Margo MacDonald, Independent candidate for the Lothians (and Independent MSP for the last 8 years) gives us a guest post today, setting out her views on some of the key policies being debated in this election campaign and her priorities should she be re-elected in May.

At a Hustings meeting in Edinburgh, candidates were asked what they considered to be the most important feature of the Election. My answer was probably not what most members of the audience expected, but after a couple of explanatory sentences, quite a few heads were nodding in agreement.

I said what I most wanted to see was the back of this futile, phoney parade of misleading spin disguised as party manifestos. I accused the “big four” of issuing near fraudulent prospectuses of their programmes for government. None of the supposed leaders of public opinion had the courage to level with voters and admit the Scottish Parliament’s impotence in effecting fundamental change. Therefore, when the piper has to be paid, or paid-off, after the election, by whoever wins, the electors will lose any lingering respect and trust in the forked-tongued politicians who sold them a pup.

In the week or so since that hustings, I’ve detected a growing cynicism on the part of voters that the promises of Council Tax being frozen for up to five years, while the money sent from Westminster for Holyrood to dole out to local councils, the NHS etc will be cut by  £1.3 billion from the current year’s block grant, leading to a total cut of  £4.8 billion in 2015. In response so far, the ”big four” have continued to promise programmes and projects without even trying to re-prioritise the need for  big ticket projects like the proposed Forth Bridge.

Labour and Tory spokespersons continue to insist that one all-Scotland police service will be cheaper than the present 8 forces. Even if the most important criterion of all, whether such a plan would continue the “policing by consent”  ethos on which our civil order rests, it’s more than doubtful that the promised savings in cost can be realised. Is it too much to hope that both parties, plus the SNP, will say in advance of May 5th whether their second preference would be for a reduction to two, or three, forces? To their credit, the Lib Dems will have nothing to do with the idea of a single force, even if it did appear to be the cheapest option. They value our civil liberties more.

The values we attach to our public services should play a large part in the parliamentary and public debates that will follow the election. The debate on how much we value the purity of no tuition fees from P1 to First Class Honours has so far been confined to the amount an individual student might pay for tuition, and when. We haven’t even begun to look at the delivery mechanism for degrees. Are there changes that could be made to the number of institutions offering by and large the same degrees?

As an Independent, if Lothian voters re-elect me, I’ll support policies and initiatives most likely to keep people in work, to keep them healthy and to provide the means or the guidance for them to access the highest standards possible in life-long learning.

I’ve got a few ideas of my own I’ll pitch in too. Since the very concept of retirement is changing due to the flexible end point to a working life, I’d like to see Parliament host a Pensioners’ Day  along the lines of Business in Parliament. Also, I’ll be looking for support across the parties for an investigation into scandalously high PPP profits. I’ll still be banging the drum for every primary school pupil to have a time for some physical activity every day…the two hours PE a week would be great if it were feasible, but for several reasons is the wrong way to go about producing a fitter, more active nation. And I’ll have another shot at an Assisted Dying Bill.