Scotsman comment: Ideas lacking in Westminster and Holyrood in summer of despair

Next week, much of the UK rail network will be paralysed by the RMT strike.

The RMT is set to embark on a series of strikes next week
The RMT is set to embark on a series of strikes next week

No trains north of the Central Belt and just 10 per cent of ScotRail services running. Take the car instead? At over £100 to fill the tank, no thanks. We’ll stay home and watch the Smart Meter whizz round.

And as the country sits paralysed, so it seems do the governments in London and Edinburgh, bereft of ideas and unable to look beyond a short-term populist reaction to whatever the latest crisis happens to be.

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We have been trapped in this cycle of reactionary politics from at least the beginning of the Covid crisis, emerging after two years into some kind of normality only to be blindsided by the war in Ukraine. A perfect storm of misery leaving us where we are today.

A summer which should be about hope and new beginnings, will instead be punctuated for many by the despair of being unable to make ends meet.

Even the Bank of England – intended to stand above politics – appears to have no strong view on how to keep things on track. It has the task of keeping inflation at 2 per cent yet it is now warning of a rise to 11 per cent. The reaction this week was a weak quarter point rise in interest rates.

Against this background, you would expect the other big political announcement of the week – Nicola Sturgeon kicking off the campaign for indyref2 – to capitalise . But her announcement was short on big ideas to tackle the country’s most pressing issues.

Her “scene-setter” instead pointed to a convenient collection of other nations, cherry-picking stats with no context. Why not Scotland? We have still to be told.

As rail workers strike next week, voters will go to the polls in two crucial by-elections for Johnson. But few observers expect much change, even in the face of a heavy defeat for the government.

Our political classes are failing us. Single issues got both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon into office. But outside of Brexit and fighting to stage a second referendum respectively, what is there?

Scotland, and UK, urgently needs to move beyond this era’s lurch from one crisis to another. For that we require, at least, a coherent vision. Our collective future depends on it.

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