John Harris

Journalist & Author

Your thoughts on the path that devolved Scotland is taking, please | John Harris

On cuts, the SNP has been pursuing a very different path from the coalition. Is Scotland really a social-democratic haven?

Anywhere But Westminster goes to Scotland this month. The elections of 5 May are the immediate reason but, as usual, we want to leave aside the mainstream political agenda and try to get a sense of people’s lives.

When it comes to cuts, the SNP government has been pursuing a markedly different path from the Westminster coalition, deferring spending reductions, as Alex Salmond sees it, “to build recovery now”.

Moreover, Scotland has avoided not just many of New Labour’s public sector wheezes, but also the unease spread by the coalition government’s increasingly wobbly NHS proposals, Michael Gove’s approach to schools, and a general approach to public services built on a love of the private sector.

Note too: of late, Scottish unemployment figures have bucked the national trend. Then again, Salmond’s now-infamous vision of northern Europe’s “arc of prosperity” (”Ireland to our west, Iceland to our north”) seems like something from another age.

Some questions for you, then. Does Scotland feel like a less anxious place than England? How confident are Scots about any protection from the London government’s worst excesses? Is there anything in the idea of Scotland as a social-democratic haven? Have four years of SNP government palpably changed anything? If we want to sample the Scottish economy at its most dynamic, where exactly should we go and who would you recommend we talk to? And what of the kind of social problems that neither Westminster nor Holyrood has got anywhere near addressing?

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