You can’t bite the hand that feeds you in a crisis, Nicola…

By Graham Grant

IT is prone to tantrums, cost more than expected and frequently leaves those who pay for its upkeep frustrated and exhausted.

But the parallels between Holyrood and the average toddler don’t end there: it also generates an awful mess – which then has to be cleaned up by someone else.

Westminster, the SNP’s default bogeyman (at least until Brexit came along), is left to wield the mop, a task it dutifully performs despite the bile the Nationalists heap upon it.

All too often the chaos that results from ill-conceived legislation created by clueless parliamentarians in Edinburgh has to be rectified south of the Border.

It’s something of a one-way street because the Union that allows that process to exist is routinely traduced by the SNP, pouring poison into a relationship that on more than one occasion has saved its skin.

For four years, the SNP complained about the VAT bombshell that drained emergency services of desperately needed cash, a convenient weapon to use against compassionless Tories.

Unsporting critics who pointed out that police and fire reorganisation in 2013, creating the single force, meant a big VAT bill was unavoidable were given short shrift: it spoiled the easy narrative of grievance.

Those who reminded the SNP that the point of the single force was largely to save money, so that a cuts agenda was inevitable from day one, were likewise shouted down.

Last year Chancellor Philip Hammond gave both the police and fire services in Scotland a combined £35million VAT boost, and told MPs: ‘The Scottish National Party knew the rules and knew the consequences of introducing these bodies and ploughed ahead anyway.’

He had been persuaded of the case not by the SNP, he said, but by the Scottish Tories: a painful slight for the SNP, which prides itself on ‘standing up for Scotland’ (in reality this translates as ‘standing up for its own narrow political interests’).

For Nicola Sturgeon, it was ‘an absolute disgrace it has taken the UK Government so many years to do the right thing here’; the true disgrace, of course, is the damage wrought to policing under the SNP’s botched reforms.

Named Person, the grossly intrusive scheme that aims to place the nation’s youth effectively under mass state surveillance, somehow passed all the necessary hurdles here before the Supreme Court in London ruled key planks of it were unlawful.

Like a legislative pinball machine, Named Person was promptly pinged back to the Scottish Government, which dressed up its monumental failure as best it could, and began devising a watered-down version of the initiative which has yet to be officially implemented.

How long, one wonders, before the smacking ban, which has all the makings of bad law, is also hurtling towards the UK’s highest court – a distinct possibility if campaigners choose to mount a legal challenge?

More recently, the Treasury – that malign symbol of imperialist overlordship for so many Nationalists – will also have to bail out the Scottish Government to the tune of half-a-billion pounds, after a humiliating error by the SNP’s economic experts.

Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) officials admitted they had overestimated the number of higher-paid people north of the Border.

Rather embarrassingly, the UK Government will now step into cover the £550million shortfall in income.

Official tax forecasts are used by the Scottish Government to determine how much it will have to spend in its annual Budget.

Income estimates are crucial as they determine how much can be spent, but the UK Government agreed it would cover the cost of any shortfall in revenue in the early years after income tax was devolved to Holyrood in 2016.

That means the £550million will be covered by the Treasury, in a further display of largesse – though admittedly it can expect little thanks from the SNP for its intervention.

Just imagine the state of our finances in the early days of a debt-laden independent Scotland, as taxes rose and ministers drew up a list of vital public services to be slashed – this time with no Westminster safety net.

Doubtless the SNP, if it stayed in power after the break-up of the UK, would still be vilifying Westminster for leaving us in such an impoverished state…

The SNP’s much-vaunted and highly ‘progressive’ tax raid this year was targeted at all those avaricious fat cats – such as senior nurses and teachers – who were ripe for a little wealth extraction.

Since the SNP’s tax changes – which came into effect in April – everyone earning £26,000 a year or above now pays more tax in Scotland than they would if they lived in other parts of the UK.

One unfortunate repercussion was a soaring tax bill for around 8,000 Armed Forces personnel based in Scotland – not generally known for their corporate greed…

Enter Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, with a £4million Ministry of Defence scheme to ensure troops are not penalised simply for being stationed north of the Border.

His view was that it was ‘completely wrong for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces to be punished for serving in Scotland by unfair raids on their pay packets by the Scottish Government’.

No words of thanks were forthcoming from our Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, however – he pointed out that ‘Armed Forces families in Scotland benefit from services not available elsewhere in the UK, such as free school meals, prescriptions and eye tests, and tuition fee and living cost support in higher education when they are ordinarily resident’.

Well, it was helpful for Mr Mackay to catalogue the many ways in which the SNP’s universalism has helped to bleed the public purse at a time when our economy is flat-lining.

The policy of funding ‘free’ degrees for Scots means student bursaries have had to be cut, while more than 1,000 Scots are missing out on university places each year because of the SNP’s ‘cap’ on undergraduate numbers.

Doubtless the SNP’s supporters will cry foul at this analysis, and brand it a Unionist conspiracy, but sadly for them the figures on Scots being frozen out of university (while international students paying huge fees are welcomed) were revealed by a former high-ranking civil servant at the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile ‘free’ prescriptions cost £1.3billion, with millions of doses of aspirin and paracetamol handed out to patients, even those able to pay for them.

The SNP Government introduced the policy in 2011, and the cost of the drugs is now equivalent to almost £250 per person.

And yet the Scottish NHS is struggling to cope with the impact of an ageing population, missed waiting times targets and a burgeoning GP crisis.

To brag about such profligacy at a time when those hated colonial overseers in Whitehall have had to come to the SNP’s aid repeatedly over a string of blunders demonstrates some chutzpah – or, less charitably, profound incompetence.

But there’s no disguising the fact that our toddler legislature and its bumbling political masters are forever in need of a helping hand from the Mother of Parliaments more than 400 miles away – however much they loathe it.

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Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper

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Graham Grant.

Graham Grant.

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper

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