Why Holyrood 2021 has me (SN)Paranoid

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It’s approaching that time again, another four years have past and another government will be voted in. Next year Scotland will be holding the Scottish Parliament election in May.

As an activist and a proud political geek, I should be excited and ready to campaign till I’m blue in the face. But unfortunately that isn’t the case. On December 2nd Ipsos Mori published the latest polls, predicting the estimated results of the election. From a first glance, it’s hard to feel worried about the potential landslide form the Scottish National Party. At current the polls show the SNP set to earn 55% (in constituencies) of the vote (-3 when compared to early in October) and a clear majority government. However, you should never trust fully in election polls, they can go from 100% to completely and utterly wrong, and anything in-between.

The SNP first came to power in 2007 and have been in government for 13 years. This hasn’t been the 13 years of a “stronger for Scotland” government they have promised. Just broken promises, public lies and scandals that make you really question if they have the welfare of Scottish people at heart.

Since 2007 the SNP have lead a full frontal siege against our vital services. Scotland’s young people are stuck waiting nearly a year for mental health support, our councils are being cut to the point of near collapse under the strain of keeping things running, our industrial pillars such as the Caley rail yard in Springburn and Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) are being ignored and left to go to ruin, our education system has went from one of the top ranking education systems in the world to average level, they’ve promised full support to fix the climate emergency then do a complete U-turn, and they fully support the oil industries who are scarring our countrysides and seas (fully backed by the Scottish Greens as well) – the list could go on but the article would be an essay if I was to mention every time the SNP have failed the people of Scotland.

Looking at this it all seems doom and gloom, especially when the Scottish Lib Dems are sitting at 6% (+2% since October) in the polls, but we need to  take the positives and learn lessons from the victories we’re achieving and the progress we are making. Our Willie Rennie and the rest of our fantastic MSP team have appeared more and more in the headlines of newspapers, news segments and on the TV, asking all the tough questions. Now Councillor Liz Barrett went from 3rd place to winning the seat of Perth City south, beating the SNP and the Conservatives as well. In last year’s General Election we managed to get now MP Wendy Chamberlain elected in North East Fife, cementing our grip on the area in both Holyrood and Westminster.

We have worked constructively with the Scottish government to make sure we can get out of this pandemic as quickly as possible, build back our economy and help those who are in desperate need of help.

As a party we have the ability to go into Holyrood 2021 and not only take on the SNP across Scotland, but help build the liberal country we want our for everyone. With hope and momentum driving us forward we can build a better and brighter Scotland in Holyrood 2021.


* Jake Stevenson is a Scottish Lib Dem member and activist from the Central Scotland branch.

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  • I’d be interested to know why you think the Scottish Lib Dems are on 6% and have less MSP’s than the Scottish Greens, Jake.

  • Thanks Jake.

    IMO, we’ve done a good job during COVID, being fair and objective, and I’ve noticed that many of the issues Willie Rennie raises in Holyrood have become policy a few weeks later, even if there was initial resistance. Unfortunately, he rarely gets the credit, but I’m confident that his reasoned challenges on testing and care homes have forced the Scottish Government to pull their socks up and adopt better decision-making in their COVID response. Unfortunately for us, Rennie’s suggestions are repackaged, not as U-turns, but as brilliant initiatives that were the SNP’s idea all along, and the usual suspects lap it up. Being reasonable in opposition makes it more likely our policy suggestions are adopted, but makes it harder to get the credit.

    Media coverage of our party makes the First Past the Post voting system seem equitable. I’m not sure that will change much while COVID dominates the news. There’s bound to be a bit of an up-tick in actual election coverage, but I hope we can find a way to capitalise better than we’ve done so far.

    The SNP administration have cleverly built themselves a diamond hard Teflon coat, brushing off a string of scandals and outright failures by calling critics ‘anti-Scottish’, or pointing the finger at scandals and failures elsewhere, or the brazen use of dead cats. I keep seeing things that should outrage objective citizens of any country, yet their supporters rally, because they’ve been convinced that it’s just another “SNPbaaad” or “Project Fear” or the corrupt MSM, and of course “talking Scotland down”. Every so often there’s a revelation that should be a major humiliation for a political party, but somehow it’s turned into proof that the establishment are scared etc.

