AFTER months of being ignored by most of the media, and particularly by the anti- independence media in Scotland, the scandal surrounding the former Scottish Conservative peer Michelle Mone and the Conservatives' so-called 'VIP lane' for PPE contracts, is finally dominating the news schedules.

Even BBC Scotland can no longer ignore it.

Although the current focus is on Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman, a report to the House of Commons in June last year found that the Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) lost 75% of the £12 billion it spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) in the first year of the pandemic due to inflated prices and kit that did not meet requirements.

This includes £4 billion of PPE that will not be used by the NHS and needs to be disposed of.

The system of PPE procurement introduced by the Conservatives during the early months of the pandemic was not only an open invitation to corruption, it was also incredibly wasteful, resulting in the loss of billions of pounds of public money.

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In a report the Public Accounts Committee says that as a result of what it calls the DHSC's "haphazard purchasing strategy" 24% of the PPE contracts awarded are now in dispute - including contracts for products that were not fit for purpose and one contract for 3.5 billion gloves where there are allegations of modern slavery against the manufacturer.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "The story of PPE purchasing is perhaps the most shameful episode the UK government response to the pandemic.

“At the start of the pandemic health service and social care staff were left to risk their own and their families’ lives due to the lack of basic PPE.

“In a desperate bid to catch up the government splurged huge amounts of money, paying obscenely inflated prices and payments to middlemen in a chaotic rush during which they chucked out even the most cursory due diligence.

“This has left us with massive public contracts now under investigation by the National Crime Agency or in dispute because of allegations of modern slavery in the supply chain."

The National: The Michelle Mone scandal shows the rot at the heart of the UK establishmentThe Michelle Mone scandal shows the rot at the heart of the UK establishment

Remember that next time Douglas Ross bleats about Scottish Government spending.

The 'VIP lane' allowed the friends and associates of senior Tories preferential access to ministers in order to submit bids for lucrative contracts for PPE, contracts worth tens or hundreds of millions of pounds of public money.

The term 'VIP lane' is a polite little euphemism. It was really a corrupt system of cronyism and back scratching which offered favours and public cash to those with ties to the upper echelons of the Tory party and which should have resulted in the immediate firing of the minister or adviser who had first suggested it.

Meanwhile, Mone has hit out at Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove, insisting that they were both fully aware of her involvement from the very beginning.

Yesterday, during an unnecessary trip to Lossiemouth which was a blatantly obvious attempt to avoid scrutiny and questions about the scandal, Sunak tried to dodge the inevitable questions about Mone by insisting that he could not comment on a matter that was currently subject to a police investigation.

READ MORE: When Michelle Mone put The National 'on legal notice'

Although, that never stopped him from cracking cheap and unfunny gags about Nicola Sturgeon and camper vans during the Conservative party conference.

The Mone scandal continues to uncover new instances of Tory duplicity.

Conservative hereditary peer James Bethell, who was a junior minister overseeing Covid contracts in 2020, (yes, it's 2023 and hereditary peers with government positions are still a thing) shared a text message from October 2020 in which he said Mone did not explain about her financial involvement with PPE Medpro – a firm that supplied millions of pounds of PPE to the government, contradicting Mone's claim to have done so.

Mone in turn remarked whether Bethell would now share his text messages with the Covid Inquiry.

Bethell had told the Inquiry that he was unable to give its lawyers access to the messages, claiming that he had lost his phone.

READ MORE: Lord Bethell finds 'lost messages' amid row with Michelle Mone

However, in his eagerness to defend Sunak, Bethell has mysteriously managed to access his text messages from 2020, after all. It's either a Christmas miracle or James is going to be on Santa's naughty list.

Westminster leaves nothing but bad Budget choices for Scotland

Scottish Finance Secretary Shona Robison has delivered the Scottish Government's Budget which comes amidst what she describes as the "most challenging circumstances" ever.

The budget was delivered to the usual Labour complaints about "SNP cuts" and Tory whines about tax rises, but what this budget really proves yet again is that the devolution settlement is fundamentally a system for transferring the blame for Tory austerity and Westminster taxation and spending policies from London to Edinburgh.

The Scottish budget is being squeezed because Holyrood is forced under the terms of the Scotland Act to operate under tight financial restraints. The Scottish Parliament has very limited tax raising and borrowing powers and is legally obliged to balance funding sources with expenditure.

However, this year the Scottish Government was forced to find extra money in order to deal with the consequences of a decades long Conservative squeeze on public finances, most notably the pay awards to public sector workers struggling with a cost of living crisis, which has been severely aggravated by the Tory imposed Brexit, the Conservatives refusal to tackle the profiteering of the energy giants, and the economic meltdown created by Liz Truss's disastrous and thankfully brief tenure in office.

None of this wider context will be taken into account when the usual suspects complain about the Scottish budget.

Calling Keir Starmer a socialist might be Jordan Peterson’s most unhinged rant yet

Far right Canadian academic Jordan Peterson has penned an opinion piece for the Telegraph in which he warns that if Keir Starmer wins the next general election, he will turn Britain into Venezuela.

For the likes of Peterson, anyone even marginally to the left of Mussolini is indistinguishable from Leon Trotsky, and that includes the Thatcher praising anti-immigration centre-right Labour leader.

Is this not the point where far right British nationalists usually tell foreigners to butt out of British politics?

Peterson has said many crazy things over the years, including advocating a diet consisting solely of meat, but thinking Starmer is a socialist is the most bonkers thing he's said in quite a while.