NICOLA Sturgeon and the Scottish nationalists could not have been clearer – the 2014 independence referendum was “a once in a generation” vote that would settle the issue once and for all and Scotland voted, in its wisdom, to remain in the United Kingdom.
Now, because the outcome of this poll, and then last June’s UK-wide vote on European Union membership, did not suit the SNP’s agenda, the First Minister thinks she can hold Theresa May’s Government to ransom until she gets the result she wants.
Like those Remain voters who have come to accept the country’s decision on Brexit, Ms Sturgeon needs to do likewise and work with her counterparts to ensure the best possible outcome for the whole country.
After all, the notions of independence and membership of the EU are totally incompatible. Why would Scots vote to repatriate powers from Westminster – and then promptly give them back to Brussels and, at the same time, have to join the euro as a pre-condition of membership of the European Union?
No wonder Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Brexit spokesman at Westminster, could not provide straight answers to straight questions as he took the political art of fence-sitting to absurd new levels.
As such, it was refreshing to listen to Theresa May’s stridency as she told the Scottish people that Ms Sturgeon should concentrate on the day job north of the border where the economy is slowing down and where the performance of schools has slumped markedly since the SNP usurped Labour at Holyrood. As the PM declared: “A tunnel-vision nationalism, which focuses only on independence at any cost, sells Scotland short.” And the rest of the United Kingdom too.
SOME perspective is required following today’s revelation that Yorkshire’s councils have spent £72m on outside consultant in the past five years.
There are examples where such an approach is more than justified – costs incurred in Hull, for example, bidding for City of Culture will be recouped several times over by the economic dividend from the number of visitors flocking to East Yorkshire this year.
There are also occurrences when local authorities simply don’t have the necessary expertise – the assistance sought by Calderdale Council in the wake of the devastating winter floods of 2015-16 is a case in point.
And, when it comes to North Yorkshire’s smaller, and more rural, councils, it would be imprudent for them to employ senior staff to cover every eventuality.
Equally, there are occasions when town halls are seeking outside assistance to either fudge difficult decisions – or because there’s flawed leadership at the very top. These are the examples that infuriate taxpayers most of all, and with good reason. Given the financial restraints which are likely to intensify, still further, after next week’s Budget, consultants should be used as a last resort. As Sheffield MP Clive Betts, chairman of the Communities Committee, makes clear, councils should see if the necessary expertise is available elsewhere within the public sector before going elsewhere for assistance.
However it should not be left to The Yorkshire Post to ask for a breakdown of expenditure under FOI legislation. If councils were more transparent in the first place, and published such information each year, residents might have greater confidence in the decision-making process and role of consultants.
KIM LEADBEATER was thrust into the public spotlight in the most unimaginable way possible – the murder of her beloved sister Jo Cox, the much-respected Batley & Spen MP, last June. Yet it is to her eternal credit, and that of her family, that she’s become such a passionate – and eloquent – advocate for the values that Mrs Cox stood for, namely a belief that communities have ‘more in common’ than divides them.
Today’s interview with The Yorkshire Post could not be more heartfelt. Though the family’s anguish will never leave them, it’s a thoughtful appreciation of what they can do to honour the memory of a never-to-be-forgotten mother, sister and daughter who strove for conciliation and consensus in a career cut tragically short. As such, it’s fitting that the family want the anniversary of Mrs Cox’s death to be a day of community reflection rather than public grief. Even the most resolute will be humbled by this selfless and dignified example.