Tom Richmond: Leaders’ panic shows why they have lost Scots’ trust

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THERE is one very simple reason why Scottish voters are contemplating the unthinkable and voting for independence – trust.

Like those people in England who are turning their back on mainstream parties by expressing their support for the United Kingdom Independence Party, the tumult north of the border is, to me, further evidence that Britain’s leaders no longer command the respect of the people that they purport to serve.

I’m afraid this is the culmination of the Iraq war, Parliamentary expenses scandal and the recession – and that David Cameron, Ed Miliband Nick Clegg actually represent “more of the same” in spite of their obvious political differences.

Their visit to Scotland on Wednesday smacked, frankly, of panic – and what can be done to appease the Scots – rather than robust leadership.

At least Sir John Major, a former prime minister whose political stock continues to rise with the passage of time, spoke with audible passion about why the break-up of the UK would be a national calamity.

Yet, after also listening closely to the interventions of, amongst others, George Osborne and Gordon Brown this week, I can see why Alex Salmond’s patriotic Scottish nationalism is so enticing.

Even though I think Salmond’s approach to questions of currency and the wider financial ramifications is naive and inadequate, the same criticism can be levelled against the fragmented Better Together brigade whose incoherence has played into the hands of the formidable SNP supremo.

Take Osborne. The Chancellor took it upon himself to offer the Scots fresh powers if they vote “no”. He declared: “More tax powers, more spending powers, more plans for powers over the welfare state.”

What he neglected to tell the country is that it was the Prime Minister – and not Scotland’s First Minister – who insisted on a straight “yes” or “no” referendum question. I assume that Downing Street now regrets the decision not to include the option of “devo-max” on the ballot paper where the Scots could have been given additional tax-raising powers as a quid pro quo for staying in the UK.

Now Brown. While some have lauded the former Labour leader’s messianic qualities, the Scots are being expected to trust the word of an ex-prime minister who is now promising the earth on tax, welfare and borrowing without being specific about the detail.

At one point, Brown even promised more tax-raising powers – and then spoke of Scotland also being the beneficiary of additional investment in the National Health Service if they so desired. What chance of this coming to pass when he is barely on speaking terms with Westminster’s leaders?

In summary, these are precisely the type of desperate calculations – carried out on the back of the proverbial postage stamp – that exacerbated Britain’s debt crisis. They are indicative of a political class which believes, erroneously, in its own superiority – the very reason that levels of mistrust are now so deep-rooted on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall.

Perhaps Cameron and Co should have reminded our Celtic cousins that each and every Scot receives an additional £1,364 a year in state spending in comparison to their counterparts in the rest of the UK, and that the outdated Barnett Formula will be scrapped at midnight next Friday if the independence campaign prevails. it might concentrate a few minds – if it is not too late.

HERE are three random thoughts on the Scottish independence referendum. Does the Duke of Edinburgh keep his title if Alex Salmond prevails? Will the National Lottery remain – or will Scots be exempt? And will Andy Murray fly the flag for Scotland – or Britain – when it comes to tennis? If it is the country of birth, the search for an English-born winner of the men’s singles at Wimbledon will enter its ninth decade in 2016 – the 80th anniversary of Fred Perry’s last triumph.

AN elderly passenger was not helped at Leeds Station this week after falling down an escalator because Northern Rail staff had not been trained in “people-handling”.

A spokesman for the company said the priority of officials was to contact a first-aider rather than immediate assistance.

I’m afraid this utterance offered final proof this rail operator is not fit for purpose. It will be an insult to the travelling public if its senior management remain in place following the franchise review process now underway these parts. After all, it is their actions – and example – that sets the direction of travel for station staff and others to follow.

I WAS intrigued to read that Leeds-based NHS England, the body responsible for the commissioning of health services, intends to lay off 75 senior managers – one quarter of its top executives – to save money. I welcome this. The NHS has become a gravy train for bureaucrats. Yet, given that chief executive Simon Stevens says these cuts will have no impact on day-to-day services, why were these posts created in the first place – and what will be done to prevent the creation of more non-jobs in the future?

IT is said that legendary athlete Brendan Foster was fortunate that health and safety considerations did not stand in his way in 1981 when he had the vision to create the Great North Run. Now that one million runners – and counting – have completed the half marathon, let’s hope the HSE and others realise the social and health benefits of mass participation sports events like this.

I’M afraid that I am underwhelmed by Educating the East End, Channel Four’s follow-up to the award-winning Educating Yorkshire which captured life inside Thornhill Community Academy near Dewsbury.

Even though Walthamstow’s Frederick Bremer School describes itself as a specialist engineering college, there’s not been much evidence of this. I was under the misapprehension that it was a drama school judging by the extent to which pupils and teachers played to the cameras.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk