IN SCOTLAND and in France in the 17th Century, government was in the hands of both a monarch and the estates of the realm. The first, second and third estates together ruled the kingdom. The first estate, pure, religious, respected, was in fact more than slightly corrupt and aloof. Beyond criticism, doing the Lord's work with royal patronage as they did.
I can't help thinking we are heading back there. As religion has declined in Scotland a new religion has emerged. Clientelism.
The third sector is our first estate. Our venerable "charities" are all too often state funded. Majority state funded. Some are shambolically, even criminally organised. A UK-wide LGBT charity recently went bust, blowing tens of thousands of pounds that seemed to fund a job creation plan... for the chief executive and her wife. The now bankrupt Broken Rainbows "charity" is looking like another Kids Company, perhaps even worse. The news broke today that over £1.4m was raised through government funding.
Who is overseeing these organisations? Who decides who gets our money? Who vets the directors to ensure political neutrality?
These crises seem to keep on happening and there seems little governments are prepared to do to stop wasting our money on them
Christopher Snowdon of the Institute for Economic Affairs published Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why a few years back but if anything the problem in Scotland is worse. We not only see active lobbying of government by these fake charities but they seem to be very dominated in their senior rank and file by active Scottish nationalists.
Take the Scottish Women's Aid umbrella group. Headed by a SNP activist, who previously stood in Edinburgh South, it is leading the campaign to refuse cooperation with Whitehall over the so called rape cause. Majority funded by Holyrood, headed by an approved candidate, attacking the Tory government.
Oh, by the way, who is the SNP fielding for Edinburgh South this time round? You'll be the first to know once I do.
The dangers of revolving door clientelism are well known in the financial world; the links between the Federal Reserve and Wall Street are legendary. Are we seeing this closer to home? SNP government funding of "charities" that act as incubators for budding social activists who then miraculously see the light and stand for election? Third sector organisations are behaving not so differently from Pilgrim trade unionists that the last government made considerable, though not complete, progress in eliminating.
The client state knows its loyal contacts will scream like a rabid banshee at the thought of having their purse strings cut. It's important for democracy that money spent on our behalf can be accounted for. If not this is the definition of corruption.
The Tories could do the right thing and come out with it: Charities funded by the state should be regulated the same way as the civil service. No permanent departmental secretary could act on impulse to oppose government programmes so why should government-funded charities do the same?
Charities, ALEOs, QUANGOs, initiatives, commissions, in the end the question is the same. Who on Earth is paying these people and if it's the Scottish public why can we not hold them to account?
We now have a very polarised body politic and the time perhaps has come to follow Northern Ireland in making sure, quite formally, that such organisations are doing their job independent of political patronage and preferably just pull the money entirely and have local authorities provide their services formally and accountably.
I suspect the pile of rotten wood out there is enough to fuel a bonfire for a whole term of parliament. Let's build that bonfire and rid ourselves of this rotten fake clergy.