuts to local government funding, ignoring, as he always does, that the Scottish Budget is overwhelmingly a fixed sum of money determined by the block grant from Westminster. Labour and the Conservatives both agree in their refusal to allow the Scottish Parliament significantly greater powers to borrow money or to have control over a range of tax measures. 

Therefore, if more money is to be allocated to hard-pressed Scottish local authorities, who are indeed suffering from severe constraints upon their funding, then some other part of the Scottish Government's spending will have to be cut back.

Despite repeated questioning from the First Minister, Sarwar refused to identify what other areas of the Scottish Budget should be cut back in order to boost the money allocated to local authorities. Yet if he was First Minister, as he aspires to be, this is exactly the kind of difficult decision he would have to make. Equally, he declines to press for greater taxation and borrowing powers for Holyrood

This is why Sarwar, like Ross, is not a serious politician. For all that British politicians like to accuse the SNP of indulging in the politics of grievance, that is precisely the modus operandi of both Ross and Sarwar in the Scottish Parliament. Ross is determined to bring Westminster's gutter politics to Holyrood while Sarwar acts as though the purpose of the devolution settlement is to devolve responsibility for Conservative austerity to Scotland. Every week, both of them illustrate why both the Scottish Conservatives and Labour in Scotland are not fit for government.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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