I blogged a bit back about how speechwriting was a transferrable skill between Parties.
I’m today going to try and see if the same applies to policymaking.
Ruth Davidson has just won a notable victory in the Tory Leadership election but even her supporters concede that her central message was that of a new image for the Tories in Scotland and that her campaign was a bit policy light.
On the back of that I dared myself on Twitter to come up with ten new policy ideas for the Scottish Tories.
Initially I anticipated undertaking this as a bit of a joke: Insisting that a picture of the Queen be displayed in every classroom; offering a state guarantee to Rangers finances; making the speaking of French in public a criminal offence.............that sort of thing.
But actually, as I set about the task, I realised that Scotland needs some new thinking on the right. A clash of ideas is essential in a democracy. And, anyway, there are precious few ideas coming from either the Scottish Government or my own Party.
I start with a number of caveats.
Firstly, I should make clear that most of the policy proposals I make are ones which I personally would vehemently oppose. I don’t therefor urge them on the Tories; indeed I would urge the Country not to vote for them if offered. They are mainly evil Tory policies. That’s the point really.
Secondly, I have ranted a bit about the SNP presuming to dictate what the policy of the Scottish Labour Party “ought to be” on the Constitution. So, for the avoidance of any doubt, this is just a bit of whimsy. Parties have the right to decide their own policies.
Thirdly, I have ignored things which any proper Tory Administration would presumably do anyway, such as privatise Scottish Water or reform the NHS on the Lansley Model.
Fourthly, although I tried to stick to devolved matters, there has, I acknowledge, been a little drift.
So, here we go.
1. Scotland has too many politicians. The Scottish Parliament’s 129 was based on there being 72 UK parliamentary Constituencies and enough list members to achieve proportionality. There will soon be 51 UK Constituencies so the numbers at Holyrood should come down to 90 or so. The workload could easily be undertaken by the Parliament sitting more than two and a half days a week and beyond 5 pm when required.
2. Scotland has too many Councils and Councillors. Local Government should be re-organised on broadly a County (or combination of Counties) basis. The exceptions would be Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. They should be “City Counties”, with directly elected Provosts. The target should be to halve the number of Councils and Councillors in the process.
3. The Council Tax national freeze should be ended. Rather, each four years coinciding with the Council elections in each Local Authority area there should be a local referendum on whether the elected Council could vary the current Council Tax during its four year term.
4. The integrity of the Scottish Education system should be restored. Pass rates at each given grade should be a percentage of those sitting the exam. That’s what employers and Universities want to know. How good the pupil is, not how good their teacher was in passing a bar set by other teachers.
5. The minimum wage should be abolished for graduates. The minimum wage is there to protect the vulnerable from being exploited, not to prevent the well informed from making a “well- informed” decision as to how they might best forward their career.
6. Voluntary redundancy should be made illegal in the public sector. If redundancies are required the public is entitled to keep the most talented and not put up with those who won’t volunteer as they are largely unemployable elsewhere. Employers must be forced to select on the basis of getting rid of those of least use to the public.
7. Free Broadband should be immediately installed on all Scotrail Inter-City services. Short term this should be paid for by abolishing free bus travel for over sixties still in the Labour Market. Long term it should go on ticket prices.
8. Parents should automatically lose all parental rights in respect of a child who has been in the continuous residential care of a local authority for more than twelve months. Any court proceedings thereafter should start with a strong presumption against the child ever being returned to the Parent.
9. It should be possible for Local Authorities, with the agreement of Government to abolish all planning controls over large geographical areas. Planning delays are inimical to enterprise and an unaffordable luxury in current economic circumstances.
10. The prescription of medicinal heroin should be introduced and become a principal tool in drugs sentencing policy.
So, there we are. Small Government, libertarian, business friendly, guaranteed to give large parts of the Scottish establishment heart-failure. I enjoyed that.