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EDWARD MOUNTAIN: SNP and Green need to be reminded about the values of democracy

By Ed Mountain

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MSP Edward Mountain has questions about farming policy.
MSP Edward Mountain has questions about farming policy.

Whether it is constituents, businesses or school groups, I am always delighted to welcome people to their Scottish Parliament and show them around the building.

I often find the Parliament’s architecture provokes a mixture of reactions as visitors try to make sense of its glass ceilings and concrete corridors. Some instantly like the modern design, while others find it is not to their taste at all.

When the Parliament building was designed over twenty years ago it was envisioned that it would symbolise the values of democracy. Indeed, openness and transparency were built into the fabric of the building to inspire all MSPs to uphold these values.

With that in mind, perhaps it would be worthwhile if the SNP-Green Government booked themselves on a parliamentary tour to remind themselves of these values.

Indeed, I find that it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain straight answers from Scottish Ministers on the issues that matter most to constituents, whether that’s health care, transport or the rural economy.

For example, farmers are desperate for clarity so they can plan ahead and continue to deliver high-quality food while meeting climate change targets.

That’s why I challenged Lorna Slater MSP in the Chamber to confirm whether all farmers will be able to access all of the conditional funding streams of the Scottish Government’s post-2024 agriculture policy.

A simple yes or no answer would have sufficed. Instead, the Green Minister did not engage with the question at all, preferring to read from her pre-prepared lines that were irrelevant to my original question.

Such evasion is an insult to the Parliament and contemptuous of constituents who need and deserve answers. Even more troubling is that this episode was not an isolated incident.

Last year I questioned Ivan McKee MSP on the delivery of the long-delayed vessels 801 and 802. The former Minister reassured Parliament that the vessels were on track and on budget.

I knew this could not be the case as I had visited Ferguson Shipyard prior to my question. I therefore lodged a series of Freedom of Information requests to expose the full truth.

The reply I received revealed Ivan McKee MSP’s briefing notes, which suggested he was well aware that the Scottish Government were expecting a review of budgets and delivery timelines from their shipyard – a crucial fact which the Minister omitted when I questioned him at Holyrood.

Attempts to avoid scrutiny and withhold bad news from the public are unacceptable. It smacks of secrecy and indicates that there is something rotten with the culture of this Scottish Government.

The Highlands and Islands deserves better. I will continue to use every means at my disposal to hold this dysfunctional government to account.

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