    Johnson and the Tories are a gift to the nationalists, making it easy for them to deflect from their own incompetence. Both parties thrive on misinformation, with too many of their supporters being OK with it. Unfortunately there seems to be a section of the electorate who treat politics like football, and simply being less awful than that other team is winning. We need to remind people that we deserve better and that other options are available. Easier said than done.

  • Jake Stevenson 11th Dec '20 - 3:12pm

    Hi David,
    I hope you’re well. Thank you for reading my article. All my statistics come from the latest Polls from Ipsos Mori on the Holyrood 2021 election.
    I’ve included the link to the poll below:

  • Jake Stevenson 11th Dec '20 - 3:24pm

    Hi Fiona.

    Firstly, thank you for reading the article. I totally agree with what you’ve said, and wholeheartedly believe we have a great chance to take on the SNP next year. We have the activists, the policies and the determination to go into Holyrood 2021 and huge impact in the election.

  • @jake stevenson

    “Since 2007 the SNP have lead a full frontal siege against our vital services. ”

    That is not my experience. My direct experience of my local authority ( Aberdeenshire), my GP and NHS Grampian have all been good. I have no direct experience of the education system but parents in my village speak highly of the village school and of the local Academy. I noticed recent PISA report which ranked Scottish pupils amongst the highest in the world for critical thinking and ability to listen to other points of view.

    So I wonder if the Scottish Lib Dems are not entirely objective in their analysis of the SNP record and voters’ reaction to it. There seems to be an element of the actor’s complaint (wonderful performance, dreadful audience) that the Scottish Lid Dem’s just can’t get the voters they deserve.

  • Worse up here ? I’m more paranoid about relatives south of the Border.

    The Guardian reports the world beating oven ready Johnson UK Government faces “dozens of GP practices in England choosing not to join the NHS’s coronavirus vaccination programme amid concerns their workloads are already too heavy, they have too few staff and that patients could suffer if practices have to cut back other services so doctors can administer the injections”.

    Fortunately for me, NHS Scotland saved my life with a transplant back in 2011, replaced my hip within six weeks in 2018 and doesn’t charge for parking unless I go to a Blair PFI hospital such as Edinburgh Royal. My local GP successfully administered free flu jabs to the whole town in September and my local chemist delivered – yes, delivered -three months extra supply of immunosuppressants (post transplant drugs made in the EU) yesterday when she heard the Johnson/Brexit situation news on the radio yesterday.

    From my perspective Jake’s self diagnosis sounds about right.

  • Paul Barker 11th Dec '20 - 3:54pm

    @David Raw, the reason The Greens have more MSPs than us is that they act as the “Nice” wing of the SNP. Nationalists who feel uncomfortable with The SNP can safely vote Green in the Regional Lists, knowing that The Greens will always back them. If you compare the SNP + Green vote across the various parts of the system, its fairly steady.
    Our vote in Scotland is probably as steady as it is UK-wide but Scots Polls are few & far between so trends are not as clear.

  • Further to my earlier comment, I went and checked a few sources just to make sure I wasn’t living in some satisfaction bubble of my own.

    Here are a few results:

    Universities, Scotland’s universities latest the highest by students in the UK:

    GP and care service seem to be rated highly:


    As do, inpatient services:


    Even the much criticised PoliceScotland seems to be doing OK and improving:


    Of course, there will be other indicators to paint a different picture but I do wonder whether the rather cataclysmic view of ann allot assault on Scotland’s services and a public befuddled by SNP trickery is actually the lived experience of a lot of people in Scotland?

  • Scottish Greens are not like the English and Welsh Greens. Their environmental credentials have been compromised, as they’ve chosen to maximise electoral success by targeting the 2nd votes from SNP supporters at Holyrood elections. The very fact that they supported the 2014 independence manifesto which explicitly relied on maximising North Sea oil revenues in order to maintain funding for the NHS tells you all you need to know.

    They’ve always been a home for protest voters, and their leadership does enjoy an angry ‘student’ style rant. There are a lot of disgruntled Alex Salmond supporters who now say they’ll vote Green in protest against the SNP stitch-up, plus those who have realised that the SNP’s growth commission report is a proposal for super-austerity, but have not yet realised there’s no path to independence that doesn’t pose a massive threat to public services.

