Leaders: Cameron’s bid for second place in Scottish elections

David Cameron. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
David Cameron. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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PRIME Minister’s attack on the SNP is aimed at convincing voters that the Conservatives are the only viable opposition in Scotland

On a previous visit to Scotland, in the final days before the independence referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron made his tearful and emotional “we want you to stay” speech to Scots.

Mr Cameron has now recovered his equilibrium and will be speaking at the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Edinburgh today.

In a stinging attack on the SNP he hits all the right buttons – such as attainment in schools, student numbers, health, and the named person policy.

These are certainly areas where the SNP has a case to answer; valid points of attack, where points can be scored and votes won, and perhaps momentum can be gained for the weeks ahead.

Under normal circumstances such points might hit home to a wider audience making for somewhat uncomfortable listening for the Scottish Government, rather that merely receiving the approval of Tory delegates. But this is Scotland.

Opinion polls to date have shown that the current public mood, which sees the SNP in a clear lead, does not seem to shift, even when political opponents land decent blows on the SNP over its record in power.

And this is a country where the Tories have won only four seats in five general elections over the past 19 years. The SNP returned 56 MPs in last year’s election.

The Prime Minister will warn today that Scotland is in danger of becoming a one party state – many would argue that this exists already, with the SNP also dominating Holyrood as well as the Scottish seats at Westminster.

But for all his harsh words for the SNP, Cameron’s real target is elsewhere. “We’re the only party that can challenge the SNP,” he says. In other words, forget Labour. “We’re the only party fit to expose these spendthrift, out-of-touch, dogmatic, inept Nationalists.” In other words, the Nats are very bad people indeed, but forget Labour if you want to take them on in Scotland.

The big prize for the Conservatives in the Holyrood election is second place, overtaking Labour, an eventuality which would take Kezia Dugdale’s party into unthinkable territory, after dominating Scottish politics for generations.

The Conservatives feel they have Labour in their sights, meaning Mr Cameron even feels confident enough to come over the Border and get his hands dirty in the hard work of campaigning. He was not a frequent visitor during the referendum, when there were concerns that his presence would do more for the Yes campaign than the No.

At face value, Cameron’s message today looks like a grilling for Sturgeon and the SNP. It is that, of course, but with the Nationalists holding such a commanding level of support in the polls, it is the Labour Party that has more to worry about as Cameron turns up the heat.

It may not be the last we see of or hear from the emboldened Prime Minister in this Holyrood election campaign.

Press 1 for even more frustration

RBS is thinking about employing a new member of staff, a robot called Luvo, which it says is capable of recognising human emotions and responding to customers who are rattled or upset, to deal more quickly with queries.

We would not want to pre-judge Luvo without experiencing him/her in action, but good luck to bank staff who will be asked to contact the robot for guidance when dealing with customers’ queries.

RBS says that if an internal trial is a success, it will explore if Luvo could talk to customers directly to answer “straightforward” questions. Please, spare us.

In fairness, RBS is using technology to try to improve the customer experience. All banks would like to do this, and on this particular front, RBS is leading the way. Unless this move takes artificial intelligence way beyond what anyone has ever experienced, rolling out Luvo to “speak” to customers will result in the usual outcome – failure to understand, leading to frustration, and a cry into the void to speak to a real person.

Many queries from customers are about specific problems that the caller will know from the outset cannot be answered by a robot or a range of options. Ending up on a phone tree that leads you down a cul-de-sac is infuriating. Worse still when you reach the end of the choices, and there is still no option to speak to a human. Because that is what works best – a human talking to a human.

However advanced artificial intelligence becomes, it will always be tripped up by the fact that humans are not robots, are often poor communicators, and annoyingly, speak with accents and in dialects. Sorry Luvo, we’d love to chat, really, but not right now…