SNP and Conservative MPs' petty squabbling helps no one – Scotsman comment

The House of Commons’ committees are highly regarded by many for their scrupulous attention to important, but sometimes dull, details, the non-partisan nature of their investigations, and reports that can genuinely shed light on problems and propose sensible ways to resolve them.

Pete Wishart hit back at Douglas Ross saying his questions were 'poor and inept' (Picture: House of Commons/PA)

However, the Scottish Affairs Committee appears to be putting this hard-earned reputation at risk, judging by the standard of debate at its latest hearing.

During a heated discussion in which Scottish Secretary Alister Jack suggested people may have voted SNP for “free bicycle” – referring to a manifesto pledge to provide a bike to school children who cannot afford one – Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross attacked the SNP committee chair Pete Wishart for repeatedly talking over witnesses, describing his performance as “quite frankly inept and poor”.

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Wishart responded that Ross was “pathetic”, before asking him to “get on with your poor and inept questions, then, so we can get on with this session?”

Perhaps this is an accurate reflection of the state of politics in Scotland today and we should expect to see the Scottish Affairs Committee continue in similar fashion for years to come, with both sides of the constitutional debate telling each other how foolish they are. And perhaps they are, on that point at least, both right.

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We can only hope that they will quickly get such exchanges out of their system, put any personal rancour and constitutional disputes to one side, and work together on Scottish affairs that have a real impact on people’s everyday lives.

Wiser heads in each camp must surely realise that the public will only have a limited appetite for this kind of rhetoric, especially when there is a real need for the Conservative UK government and SNP Scottish government to work together to deal with the serious economic problems caused by Covid crisis and Brexit, particularly when the furlough scheme ends and, as expected, unemployment rises as a result.

There is also much to be done in Scotland to improve education, reform the social care system, and tackle the shocking drug-death rate, which to our collective shame is by far the highest in Europe.

Now more than ever, Scotland needs politicians prepared to focus on the serious business of government, not descend into petty squabbling that helps no one.

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