Under first Alex Salmond and now Sturgeon, Holyrood has become one of the most centralised and opaque regimes in the democratic world. The power devolved to Edinburgh in 1999 has been hoarded by a party and a government – it’s hard to tell where one stops and the other starts – that specialises in dodging accountability. The SNP’s record of failure on public services is matched only by its ability to conceal the extent of that failure.
All major decisions are expected to be signed off by Sturgeon’s office; even junior officials talk of referring decisions to her apparatchiks for final approval. The Scottish government’s 175 communications staff dwarf the BBC’s 34 reporters, meaning that even the publicly funded broadcasters have one person asking questions for every five who answer them. Remarkably, the bill for Holyrood’s press officers and special advisers has increased by 50 per cent since 2018, despite newspaper sales halving since the SNP came to power. Is it any wonder that important questions go unanswered when there is an excess of gatekeepers and a dearth of interrogators?