How important is a target?

Does the Scottish Government really care about people?

Once upon a time, The Scottish Government was mainly concerned with making the lives of Scots people better. Remember when the government led by Alex Salmond passed legislation to remove toll charges on Scottish bridges. Remember the introduction of free personal care, free school meals and the promise of a non-profit state run energy company. Remember these?

The impetus behind all of these changes was to make life a little better for those living in Scotland, but also to provide ‘clear blue water’ between the priorities of the Scottish and English (UK) governments.

Now the Scottish government led by Nicola Sturgeon has other priorities. These priorities don’t seem to recognise the financial challenges faced by families in Scotland today.

At a time when the cost of living is increasing because of the impact of the insanity of Brexit and the massive 54% increase in energy prices, two decisions made by the Scottish Government bring their priorities into sharp focus.

In 2017, at the SNP Autumn conference, Nicola Sturgeon announced, to a standing ovation, the creation of a non-profit State controlled energy company which would supply consumers “as close to cost price as possible”. However, just at the time when such an organisation would be extremely helpful to the Scottish people, the SNP have ditched the proposal, having done no work to establish the promised energy company. Was it ever a serious proposal or was it always intended by Sturgeon simply as a crowd-pleaser at conference to give her another ego-boosting ovation.

As mentioned above, one of the early SNP government actions was to remove tolls from most road bridges. An argument advanced at the time was that it was unfair on those using the bridges to pay when those using ordinary roads travelled for free. It was a policy much acclaimed within the party.

However, in the last couple of days, an article in the Times has revealed that the SNP are considering re-introducing bridge tolls, allegedly to cut car use in pursuit of their green agenda and probably encouraged by their Green partners. No doubt mindful of the argument when tolls were removed, they are are also thinking of converting some major roads into toll roads. Equally unfair to all?

If fast, flexible, low cost public transport was available throughout Scotland, or if everyone lived within walking distance of their workplace, it might be an option to try to encourage people to stop using their cars, but this isn’t the case virtually all over the country, so the practical effect of the policy will be to increase the cost of essential travel for those who have no real alternative to using their car.

To add insult to injury, the Workplace Parking Levy gets introduced next month (4th March). This allows Local Authorities to place a charge on companies that provide parking spaces for their employees. The scale of charges and the specific size and type of car park to be subject to the charge are at the discretion of the Local Authority.  Companies can decide to pay the levy themselves or, as I suspect most will do, pass the charge on to the employees.  Another cost for already hard-pressed employees.

From the above, we see that the main priority of the current SNP and Scottish Government is keeping to their promise of net zero emissions by 2045.  Sticking to a target set to beat almost every other country on the planet has, perhaps through fear of being shown to have failed, proved to be the main driver of Government policy, eclipsing the need to prevent the suffering of large numbers of Scots citizens by piling on even more taxes, making lives already blighted by the effects of Westminster policy even worse.

So next time the SNP or Scottish Government tells you how evil the Tory government in Westminster is, just remember how much suffering among Scots families the Scottish Government themselves are prepared to accept so they can say they met their self-imposed target and beat the rest of the world to net zero.

The opportunity to boast beats the safety of our citizens every time?

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