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Sketch: Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross on (poverty) tour

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross on (poverty) tour

Who is more working class – a wee lassie from Ayrshire who worked briefly as a solicitor before beginning a more than 20-year career in the Scottish Parliament, eventually going on to becoming one of the most powerful women in the country on a £100k+ salary, or a young dairy farmer from Moray who collects at least two sizeable salaries (albeit donates one) and who could, not inconceivably, one day become one of the most powerful men in the country?

You’d have thought more pressing matters would be preoccupying the minds of our leading politicians, yet Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross have spent recent weeks talking up their working class credentials.

Ross started the class war in his conference speech, claiming that Sturgeon “has become detached from working class communities”. She was “out of touch”, he said, “talking down to everyone who doesn’t speak at her supposedly higher level of intelligence”.

Favourably comparing this to himself and his supporters, he added: “We were not raised wealthy, but we were raised well by good, honest, hardworking parents who put in a real shift as lunch ladies, as my mum was, or as labourers – in some cases farm labourers, like my dad was.” In comparison, Sturgeon was raised by a dental nurse and an electrician. My dad’s more working class than your dad. Nah nah na-nah nah.

Not to be outdone, the next day the First Minister suggested being re-elected “with a historically high share of the vote, including in working class communities” was proof enough she was not out of touch. And of course, the electorate would never back politicians that are out of touch, would they?

They will climb into a top-of-the-range Land Rover. Inside is a sign that reads: 'Do not feed the children'

Then she made Ross an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Maybe Douglas Ross would like to come with me and I’ll introduce him to some working class communities across the country and then he will see who’s in touch with them and who is horribly out of touch with them,” she said.

Ross retorted: “Name the time and place. I’ll go with Nicola Sturgeon to one of the working class communities devastated by the drug death crisis that has spiralled out of control on her watch. We could start with her own constituency.”

So, it seems the unlikely duo are about to team up to go speak to some of those ‘real people’ they claim to represent. Like a weird poverty safari. They will climb into a top-of-the-range Land Rover. Inside is a sign that reads: “Do not feed the children.” The Land Rover prowls through schemes in Glasgow, Ross and Sturgeon armed with binoculars and taking notes in a logbook.

10:57: Man enters Jobcentre, prepared to beg for his benefits not to be cut that week because he’s 15 minutes late.

12:01: A mum leaves foodbank with canned goods and sanitary towels.

15:21: Young boy leaves school late so he doesn’t have to explain to his friends that his parents couldn’t afford a trip to the cinema.

17:38: A mum skips a meal, telling her kids she’s not hungry while dishing out the last of the pasta.

18:22: A dad leaves homes to go to his third job, knowing even then it won’t be enough to cover the electricity bill at the end of the month.

But perhaps this is what politicians need, seeing as so few of them seem to be aware of the problem. Alister Jack claimed he didn’t personally know anyone in receipt of Universal Credit. He does however represent some people who receive it. Some of his closest constituents are on the breadline…

But at least he’s not complaining about how “grim” it is to be on a salary of… £81,932. Speaking to the New Statesman in the same week his party were removing £20 a week from the pockets of the poorest, Sir Peter Bottomley MP said he wanted a pay rise of about £20k. (Though, to be fair to Bottomley, he did at least accept that removing the UC uplift immediately was not right – “it would’ve been better to have tapered it off in two goes”, he said. A real working class hero.)

Perhaps Bottomley was simply comparing MPs’ salaries to the new millionaire Scotland Office minister. Mark Offord, who Boris Johnson said had a “huge amount to offer” (apparently in the literal sense since Offord has donated hundreds of thousands to the Tory party of the years), won’t even take a salary as a minister because he has absolutely no need for spare change.

I suppose actually understanding the plight of the working man doesn’t really matter when you can just appear to understand it, though. That’s presumably why Johnson filmed himself tucking into a fish supper, slurping a pint and buttering some white bread. “Build back batter/bitter/butter,” he taunted.

Does it make sense? Of course not. Does it matter? No, we love a catchy slogan. Take back control. Get Brexit done. Levelling up.

As for the Sturgeon-Ross poverty tour, well, Sturgeon’s office “will be in touch”. So, who’s out of touch now?


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