Weaker for Scotland!

In 2015 while an election agent in my hometown of Inverclyde, I watched while Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP swept the board with one clear simple mantra: Stronger for Scotland. Five years on from that election and thirteen years into SNP government that’s simply untrue. The SNP have been weak, ineffective and downright scandalous in it’s handling of affairs in Scotland.

I’ve sat by and watched while Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government receive praise from their supporters for it’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. The reality is it’s been an absolute disaster and this slopey shouldered, pass-the-buck attitude of ‘Well we did a bit better than the Tories’ is just simply not good enough.

Let’s be clear here, nothing the Scottish Government choose to implement fell out with the same remit as the UK Government. They failed to follow World Health Organisation advice to institute testing and track/trace as quickly as possible. We now find ourselves with one of the worst testing rates in the whole of Europe.

Elderly people were released from hospital to care homes without testing – a complete negation of the Scottish government’s duty of care to some of our most vulnerable. We can now see the tragic results of this ineptitude: one in six care home residents have contracted the virus in Scotland, with more people dying in care homes than in our hospitals. My thoughts are with all those families affected as a result of this. I’m particularly angry about this because as someone with elderly relatives. I’m deeply concerned for their safety.

Then we get to the Nike conference. This was a scandal pure and simple. This was an international conference in Edinburgh by sportswear giant Nike. The conference was held on 26th and 27th February – days before Scotland’s first case of the virus was confirmed – and led to “multiple local cases”.

The fact that heads have not rolled as a result of this is truly shocking. This was a cover-up, that has, as a result, endangered lives and continues to do so. 25 people who attended this conference alone contracted the virus in February, none of those who encountered delegates known to be infected were contact traced or even informed. Expert academic analysis now shows 2,000 extra lives could have been saved, as a result, if appropriate actions were taken.

This Scottish government has presided over one scandal too many: water contamination and child deaths at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, questioning the publication of allegations against Derek McKay MSP, education failures and the botched Ferguson Marine ferry contract.

To put it bluntly the SNP Scottish government have failed Scotland – weak on education, weak on health and weak on the economy prior to the pandemic.

Pisa results showed we are falling behind in education on Mathematics and Science, notably trailing behind even Northern Ireland – who had no Government for three years! The economy is also declining. Earlier this month it emerged that Scottish GDP had fallen by 3 per cent, meaning the country’s deficit is now £12.6bn, or 7.2 per cent of GDP.

Weaker for Scotland!

* I'm a Liberal Democrat member having joined last year from Labour, I was previously Chair and Founder of the YF Devolution and Local Government Committee

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11 Comments

  • Interesting you say that, David. The last opinion poll I saw a couple of weeks ago in the Scotsman reported :

    “More than half (55 per cent) of the 1,006 adults polled said they thought the Prime Minister had handled the outbreak “fairly badly” or “very badly”. Just 30 per cent of respondents said Mr Johnson was doing “fairly well” or “very well”.

    In contrast, 82 per cent of those polled said Nicola Sturgeon had handled the crisis “fairly well” or “very well”.

    Are you saying that the vast majority of Scots don’t have good judgement on these matters ?

  • Good article David, direct, detailed and concise. Whether you can lay the 3% reduction in GDP at the door of the Scottish Government, during the COVID-19 crisis, is a matter of debate.

    We were discussing many of these same points on our local party Zoom meeting recently. Of course the ‘elephant in the room’ is independence. While that prospect is dangled in front of the Scottish electorate, and promoted as the cure for all ills, the SNP will continue to dominate the polls in the FPTP sense at least.

    We discussed many common conceptions and misconceptions against which we struggle – how the saltire has been appropriated for the nationalist cause; how any vote for a UK-wide party is deemed somehow treasonous; how any UK-wide party is seen not to have the interests of the Scottish electorate at heart; how the SNP chooses to portray itself as the only truly Scottish party; how the cybernats, bullying and sleaze in the SNP get quietly overlooked by the party faithful.

    I feel that as Liberal Democrats, our current policy is handing this golden pass to the SNP. While I feel that independence would be economically disastrous for Scotland (and almost everything in life flows from the economy), we do ourselves an injustice for not recognising that the right to call a referendum on self determination should lie with the Scottish Parliament. By denying that, we betray our democratic and federalist principles, and in doing so make ourselves a target. Our manifesto supports democracy in Ukraine, and an independent Palestine, but when it comes to Scotland? No, no, no.