    On the other hand, there are SNP supporters who are threatening to withhold their 2nd vote on the grounds of them not being supportive enough in Parliament. Then there’s those who don’t know anything about their politics, but want to support the planet. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up.

    It’s important we stick to our principles and avoid the stunts, but we will have to work hard to get our message out.

  • @Fiona

    “The very fact that they supported the 2014 independence manifesto which explicitly relied on maximising North Sea oil revenues in order to maintain funding for the NHS tells you all you need to know.”

    I don’t think it does. The SGP supports Scotland’s right to self-determination and independence if that is what the Scottish electorate vote for. They have their own prospectus for an independent, green Scotland and supporting independence in 2014 did not mean signing up for the SNP’s prospectus. I wonder if the Lib Dems would be better placed than fifth in Scotland if they were a little less dismissive of every other point of view in Scotland? Just a thought.

  • I’m sorry to have to disagree with Fiona, but as a fair minded observer of Holyrood (and who first supported the Liberals in 1962 when the outstanding Jo Grimond led it) I have a great respect for Alison Johnstone, Patrick Harvie, Andy Wightman, John Finnie, Mark Ruskell and Ross Greer as individual parliamentarians.

    Andy Wightman’s book on the Highland Clearances ‘The Poor have no Lawyers’ is a classic, Alison Johnstone knows her stuff on Social Care and the Alston Report, and young Ross Greer bested Piers Morgan. The Greens are effective. The Scottish Lib Dems should take a good hard look at themselves after the Trump Golf Course issue in Aberdeenshire.

    On a personal level I like Willie Rennie. He did well on minimum pricing despite the whisky lobby – (which bankrolled the party), and on fracking, but the party far from distinguished itself on its selection policy last time in North East Scotland.

    Hireton is right. If the Lib Dem party is to recover it needs to offer much much more than just negative knee jerk stuff about the SNP.

  • Jake, this is an excellent article, and it’s fantastic to see such good fighting spirit from young members in the Central Scotland region. I was involved in building that region up ahead of the 1999 elections from a very moribund ‘black hole’ to the point where we got a brilliant MSP elected there when many people said we had no chance. And in fact we held that seat for three terms until the whole party collapsed after the coalition. So, don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. It was done before from a very low base, and it can be done again. In my opinion your analysis of the SNP gov’t is absolutely correct, so keep up the good fight!

  • Peter Martin 12th Dec '20 - 6:44am

    Since 2007 the SNP have lead a full frontal siege against our vital services….. young people are stuck waiting nearly a year for mental health support…….councils are being cut to the point of near collapse

    The same things are being said in England too. The SNP does have more of an excuse because Holyrood isn’t the currency issuer in Scotland. The Holyrood budget is genuinely constrained by what it can raise in taxes, what it can borrow and the support it receives from the Westminster Government. To this extent it is no different from any other local council in the UK. And no-one expects local councils to solve the fundamental problems that lead to the poor outcomes mentioned.

    Only the National Government in Westminster has the financial muscle to ‘do what it takes’ this as we have just witnessed for ourselves during the Covid crisis.

    This could only change for Scotland if it had full independence and full control over its own separate currency. Using the pound means subservience to Westminster. Using the euro, or even aligning its currency to it, would mean subservience to the EU.

  • “Since 2007 the SNP have lead a full frontal siege against our vital services….. young people are stuck waiting nearly a year for mental health support…….councils are being cut to the point of near collapse”…… so says, Jake Stephenson.

    Frankly, that’s just a load of …. which Mr Stephenson ought to compare with the outcomes of the 2010-15 Coalition on Health, benefits, education, pensions etc. all of which the Clegg/Alexander version of Liberalism played a big part in. I lived through that as a Liberal Democrat Convenor of Social Care in Scotland but I don’t know what Mr Stephenson’s experience was. And did Clegg/Alexander etc., stay to mend the damage or did they scarper off ?

    Until Scottish Lib Dems start to produce creative policy ideas on a radical Liberal basis, to stop hitting out at others and feeling sorry for themselves, then 6% is about as good as it will get.

