Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Mandy Rhodes: Days of dodge, duck and dive and then a new plan for open government? Is someone having a laugh?

Mandy Rhodes
Mandy Rhodes

Like comedy, politics is all about timing and for Scottish ministers to launch a new Open Government Action Plan after a week spent dodging questions about the CalMac ferry shambles shows they are capable of having a laugh at least.

Even calling it a shambles no longer seems to reflect the gravity of this crisis of governance, however, as concerns around the contract pile higher and the whiff of political machination grows stronger.

The new plan for open government is an ambitious initiative designed to boost transparency, accountability and understanding of how public finances work. Given her recent verbal gymnastics and numerical obfuscations, the First Minister might want to read it.

It was perhaps Nicola Sturgeon’s unique interpretation of her government’s responsibility for mistakes made before signing the contract that the spin doctors had in mind when, surely with tongue firmly in cheek, they described the new Action Plan’s purpose of “strengthening public trust in our institutions, producing better public services and a better quality for life for everyone”.

When seven years on from a contract for two ferries that has, so far, produced none; when costs have soared from the original £97 million to upwards of £250m and could go as high as £400m; when islanders have been left literally high and dry; when we now know it was signed in haste, without routine financial guarantees and against the advice of experts; when it went ahead regardless because it had, apparently, to be announced at party conference, “public trust in our institutions” is not exactly the phrase anyone other than the First Minister is now reaching for.

More than that, this whole sorry, rolling saga, has revealed something of the darker underbelly of the SNP. A willingness to throw anyone, even their own friends and allies, under a bus just to avoid the blame.

We have a government that is indulging in a cover-up in plain sight. And, while I don’t know if that qualifies as an oxymoron, when you have a First Minister reply to a straightforward question of whether she gave the nod to the ferry contract by saying “I didn’t say, ‘don’t go ahead’”, then I’m not sure what else you might call it.

There are some political phrases that lodge in the brain as convenient signposts to a direction of travel that a government is going in and the double-speak from Sturgeon in and around this whole shoddy affair, is one of them. After 15 years in power, there seems an artifice about the SNP that is as obvious as the painted-on windows and the fake funnels that were slapped on an unfinished ferry just so the First Minister could “launch” it. It was an emperor’s new clothes moment. An audacious photo opportunity that should have signalled that we were being treated for fools.

And, in any normally functioning democracy, the ferries scandal, the latest in a long line of Scottish Government policy failures, doomed takeovers and financial mismanagements, would have had a political consequence for the party responsible.

But we don’t live in a normal democracy. We live in a Scotland where the political hegemony of Labour has been replaced by the SNP, a party that has taken full ownership of all-things “Scottish”, and with an opposition that simply can’t beat them on that.

But 15 years on and with independence no nearer, with our public services in decline, our finances being treated in such a cavalier fashion, and with the SNP revealing how their promised “new politics” looks very like the old, it is perhaps no coincidence that the day our trains came under state control was on Friday, April 1.