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Ministers accused over flurry of late announcements just before Holyrood closes for summer

© PAcoronavirus
MSPs social distancing with every second seat removed at Holyrood

The Scottish Government was yesterday accused of a cynical attempt to avoid scrutiny after making a series of important announcements in the days and hours before Holyrood closed for summer.

In the four days to Thursday, ­ministers revealed a long-delayed report calling for major reform of Scottish education; further delays to the completion of long-overdue ferries; and serious failures in the cervical cancer screening service.

Opposition politicians said the announcements could have been made earlier and said some should have come before the election in May.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP has again tried to bury a catalogue of failures in the final days of term.

“In the last week we’ve had a string of bad news, from damning reports to rushed legislation to delayed projects, many of which the SNP has held back from the public since before the election.”

On Monday, an independent review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called for Scotland’s education system to be reformed.

The Scottish Government has been accused withholding the report until after last month’s election because of its critical conclusions.

Michael Marra: Education reform, ferry delay, and cancer failure emerge in days before school break. It is now time for action

On Thursday, the final sitting day of Holyrood before summer recess, MSPs were told by public health minister Maree Todd that one woman has died from cervical cancer and a number have the disease after being wrongly excluded from Scotland’s screening programme. The Scottish Government was notified about the error in March but only made this information public on Thursday.

MSPs were also told on Thursday two ferries being built by nationalised shipyard Ferguson Marine have been delayed a further 15 weeks due to Covid and a shortage of local skilled labour.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr: “This is all too typical and a slap in the face to the public who deserve an SNP government who are willing to be transparent about their decision-making.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “This is an SNP government tactic every year. It is cynical and an insult to the women who were failed by the cancer screening programme and the islanders who’ve been waiting years and years for their ferries.”

However, a spokesman for the First Minister accused opposition parties of “utterly desperate stuff”, adding: “The reality is that, as we have repeatedly made clear, timing for the publication of the OECD review was stipulated by the OECD themselves, while on the ferries issue the latest information was given to the parliamentary committee looking at the matter.

“When it comes to the incredibly serious issue of cervical screening, it was crucial to ensure the full facts were available before an announcement was made to avoid causing anxiety and fear for tens of thousands of women unnecessarily.”