  • David Raw,
    Always enjoy your comments and often agree, Trump golf course wasn’t a good moment for the Scottish Lib Dem’s, but neither was it for the SNP government at the time (much as they deny it now).
    We lost a number of good people on this single issue.

  • @Peter – the SNP are good at shifting blame for local government cuts onto Westminster, just as the Tories liked to shift blame onto Brussels, but it was the SNP who cut council budgets at three times the rate of cuts to the block grant. They have been hoarding the money centrally to spend on their own vanity projects that require a ‘thanks to the Scottish Government’ plaque, and the ever inflating pay-roll of SNP officials and sympathetic advisors. And legal fees for advice that Sturgeon is refusing to share with an enquiry, despite being required to do so by the Scottish Parliament. They were the ones who forced a council tax freeze onto local authorities, maximising the squeeze on budgets that they still blamed on Westminster.

    So much nonsense goes on in the Scottish Government that would result in massive media and opposition outrage if it happened at Westminster. We despair at Tory supporters and the right-wing press who make excuses, letting them move onto the next disaster they’ll ignore. That, quite rightly, winds most of us up. Yet when Scots get angry at the Scottish Government and the SNP for equivalent issues up here, that get next to no coverage in the wider press, we’re supposed to just suck it up?

    We’ve reached the point where official material for schools included long-proven nationalist myth that Churchill sent English troops to silence Scottish citizens, with tanks. Can you imagine the outcry from regulars of LDV if the Tories had done the equivalent?

  • C’mon Fiona, you forgot to mention that when the eminent Prof Tom Devine picked up on the myth about Churchill and tanks in George Square being repeated it was immediately removed….. and even Conspiracy theories cut both ways.

    What is true is that several of the Clydeside leaders were incarcerated during the War in Calton jail under the Defence of the Realm Act under Lloyd George. In 1919 the Cabinet minutes show that Sir Robert Horne, Minister of Labour and MP for Glasgow Hillhead stated, ‘if there was any possibility of seizing the Leaders they should do so.’

  • Jane Ann Liston 12th Dec '20 - 11:40pm

    Thirteen years ago, the SNP promised to replace the unfair council tax with a local income tax – they didn’t. They promised to reduce primary classes to no more than 18 – they haven’t. They promised to get rid of student debt – it’s still there. They promised to cut the journey time by an hour on the railway journey on the far north line – I think it has actually lengthened. They’ve had nearly 14 uninterrupted years to implement these policies and have failed to do so. When the Scottish Parliament building price-tag started running away and took longer than anticipated to build, the country was angry and blamed the then government, yet when 2 lifeline ferries have incurred a similar increase in costs, and a delay of several years, apparently nobody bothers. How do they get away with it?

  • Local Income Tax, Jane Anne ? I recall the Lib Dems had plans to introduce Local Income Tax, too. They could have pressed for it during the Coalition years when they were in government.

    Instead, as a Lib Dem Councillor in Scotland, I recall reading an article in the Guardian on 6, August, 2008.

    “Liberal Democrats are planning to soften their support for a local income tax to replace the council tax, a key policy for at least three elections. Instead they are expected to propose reforms to adapt the council tax. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, is backing the shift in stance. He believes the party should not look to introduce, or press any coalition partners to introduce, a local income tax for at least one parliament.

    The shift would make the proposal a medium-term goal and serve to lift media focus on the uncertain implications for individual taxpayers during an election campaign. The local income tax plan, defended on the basis that it is fairer than council tax, has often left the party exposed at election times. Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, came unstuck at a morning press conference at the last election when he was unable to identify the winners and losers from the reform, stumbling over his words as he sought to explain the policy.

    Cable has also become aware that the Scottish Nationalists are under huge pressure over their own plans to introduce local income tax, set nationally at 3p. Cable is considering whether the Liberal Democrats should say they will defer a decision on their own policy until they have seen the implications of the SNP policy, and its feasibility.”

  • Jane Ann Liston 13th Dec '20 - 11:42am

    Very possibly, David, but LibDems in 2010 were not in the same position as the SNP even in 2007, as you ken fine. And by 2011 the Nats had an overall majority, so absolutely no excuse. The point really is, of course, that the SNP promised to replace ‘the unfair council-tax’ and have failed to do so in nearly 14 years, thus proving they are happy to keep what they admit to be an unfair tax.

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