Gina Davidson: One in the i for Santa Salmond

Scottish Government staff are set to spend �60m on iPads for staff
Scottish Government staff are set to spend �60m on iPads for staff
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JUST when you thought you could unclench your buttocks and kick back on the sofa in an apolitical sloth after the American electorate actually saw sense and voted Barack Obama back into the White House for another four years, along comes another issue to get you jumping off that space-saving Ikea two-seater in a sweaty rage.

It’s only six weeks until Christmas and kids across the country are compiling lists to Santa – unless their parents have heeded the ridiculous killjoy advice of the Mothers’ Union and put a stop to all that wishing and hoping nonsense. And without doubt many will be asking for a fruit-related present.

No, not a satsuma or even an apple, but an Apple.

Certainly in my eight-year-old son’s case it’s an iPad he’s got his eye on (though I was gratified to see it only came third on the list after a Nerf gun and a new Super Mario game). How his father and I have laughed. As if we would splash out £300 on a nice bit of tech that wasn’t for us. Santa is thankfully an Apple-free zone.

But who wouldn’t love to get their hands on an iPad? Sleek, beautiful, touchy-feely but with a hint of brazen, tax-issue edge . . . they are the technology equivalent of a mink coat.

So of course it makes perfect sense that the Scottish Government should decide to splash out £60 million of our money on such desireable objets d’tech and hand them out to staff in our courts, prisons, NHS, colleges, and anyone else they think is not already getting their Apple a day. No?

No. £60m? This at a time when a council tax freeze has forced local authorities into laying off staff, closing libraries even bowling greens, raising allotment charges and reducing bin collections.

This at a time when our hospitals are crumbling, waiting lists are on the up and nurse sickness levels are at an all-time high because of a lack of numbers and the subsequent stress. At a time when 500 police staff are facing the axe.

The decision comes hot on the heels of Edinburgh City Council forking out £47,000 to furnish all its councillors and 25 top officials with state-of-the-art iPads in an apparent bid to cut down on annual £400,000 paper costs – the same reasoning the Scottish Goverment has given for its spending splurge.

There can be few arguments against the idea that administration costs should be reduced when they can be, but the last figures at the council showed that it was likely to spend an extra £168,000 on printing costs this year despite the move to using tablets. And as Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale said, there’s been zero indication of just where the Government will make £60m in savings by bulk buying sackloads of Apples.

Yes when it’s possible civil servants, public sector staff – particularly teachers – should have access to the latest technology to do their jobs more efficiently, but those possibilities have to include whether it’s a good use of public money at a time when budgets are being squeezed tighter than Scarlett O’Hara’s corsets.

Of course there’s not a little envy involved. You might think working in a communications industry would mean all journalists would have access to tablets or tech which would make our job easier and more responsive – but guess what, like most people if we want one we have to buy one.

At a time of austerity the Government handing out such gifts to staff is like playing at being Santa. And while Mr Salmond might well fill the red suit very well, when it comes to public finances, it seems that the civil servants in St Andrew’s House need to be told that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

Endurance test

EVERY time it’s announced that Dr Andrew Murray, the government’s physical champion, is about to head off to attempt some new extraordinary feat of endurance, I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

Where the Edinburgh GP’s energy, drive and determination comes from I’ll never know. Even jogging with him in Holyrood Park this year made me feel like I had lead in my legs while he bounded around like a spring lamb.

But at least this time it’s possible to show support for his latest Herculean tast. Seven marathons in seven days on seven continents sounds like my idea of absolute hell – but he wants normal people to pledge to run, walk, cycle 5km every day for the week he’s flying and running around the world.

It might be winter, it might be dark and miserable out there, but if he can run 26 miles in Antartica, then a bit of drizzle shouldn’t be a problem.

Don’t know about you, but I’m in.