The Guardian view on Scottish politics: a battle with no winners – The Guardian, 24/03/21

Scottish politics is a small world. Inevitably so, in a nation of 5.5 million. The Scottish National party is also close-knit, once famous for presenting a unified front to outsiders. That is how it grew to become the dominant force, now in its 14th year in government. It also helps explain why the feud between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond has been so bitter and all-consuming as a spectacle. In terms of SNP division, it was a volcanic eruption on what had previously been a largely featureless landscape.

The lava has stopped flowing, but the ground is scorched. The origin of the dispute is allegations of sexual harassment and assault made against Mr Salmond, which he denied. A court acquitted him on all charges last year. A parallel controversy ignited around the Scottish civil service’s handling of the allegations; its own botched inquiry (revealed in a different court case to have been “tainted by apparent bias”); and questions of what Ms Sturgeon had known and when, and what action she had or hadn’t taken.

Mr Salmond alleged a malicious plot. The first minister pleaded memory lapses. Whether she had knowingly breached the ministerial code became the crux question. Earlier this week, an independent inquiry decreed that she had not. A separate report by an investigating committee of MSPs was more critical, but the force of its conclusions was blunted by leaks and conspicuous partisanship. A vote of no confidence against Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood flopped.

Dumfries and Galloway Council accused of “shoddy” attempts to fix potholes – Daily Record, 25/03/21

Dumfries and Galloway Council has been accused of throwing money down the drain on defective road repairs.

Several “shoddy” attempts to fix the crumbling C50S near Glenlochar are “a waste of money”, according to community leaders.

Photographic evidence given to the News depicts three sub-standard fixes on a crater near Balmaghie Kirk.

The first repair, made last March, failed within weeks while the second, in January, disintegrated within hours.

Workmen arrived last week for a third attempt but only partially-filled the pothole

Families who lost loved ones to Covid urge Nicola Sturgeon to trigger Scotland-only inquiry – Sunday Post, 28/03/21

Families who lost loved ones to Covid have again urged Nicola Sturgeon to set a date for a public inquiry into the official handling of the pandemic.

A campaign group was disappointed when, in a meeting with the first minister, she refused to commit to a timetable and suggested a UK-wide public inquiry was still her preferred option.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice fear seeking a four-nations approach means nothing will happen for months despite a parliamentary vote for an immediate public inquiry in November.

Alan Wightman, of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, whose mother Helen died of coronavirus in a Fife care home, said: “The first minister said she will try again to get a four-nations approach but if she can’t get that she will commit to going for an inquiry in Scotland only. I was floored. I wasn’t expecting that.

“I reminded her of the vote in parliament in November for an immediate inquiry and that Health Secretary Jeane Freeman already tried for a four nations approach and didn’t get it.

“A four-nations approach is doomed from the start. Why would you waste time on that when you know the answer is going to be no?”

Scotland has highest Covid infection rate in UK – BBC, 26/03/21

Scotland has the highest coronavirus infection rate in the UK, according to the latest national figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) test positivity figures show that while infections have levelled off in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland’s infection rate has increased over the past two weeks.

It is estimated one in 240 people in Scotland has the Covid infection.

It comes as West Lothian reports a significant spike in cases.

SNP mask is beginning to slip… no one can predict May’s election – Glasgow Times, 25/03/21

OR most of last year the Scottish Parliament elections coming up in May looked like a foregone conclusion.

Poll after poll showed the SNP heading for an outright majority, either on their own or with the support of the Greens. Polling on the constitutional question was similarly buoyant for those of a nationalist bent.

This, of course, was in a political environment where it was almost impossible for any issue other than the Covid pandemic to gain any traction or any serious discussion in the media. Rightly or wrongly, the Scottish Government was perceived to have had a ‘good pandemic’; at least in comparison to Westminster if not our European neighbours.

Letters to the press, 26/03/21: Low marks, Politics at a new low, Scotland can benefit from naval expansion

SNP school pledge ‘was worthless’ – The Times, 24/03/21

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of putting independence before schools by launching her bid for another referendum on the day auditors revealed that she failed to improve education for poorer children.

Before the 2016 Holyrood election, Sturgeon said education would be her number one priority She pledged to “substantially close the attainment gap” between affluent and deprived children by the end of the current parliament — which ended yesterday — and “to eliminate it within a decade”.

But Audit Scotland, the spending watchdog that independently assesses the government’s performance, said in a report published on Tuesday: “Progress on closing the gap has been limited and falls short of the Scottish government’s aims.”

Scots face tax hikes of up to 46 percent in independent Scotland – Daily Express, 22/03/21

SCOTS could face large tax hikes if Scotland becomes independent, a research paper has warned.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance said an independent Scotland would have the highest deficit in Europe if it were to quit the UK. This would force the Scottish Government to raise taxes and cut public spending, the research paper warned.

The paper claimed an independent Scotland would need to raise the basic rate of income tax to 46 pence in the pound to pay for its current level of spending.

Policy officials said the current rate of Scottish spending is £11,247, which is 20 percent higher than England, and could not be supported without huge tax rises, or a significant reduction in public spending.

The lobby group predicted the Scottish Parliament would need to increase taxes by at least 10 per cent of GDP to balance the books and raise VAT to 49 per cent.

A government without rules – Stephen Daisley, 22/03/21

A government without rules

The final week before parliamentary recess typically has a last-day-of-term feel. When there’s an election in the offing, the focus is on tying up legislative loose ends and gathering for retiring rivals’ valedictory speeches.

After five years of knocking lumps out of one another, old enemies conspire over cups of tea in the canteen, gossiping about strategies, blackening the names of parties’ rising stars and pronouncing on who is a safe bet to be returned and who’s had their electoral chips.

There will be none of that this week. Not just because Covid-19 has made getting together for a cuppa a hanging offence but because this week the fate of Nicola Sturgeon hangs in the balance. The First Minister will receive the conclusions of the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s handling of complaints against her predecessor, mentor and arch-enemy Alex Salmond.

We already know the committee will say she misled MSPs in her evidence, a revelation which has prompted Sturgeon’s office and some SNP members to trash the panel in advance of its report.

Around 60,000 Covid vaccine slots missed in Scotland last week amid delays in letter deliveries – The Sun, 25/03/21

AROUND one in seven vaccine appointments were missed last week amid delays in delivering vaccine letters, the Scottish Government admitted tonight.

Ministers revealed about 60,000 slots were “not attended” – leaving their target number for inoculations well short of a 400,000 seven-day target.

The Scottish Government admitted to the problem after The Scottish Sun asked why there were around 80,000 fewer jabs last week than Health Secretary Jeane Freeman’s stated aim.

On March 12, the SNP minister had told how the rollout should accelerate dramatically to 400,000 doses in a week, following a slowdown blamed on supplies.

But the Scottish Government’s own figures showed 316,393 jabs – first and second doses – were carried out in the seven days from March 14.

It means Scotland is still lagging behind both England and Wales in terms of the percentages of both the adult or overall population vaccinated.