    We cannot have continual repetitions of independence referenda, but nor can we have this manufactured grievance hanging around indefinitely either. There would have to be strict conditions and controls, such as two-thirds support for a constitutional referendum, and dissolution of the parliament & administration while it’s conducted. For more than twenty years, the Scottish Parliament and Government has proven its credibility under a number of administrations. For the right to self-determination to be denied by a letter from Boris Johnson in Downing Street is unsupportable for any liberal democratic party.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Jun '20 - 10:05pm

    The reality in Scotland may be as stated here. From an English perspective, things in Scotland look a great deal better than here. This may be because Nicola Sturgeon is a very competent politician and communicator, whereas Boris Johnson and his team of third division reserves are…

  • @Adrian May: “… we do ourselves an injustice for not recognising that the right to call a referendum on self determination should lie with the Scottish Parliament. By denying that, we betray our democratic and federalist principles … For the right to self-determination to be denied by .. Boris Johnson in Downing Street [or by veto of the U.K. Parliament] is unsupportable for any liberal democratic party.”

    Agreed – well said. That much should be common ground with the SNP and Scottish Greens – regardless of the quite separate issue of whether or not independence or any other constitutional settlement would, on balance, actually be in Scotland’s (or the UK’s) best interests.

  • The big question is how Scotland would have coped financially if it were independent and had its own currency, would it have been able to get away with printing a third of its GDP in emergency funds (as the UK seems to have done) and adding to its already heavy debt (assuming that the price of leaving the UK is taking on its fair share of debt burden), and maintaining its socialist policies… my guess the price would be a massive devaluation of the Scottish pound, heavy inflation that would destroy the poor or cause another round of money printing/devaluation. Interesting that the SNP have been very quiet on independence whilst scooping up all the “free” money on offer.

  • Good article. It never fails to amaze me how people can energetically condemn decisions made by Johnson, yet ignore, or find excuses for the same approach when it’s from a leader who is a better communicator.

    You’ve addressed a number of my concerns, but a big red flag for me was the decision to substantially increase the time required to respond to Freedom of Information enquiries during the crisis. This had the practical effect of making any enquiries on pertinent issues pointless unless the journalist in question was lucky enough to be one of the selected few to ask a question at the press conference – and even then, the questions were often dodged, or answered incompletely.

    The Scottish Government have made a lot of noise about wanting to be open and transparent, to the point of claiming to want to have a grown-up conversation, but if you happen to ask the wrong question, or want real accountability, then you have to wait a few months to be told that they didn’t think it important to keep notes, never mind proper minutes from key meetings.

  • Stephen Harte 19th Jun '20 - 1:00am

    Nicola Sturgeon gets praise essentially because she is better behind a podium than Boris Johnston. Her centralising government is incompetent. She builds up reserves while mandating local authority cuts and blaming Westminster.

  • Andrew Melmoth 19th Jun '20 - 1:41am

    It’s extremely weird for the Lib Dems to be arguing that Brexit and a Boris Johnson government is better for Scotland than independence.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jun '20 - 7:51am

    “…..Scottish GDP had fallen by 3 per cent, meaning the country’s deficit is now £12.6bn, or 7.2 per cent of GDP.”

    Just a few points:

    1) There’s no direct relationship between a country’s government deficit ( I presume that is what you mean?) and GDP. Incidentally a fall in GDP was inevitable. The Scottish Govt can’t be blamed for that. A more severe lockdown would have meant an even bigger fall in GDP.

    2) Even before the Covid-19 problem, the Government deficit was around 7%. See link below. I’d expect it to be in double figures by now.

    3) So the SNP is unhappy with the way the UK govt is being tight with the purse strings? Nicola thinks the best remedy is to leave Boris and chums and jump into the tender embrace of Mrs Merkel and her merry German band of austerity loving Ordoliberals? I can’t see that working out too well!

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/21/scotland-2018-deficit-higher-than-uk-as-a-whole-last-year

  • Peter Martin It’s not a case of the way the UK govt is being tight with the purse strings, although that was certainly the case during the Con-Lib Dem Coalition……
    and before that when Thatcher used Scotland as an experimental lab for the Poll Tax.

    It’s a case of taking full responsibility and administering issues competently – something which Boris and chums clearly are incapable of – even when they get as far north as Barnard Castle.

    Given that Scotland has always had a sophisticated democratic radical electorate, and voted decisively by 62% to remain in the EU, I’m sure they’ll give all the attention it deserves to Peter Martin’s advice.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jun '20 - 11:59am

    @ David Raw,

    Just spotted a possible typo there. Don’t you really mean “….in spite of voting 62% remain…” 🙂

    But, slightly more seriously, I think David Mackenzie does understand, better than yourself, that you can’t blame everything on Boris and Co given that Scotland has as much devolved power as it has. The Scots might have a problem with those of us who live South of the border, and I agree there was no justification for Thatcher using Scotland as an experimental lab, but you’ll find the Germans much worse than us on the question of allowable deficits.

    The British attitude is that rules are meant to be a guide. That will be replaced with “Rules must be obeyed” and “Computer says no!”

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