It's taken a while but I'm finally beginning to feel a bit of disillusionment with Scottish Politics. Reading up on the state of play with 'police numbers' is a prime example of where the parties are going round in circles and not ending up any further forward.
Let's start with this tweet from the Scottish Liberal Democrats official feed:
scotlibdems: Strathclyde’s recruitment freeze undermines SNP police promise says Robert Brown MSP http://bit.ly/b7BFfM
Fair enough, there was a manifesto comitment by the SNP to increase police officers by 1,000 so if this isn't met then scrutiny is required. However, it was fair to assume back in 2007 that the Scottish Executive would enjoy an ever increasing budget so said scrutiny shouldn't go much beyond acknowledging that there is less money in today's pot and future pots.
Furthermore, the debate, not just surrounding police numbers but effectively all devolved issues, should focus on 'the marginal pound'. That is, if we spend money on more police, if that is the best use of a certain part of the budget, then what will we not pay for, what is less worthy of that money? We simply can't debate the best use of budgets without looking at both sides of the trial balance, you can't call for a debit without admitting where the credit will fall, simple as that.
Needless to say, the Lib Dem press release makes no mention of what the party would like to see cut from the existing budget to fund extra police. The one-way debate serves to attack the SNP without contributing ideas of a preferred approach to the status quo.
So then we look at the UK as a whole and note that police numbers are dropping in England and Wales through recruitment freezes, similar to what is happening in Scotland. Furthermore, police numbers were reported to be dropping back in January 2010 so Labour's catcalls that the extra police policy is being "torpedoed by SNP cuts" is surely a low blow and more than a little two-faced.
The SNP, to its credit, has already achieved its manifesto commitment of 1,000 police officers early in order to tick that box and will no doubt strive to keep the numbers as high as possible before May. However, it seems unlikely that it will adopt the reckless approach of funding extra police just to insulate itself from political attack before the next elections.
It is another example of Governments, both Scottish and UK, doing the best they can with the resources available but when Lib Dems denounce falling police numbers when they are effectively presiding over the same state of affairs at Westminster and Labour continues its mock-outrage at cuts that it helped create through the credit crunch, then one can only shake one's head in dismay.
On current evidence it is going to be a truly abysmal election campaign in advance of May 2011 and I just hope that most Scots ignore the headline-grabbing rhetoric and simply vote for the party that treats them least like an idiot.
Many will say 'that's Politics' in an effort to excuse the above approaches but I maintain that other countries do not dumb down this low in order to capture the public's attention and, indeed, imagination.
We have good people representing good parties filled with good intentions, it's just a shame we somehow lack the all-important good debate that should come with it.
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