While major scandals pass unnoticed, the symbolism of relatively minor ones can stir the nation. Hence the response to the SNP Lord Provost of Glasgow’s publicly funded underwear and 23 pairs of shoes.
It was arrogant to assume such behaviour would go unnoticed. But why should she have doubted it when her party at Holyrood has got away with far more damaging treatment of local councils – including her own – without paying any political price?
Certainly, Eva Bolander’s drive for sartorial elegance has done more to highlight the cuts elsewhere in Glasgow’s budget than all the closures of libraries, swimming pools and community centres put together. She will survive only as a joke figure.
For years, the SNP administration in Edinburgh has used local government as a whipping boy. According to the Scottish Parliament’s own research centre, it cut the money available to Scotland’s councils at more than four times the rate of inconvenience suffered to its own funding.
Glasgow – with all its needs and deprivation – suffered harshly in this slaughter of jobs and services. Over the past five years, the Salmond-Sturgeon administrations cut its funding by £270 per head of population. My own local authority in the Western Isles suffered even worse, a cruel £572 per capita cut over the same period.
The old adage “all fur coat and no knickers” has been put into reverse for Scottish local government. Decent public services which improve the quality of life for the least well-off have suffered far more cuts at the hands of the SNP than was remotely necessary or equitable.
If Ms Bolander’s excesses have created a metaphor for all of that then she has indeed performed a useful function.