IF anyone was labouring under the misapprehension that the Swinney regime was going to be a “fresh start” for the SNP, they must have been sorely disappointed when Mr Swinney announced that he wouldn’t support the sanctions which were imposed by the Holyrood Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on Michael Matheson, on the basis that one of the members of said committee had previously made comments about the affair which they claim prejudiced her decision.

Had Ms Wells an ounce of sense in her head, she would of course have kept her prejudices to herself and stuck the knife in at the committee anyway. Unfortunately for her, her mouth is bigger than her brain and she just can’t help herself.

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Having said that, it was a unanimous decision by the committee, including its sole SNP member, and the correct approach from Mr Swinney would have been to accept the decision, while pointing out that Ms Wells should have excused herself. The SNP hardcore might want to point to the behaviour of others, such as Michelle Mone, but whitabootery is a self-delusional comfort blanket, and doesn’t help fix the mess the SNP finds itself in.

Former MSP Andy Wightman waded in with his tuppenceworth, and completely missed the chance to make a decent point. Pointing out a valid criticism (of Ms Wells) is only a smear if it is an unsubstantiated innuendo. It was, however, a matter of fact. Michael Matheson was correct to state that the operations of the Standards Committee have been highly politicised – when have they not? Which prompts the question: how do we ensure that the Standards Committee for MSP behaviour is “de-politicised”? Quite simply, we remove such a remit from MSPs and create an independent body to adjudicate on their behaviour.

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Who would make up such a body? Perhaps legal experts such as Roddy Dunlop, who in response to Mr Wightman stated that “in my world you don’t accept a judge for assessment of culpability, then cry foul when he/she imposes the penalty”. Excuse me, but isn’t that why there exists an appeals process? In a world where everyone has an axe to grind, or a chip on their shoulder, how do we find a balanced way to hold our parliamentarians to account, when they seem so unwilling to do so themselves?

Perhaps a People’s Assembly, a step removed from the direct heat and vitriol of the Holyrood cesspit, might be an answer. Unfortunately, the introduction of such a move would have to come with the approval of our MSPs themselves. As we all know, turkeys are often very unwilling to vote for Christmas, and it is we, the people, who are more likely to be told to “get stuffed”.

In the meantime, we are left as mere observers as our parliamentarians stumble from one crisis to another, making up excuses on the hoof, and thumbing their noses at the people, who see them carrying out acts which we would probably be jailed for if we did the same thing. What they should remember is this: once every few years we are taken from our role as observers and are given the role of voters. Mr Swinney and co must remember that judgement day is coming in the form of the next Holyrood election. It is entirely in their hands whether they will be sent down or not.

Jim Cassidy

NOW that the Westminster election campaign has started I would like to highlight a significant point made by Mike Russell when he had a column in The National. Prior to the devolution referendum of 1997, he and Alex Salmond met Donald Dewar and received the commitment that the Scotland Act would contain nothing that would prevent the Scottish Parliament progressing to independence.

This promise encouraged the SNP to join Dewar in the referendum campaign.

Just 18 months ago the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold an independence referendum because the Scotland Act 1998 has reserved that power to Westminster.

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What went wrong between 1997 and 1998? I can think of two possibilities: Donald Dewar deliberately deceived Salmond and Russell to get the SNP on board for his referendum campaign, or Donald Dewar tried as best as he could to keep his word but found himself overruled by more senior figures in prime minister Blair’s government.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, the SNP have been struggling to work out the best route to independence in the absence of a referendum via a Section 30 order from Westminster. Many supporters of independence now seem to be blaming the SNP for the lack of recent progress towards our goal. Yet it is Labour legislation that has created the block which stopped the SNP government holding an independence referendum in October 2023.

It will be ironic if in the coming election frustrated independence supporters vote Labour. It would be more logical to punish Labour at the ballot box, and the best way to do that is to vote SNP.

Ewen Cameron