The Scottish Government’s legislative programme did not set the heather on fire. Indeed, timidity continues to be its defining characteristic.
It is largely forgotten that, pre-devolution, there was separate Scottish legislation on which we led the UK and sometimes the world on matters like Highland development, treatment of young offenders, special needs education and so on. Now we have plenty talk but not much walk.
An assurance that the Highlands and Islands is being put “on a path to become the world’s first net-zero aviation region by 2040” is doubtless worthy but who will be around to check it out? Urgent action on rural housing would be more useful.
Green MSP, Andy Wightman, rightly said land reform is going backwards, having plateaued a decade ago. Dropping the promised measure on freeing up long-empty properties and derelict land for housing is another retrograde step.
This could make a real difference in rural areas where lack of affordable housing continues to be the main reason for continuing drifts towards larger centres.
It could also improve the environment of run-down towns and cities which are blighted by dereliction without effective means of intervention in the public interest.
The housing minister, Kevin Stewart, said it was dropped because of “the pressures of Brexit” on civil servants. I think that can be filed under “implausible”. Reluctance to take on vested interests seems more likely.
There is plenty money and the Scottish Government will have another £1.2 billion as a result of this week’s financial statement. The shortfall is in radical political thinking and commitment to using powers and money to narrow the glaring inequalities which disfigure our land. So let’s have a Referendum Bill instead.