I must admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the new SNP government’s policies. One of the most important has got to be the scrapping of the “graduate endowment” charge. Although tuition fees were meant to have been abolished until now Scottish students have had to pay a charge of £2,000 when they leave university. Those receiving the Disabled Students Allowance, like me, have been exempt but for everyone else it’s yet more student debt to be lumbered with and a disincentive to entering further education.
I was also pleased to hear Justice Minister Kenny McAskill saying that too many non-violent criminals are locked up and that instead we should put resources into dealing with the really dangerous criminals such as sex offenders. Of course with by far the highest prison population per capita in Europe what alternative do they have? Another positive thing has to be the cancelling of the decision to close A&E at Ayr and Monklands hospital as well as the government expressing its opposition to nuclear power.
So I’m a bit happier than I was the last time I wrote about the SNP and it's nice for a government to do something I agree with for once. But still I’m sure, like all the main parties, they’ve got their own opportunistic reasons for doing what they have. The question is whether or not the Scottish Executive can move on from taking a few populist measures and show they’re really serious about changing Scotland for the better. It’s not good enough to drop key policies like an independence referendum or, for that matter, the pledge to wipe out existing student debts.