SNP taking advantage of lack of political accountability across UK

There is a distinct lack of political accountability across the United Kingdom, and the ferries fiasco is the SNP’s opportunity to exploit this democratic deficit.

Not every scandal is a resignation matter, but for a democracy to function in a meaningful fashion visible accountability is required.

Over the past few decades we have seen a move away from personal responsibility for the failures of ministers towards an obstinate refusal to resign for personal or departmental failures.

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Ferries fiasco: Demands for Derek Mackay to give evidence to Scottish MSPs
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has faced calls to resign her position in the past.

This change of culture can predominately be put at the feet of the Conservative government under Boris Johnson.

This includes his failure to sack home secretary Priti Patel for bullying, housing secretary Robert Jenrick for his lobbying scandal, or former chief aide Dominic Cummings – at least at first – which demonstrates this belief of being close to untouchable if you are an ally of the Prime Minister.

The potential hypocrisy of Mr Johnson not resigning should he be found to have broken the law in regards to Partygate while he and his Cabinet call for the chief executive of P&O to resign for breaking the law will not be lost on voters.

In Scotland, the ferries fiasco provides the SNP with an opportunity to exploit this cultural shift.

If you fail so catastrophically on an issue central to your remit, you should face consequences.

However, for Kate Forbes and Nicola Sturgeon, they have a convenient fall guy in the form of the disgraced Derek Mackay, even if as the First Minister said, the “buck stops with me”.

Add in the failure to have documentary evidence for how ministers assessed the risks associated with the Ferguson Marine deal and who made the final decision and why, and you have a vacuum of political accountability.

We all know, after all, the First Minister will not resign over something she likely views as a trivial political irritant rather than what it is – a damning indictment on competence within her government.

Political scandals do not always equal political scalps, but a handful in Scotland in recent years should have done.

The Alex Salmond Inquiry highlighted serious failings at the centre of government, yet no-one responsible resigned, while the 2020 exams catastrophe should have been the end of John Swinney.

But taking responsibility no longer seems to be in vogue.

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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