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Monday, January 30, 2023

Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar dodge big topics at FMQs

It’s been a huge week for Scottish politics.

The UK Government will – for the first time in the Scottish Parliament’s history – use a Section 35 order to prevent the Gender Recognition Bill from gaining royal assent.   

So it looks like we’re headed for another court battle between the governments.

In response, the SNP said that it is a democratic outrage that the UK government is interfering in devolved areas, and warned that if they get away with it on the GRA they will inevitably try to overstep their powers again in future.

The Tories say that the bill is a danger to women across the UK and accused the SNP of using gender recognition legislation to further their independence ambitions.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak is not ready to tackle Scottish independence

Scottish Labour didn’t have much to say at first. Then when they did respond we were treated to the usual, we’re-the-grown-ups-in-the-room, why can’t the two governments just get along, meaningless waffle.

Anyway, on these bumper news weeks you can be absolutely certain that neither of the two main opposition leaders will mention the hot topic at FMQs

And so it was on Thursday, when Douglas Ross asked the First Minister about a report (based on a leaked document) that showed Glasgow City Council are considering cutting 800 teaching posts.

In response, the First Minister said that “it’s that time of year when we get lots of reports about saving options that different councils are considering” and it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be implemented.

That makes sense. Whenever I see money saving expert Martin Lewis on the telly I always pledge to cut out the unnecessary spending from my budget. But as soon as I spot a novelty squirrel figurine or similar tat in the charity shop all bets are off.

Nicola Sturgeon said that these draft spending proposals are always seized upon by opposition parties who want to make hay before the final budgets are announced.

Douglas Ross was furious at his character being besmirched in such a way.

“She’s saying I’m standing here making hay – no I’m not! I’m deeply worried that one of the biggest councils in Scotland is considering 800 teachers being lost” he said.

He went on to accuse the Scottish Government of having the wrong priorities.

“It wastes tax payers money on ferries that don’t float and other pet projects, instead of providing Scottish education and Scottish schools with the support they need.”

In response, Nicola Sturgeon said that local councils are responsible for their own spending decisions. She also managed to sneak in a wee dig about the Section 35 shenanigans of the UK government.

“I know – and we’ve seen this week – that Douglas Ross favours riding roughshod over the decisions and powers of democratically elected institutions. I, on the other hand, respect the autonomy of democratically-elected institutions” she said.

She said that in this financial year the Scottish government has provided £145m of additional funding to local authorities to fund additional teachers and classroom assistants.

She went on: “If we had followed the advice of the Conservatives we wouldn’t have been able to do all that because we’d have cut taxes for the richest people in the country.”

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