I LISTENED to the Scottish Minister of Transport, Jenny Gilruth, being interviewed on a UK radio station recently.

She was talking about industrial disputes in the rail industry and from a SNP perspective was doing quite a good job.

Westminster bad, Holyrood good, statistics, statistics, blah, blah. The general gist was that the Scottish Government had sorted out its industrial rail dispute so why couldn’t the UK Government sort out its rail dispute which was impacting Scotland as well as the rest of the UK.

Then, quite suddenly, she blew it. In a few short sentences she showed why she was not competent to do her job and that she had no clue of who she was actually working for.

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Jenny Gilruth’s work background is in education which perhaps explains the good memory, easy use of statistics and ability to speak coherent English. What it isn’t an excuse for is ineptitude in the job as Transport Minister.

What she said was that settling the rail dispute first and then dealing with the efficiencies required in that industry later was a sensible way to proceed. In other words cave in now, pay up and get nothing later. That was worrying but what was unforgivable was that she specifically said any proposals to improve the efficiency of the rail industry must not involve any job losses.

Of course, it is reasonable for the Scottish Transport Minister to want to make sure the rail industry properly complies with employment law but it is absolutely not her job to represent the workforce, the RMT union already does that to excessively successful effect.

The job of the Transport Minister is to look after the interests of the electorate and the taxpayer. The Scottish rail industry is massively subsidised. Only one route (Glasgow to Edinburgh via Falkirk High) makes an operating surplus – and that is before counting the cost of maintaining the track.

Jenny Gilruth’s job is to ensure that the Scottish rail industry becomes more efficient. If the railways can be run by fewer people then she should drive hard for that outcome rather than shirk the task. Our ability to afford the public services we want is already under severe strain. A relentless focus on efficiency is a must not an option.

Jenny Gilruth is not the only Scottish Minister with the same problem of not knowing who she is working for.

Nicola Sturgeon does the same. The Scottish ferry system is another RMT union fiefdom – a byword for overmanning and inefficiency. The real ferry scandal is not the muck up over the two ferries half built at Fergusons' shipyard but the insane specification of those ferries.

Why do we need a large dual-fuel ship which could probably cross the Atlantic safely and which has decks of crew accommodation to ply the, roughly, one-hour route to Arran? The simple answer is we don’t but the Scottish Government doesn’t have the guts or even the inclination to tackle the real problems.

People who live in the islands should have a direct say in, and better still ownership of, our ferries. They want smaller faster ferries which run more frequently and are manned by local people – it ain’t rocket science.

The Scottish Government grudgingly agrees to review Scotland’s ferry services but before the review takes place Sturgeon herself assures everybody that the two things which won’t happen are an unbundling of the routes so that they can be assessed and dealt with individually or any involvement of the private sector. The two things which actually do need to happen ruled out before work even starts. What a waste of time.

The Scottish Government is stuffed full of people who know how to spend money but not how to make it. They want fairer, greener growth but are so busy trying to be fair and green that they fail to notice our growth is well behind that of the UK as a whole and has been for years.

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Inefficiencies in public services, union fiefdoms, public sector pensions. These are all things the Scottish Government has the power to tackle but it wimps out every time.

Public sector pensions in particular are overgenerous and grossly unfair to those who work in the private sector and to the taxpayer who is on the hook to pay for them. Workers in public services should get pay rises but the Scottish Government needs to make the hard decisions to make that affordable.

Time for Nicola, Jenny and Co to make some New Year Resolutions – act in the best interests of those you actually work for in 2023.