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sunday mail OPINION; Silly stunts avoid the real issues.

JUST 117 days until the Scottish Parliament election.

A time when the parties should be airing their manifestos.

When refreshed MSPs should be spicing up their forthcoming campaign with new ideas.

Unfortunately, the reality could not be more different.

So far in the countdown to the Holyrood vote, we have had First Minister Jack McConnell made up as a Neanderthal by the Tories.

Now he is being portrayed as a cigarette being stubbed out by the SNP.

What this has to do with the real issues facing Scots is anybody's guess.

Politicians threatened with a turnout in May of less than 50 per cent whinge about voter apathy.

Well guys, you will get the turnout you deserve.

What happened to the brave words uttered on the opening day of the Scottish Parliament in 1999?

The SNP's Winnie Ewing, calling for a new consensual style of politics, asked MSPs to "Say good-bye to the badgering and backbiting that we associate with Westminster".

Yet her party indulged in just such tactics with its "Quit Labour" poster campaign.

The SNP and Tories have fallen into the US trap.

A few American academics say negative campaigning is value for money and immediately SNP John Swinney authorises his admen to get out their coloured crayons and notepads.

Yes, a few voters may decide Labour are not worth voting for because the SNP reckon Mr McConnell is a fag-end who should be stubbed out.

But all these sleaze tactics do in the long run is damage the credibility of ALL politicians.

And the only loser is democracy.

We suggest voters bombard their MSPs with questions on real issues in the coming months.

How will they ensure value for money from the private finance initiatives funding our schools and hospitals?

How will they protect the communities facing ruin over cod quotas?

How will they fund enough consultants, doctors and nurses to cut down waiting times?

How will they counter the escalating neds, guns and drink culture gripping our major cities?

How are they going to cut class sizes - and will they charge poor people more for higher education?

And although MSPs have no direct influence on the war, what message will they pass on to their colleagues in Westminister?

It has been a difficult first four years for our Parliament.

Not helped by medals for MSPs, the ever expanding cost of the new building, the tragic loss of Donald Dewar and the resignation of Henry McLeish.

Now is the time for our 129 MSPs to get their act together.

Put aside these childish stunts.

We want real policies that will make a real and positive impact on people's life.

Not cartoon politics from two-dimensional politicians.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 5, 2003
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