Advertisement

Sturgeon leaves poetry behind to govern in prose

Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament Photo: Press Association

The Scottish parliament does not do state openings. The Queen stays away. There's no pomp and pageantry, no crowns and coronets.

After today's Holyrood equivalent of the Queen's Speech, the Programme for Government, perhaps it's just as well.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans for 12 new pieces of legislation and 13 Bills hanging over from the last session to be put in front of MSPs this session.

However, the subdued reaction to her statement, even from her own party, told its own story.

There were important announcements from Nicola Sturgeon, of course there were.

A total of £250 million will be spent on mental health, including help for schools and teachers - a measure widely welcomed.

However, opponents pointed out this commitment came on the day official figures showed child mental health waiting times were the worst on record between April and June.

There will be a Bill to create the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency - the next stage of trying to develop the economy of the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

Again something widely welcomed and an initiative which the Scottish Conservatives claimed they had pioneered by promising it in their recent election manifesto.

Ministers will take forward plans for the National Investment Bank. There was a promise of a health service "waiting times improvement plan". Ms Sturgeon also pledged spending of £7 billion on infrastructure - on schools hospitals, transport, digital connectivity - but that is over the period to 2026.

Scotland's new social security system will make a point of helping parents on low incomes. There will be an enhancement of children's rights. There will be reforms to the justice system - on family law, hate crime and strengthened protection for women and girls on female genital mutilation.

Credit: Press Association

More generally there will be a focus on the economy, but Ms Sturgeon again stressed the Scottish dire effect she says Brexit will have on Scotland.

Now, it should be said that very few of these policies were opposed by the other parties. And many of them will make a positive difference in specific areas of Scottish public life.

However, there was little sense of excitement. No heather was set on fire. Maybe we should not expect fireworks every time. After all this is a government now in the middle of its term in office, a minority government at that.

Other events are dominating politics, Brexit in particular, and no-one can say exactly what effect that will have on Scotland, or on the debate on independence, which got only a passing reference from Ms Sturgeon.

Overall this was a subdued statement to a subdued Holyrood chamber with the opposition parties, in their different ways, claiming the SNP government under Ms Sturgeon had run out of ideas.

That may resonate with voters, but it there is another explanation: that much of day-to-day government in a routine. Change happens slowly, if it happens at all. Revolution is rare.

American Democratic politician Mario Cuomo once said that "You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose."

For Ms Sturgeon this was not a day for soaring poetic political rhetoric but for down-to-earth political prose.