Tavish Scott: No holiday for SNP propagandists

The Scottish Parliament will close for four weeks before the referendum next year. Picture: TSPL
The Scottish Parliament will close for four weeks before the referendum next year. Picture: TSPL
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THE summer holidays start this weekend. I can hear the groan of many Scottish parents. While it is wonderful to have the children at home for week after week, they have to be organised, entertained and looked after.

I suppose we parents chose to have the little darlings, so there is not much point in moaning now.

As Scotland’s schoolchildren consider the delights of weeks away from the centres of learning, so too with the Scottish parliament. Back in 1999 those who devised the blueprint for Holyrood argued that it should mirror school term time. So MSPs who are also parents look forward to the end of term.

June is always an intensive month in parliament. This week four proposed government laws are scrutinised for the last time. The control of universities bill is subject to more than 50 government amendments in this final stage. That is not the bill’s real name. The Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill gives unprecedented powers to Scottish ministers to interfere in the operational and strategic decisions of universities. These are independent academic institutions. After this bill is forced through parliament with the inbuilt nationalist majority that independence will no longer exist.

This bill sums up the parliamentary year. As Scotland moves remorselessly towards its date with destiny in September 2014, your government is using the machinery of government to encourage a Yes vote. Bodies and organisations which receive government money are being tapped up. I know public sector bosses who have been told that every utterance between now and September 2014 is to be co-ordinated to show the nationalist government in the best light. A few weeks ago VisitScotland shot themselves in the foot when political entries on their website were hastily removed after exposure. So, not unsurprisingly, many are now suspicious of public relations propaganda from the Scottish government and in particular its hundreds of agencies, quangos and funded bodies. They are all part of a government machine aimed solely at September 2014.

But it is easy to discern why. Month after month of full frontal attacks by the SNP on the UK, the UK government, the BBC, welfare reform and Scottish MPs at Westminster has made no difference to opinion polling on independence. The Yes campaign looks becalmed. Pro-independence commentators are publicly calling for a change and new people to enliven the campaign. Blair Jenkins, who runs the Yes campaign, must be the equivalent of the football manager who is told by the chairman his job is safe. Alex Salmond now says the Yes campaign has not started yet. All this reeks of desperation.

This week the SNP are using their majority to force through changes to the parliamentary calendar for next year. Changes that would allow ministers to use your money to campaign for independence. It will not work. The die is well and truly cast.

• Tavish Scott is Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland