Wiser Monkeys - Scottish National Party

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Scottish National Party

SNP Independence1 has become the cocaine of the politically active, fun to join in but dulling the senses, jabbering on
Alex Bell, former Head of Policy for SNP

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The Scottish National Party (SNP) has formed the Scottish government at Holyrood since 2007. But what kind of Scotland has the SNP moulded during its long tenure?

Totalitarian:

Anti-British:

Single police force:

State guardian for every child:

These four aspects typify the SNP's ideologically-driven rule over Scotland, achieved through tight party discipline, the single-minded pursuit of independence at any cost, and a worrying lack of grace towards opponents. Erstwhile savvy Scots have been seduced by leader Nicola Sturgeon's populism and by simplistic mantras such as "standing up for Scotland", "progressive policies", "social justice", etc. But beyond the rhetoric, the SNP's independence referendum and general election campaigns exposed their financial irresponsibility, dangerous naivety about defence and security, and hypocrisy over democracy. As the SNP has not yet had to make any really hard fiscal decisions, it has been easy for them to scapegoat Westminster, Brexit, or the hated Tories whenever the going has got tough. Their poor record of government and increasing autocracy, admitted now by some SNP stalwarts, are discussed in an article below. The many ways in which the SNP misdirect and mislead the people of Scotland have been summarized well by others. The SNP and its supporters would even like to grab control over BBC Scotland so that its supposed anti-nationalist bias can be "resolved". Regarding national news, the BBC and STV have already caved in to some of the SNP's demands.

Since the independence referendum, the SNP has turned largely into a personality cult worshipping Nicola Sturgeon. Though a dogged activist, Sturgeon exhibits few novel or courageous political beliefs, has little work or personal experience outside SNP politics (she was briefly a lawyer, and even married the SNP's Chief Executive, Peter Murrell), and was prone to excessive centralizing and controlling tendencies during her ministerial careers. As Scotland's First Minister, Sturgeon earns a similar salary to the UK's Prime Minister, yet Scotland only has a twelfth of the UK's population and her role has a less onerous remit.

We contend that the greatest weakness of the SNP government and its often strident supporters is their severe inability to admit to themselves or to the world at large that they might be wrong sometimes and that engaging in reasoned debate with opposing views is essential for democracy.

Its independence obsession and poor record of governance caused the SNP to suffer massively in the 2017 General Election, losing 21 of its 56 seats and various high profile MPs such as Alex Salmond, Angus Robertson and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. Also, its vote share was slashed from 50.0% to 36.9%. In terms of seat and vote share, this was the worst general election win since 1983. More of the Scottish electorate voted to leave the EU than voted for the SNP in the general election, and more voted against the SNP than voted to remain in the EU.

Revised 7 September 2017

Pseudo independence

Independence … that is the restoration of … national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to … Parliament"
Constitution of the Scottish National Party

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It is bizarre that a party whose own constitution aims to repatriate powers from elsewhere to a national parliament enthusiastically supports membership of the EU, which requires sovereign powers to be surrendered to Brussels. Contrary to the SNP's bluster, it has been clear for some time that the EU is not minded to give Scotland the assurance of swift EU membership. Scotland would have to wait in the queue with other prospective new members, and likely face stiff opposition to membership from states such as Spain and Italy which fear their own secessionist regions. By the time Scotland could gain separation from the UK and negotiate membership of the EU as a new state, the EU will be even nearer its goal of being the 'United States of Europe' with the full powers of statehood, "founded on four building blocks: a fiscal union, a financial union, an economic union and a political union" (per Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank). Scotland would be subsumed into the superstate as little more than a geographical and cultural region; the real levers of control would be pulled in Brussels. Moreover, Scotland would almost certainly be obliged to adopt the euro as its currency and join the border control free Schengen area. It would not inherit any of the UK's current regulatory opt-outs or be entitled to a budget rebate. Without its share of the UK's rebate, an independent Scotland would have to pay the EU a membership fee of around £863 million per year. This is the nature of the so-called 'independence' which the SNP advocates for Scotland.

Scotland as an EU member state would have only around 2% and 1.6% of the voting weights in the Council of the European Union and European Parliament respectively. These figures should be compared with the 9.1% of influence which Scotland now wields at Westminster. 63% of Scotland's exports go to the rest of the UK, while less than 18% go to the EU with its shrinking economy. On its current performance, Scotland would have the worst deficit of any state in the EU or indeed, the developed world, even with oil. The SNP has said that "only once Scotland has its own seat at the top table" can it have hope of reforming or influencing the EU's future direction. The stark reality is that Scotland would have insufficient political or financial clout to be anything other than a very minor player in the EU arena. It is fanciful to believe that, say, a fairer share of fishing rights could ever be reclaimed by an independent Scotland within the EU. The SNP has scaremongered that many Scottish jobs are dependent membership of the EU. This assertion has been roundly disproved by three facts: 1) the jobs depend not on EU membership, but on trade which would continue regardless; 2) the EU sells to the UK far more than they buy from us; and 3) the EU has around 1½ times as many jobs "at risk" as the UK so the EU has every incentive to continue its highly profitable trade with us.

Neither the EU's failure to control illegal (especially Muslim) migration nor the corresponding public disquiet has deterred the SNP from wanting to open Scotland's doors to all types of immigration. This is despite new migrants to Scotland already being set to outstrip the number of Scottish births by nine to one over the next decade, with the population expected to grow to a record 5½ million people.

After losing the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon almost immediately started chivvying for another, in spite of her (and Salmond's) insistence that the referendum was a "once in a generation" or even "once in a lifetime" event. Now that the UK's exit from the EU is under way, Sturgeon has tediously turned up the 'indyref2' volume, drowning out the calls from 2 out of 3 Scots who do not wish another devisive referendum to be held in the near future, and spurning Prime Minister May's call for solidarity during Brexit negotiations. Sturgeon won a vote at Holyrood to demand a new Scottish independence referendum, but only with the help of Green regional MSPs, who are all appointed from party lists and represent a mere 3% to 6% of the electorate in their regions. Despite huge losses in the 2017 General Election caused mainly by their intransigence, the SNP is still conducting a 'neverendum' campaign until the UK government caves in and permits another plebiscite.

In the 2014 independence referendum 46.7% of the Scottish electorate voted to remain in the UK. This is a significantly higher figure than the 34.7% of the UK electorate who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 UK-wide EU referendum. (The regional remain vote in Scotland was 41.7% of the Scottish electorate.) Yet Sturgeon wishes to pervert democracy by using the second decision to overturn the first. Furthermore, Sturgeon was happy to campaign across the whole of the UK during the EU referendum, legitimizing the UK-wide mandate. Her party's stances on the EU and the euro have been remarkably inconsistent, yielding more to political opportunism and pragmatism than any sense of an enduring EU-loving principle. And of course, by 2013 the SNP had run into trouble when the euro became electorally toxic because of the escalating eurozone crisis. It is supremely hypocritical of Sturgeon and Salmond to bleat that "Scotland must not be dragged out of the EU against its will" when exactly the same style of emotive language was employed previously by the SNP to try to prevent the UK from joining the EU's predecessor.

The SNP's policy of 'independence in Europe' is oxymoronic and it deceives the Scottish public. Scotland would be diminished both politically and economically if it turned its back on the UK, one of the world's longest and most productive unions, and relinquished sovereignty to the EU. Being pro-Scotland is one thing; being positively anti-British is another. A commentator summarized the situation thus: "Are the Scots really so resentful of what remains of Westminster rule that any overlords - even European ones - would be better than English overlords?

Revised 9 June 2017

Government off the rails

The other parties say they want to fight the election on our record. Well, I say, "good" - because so do I. Our record in government is one of delivery and achievement … it is a record I am proud of.
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, 2015

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The SNP has relentlessly pursued the narrow goal of independence, to the detriment of the overall governance of Scotland. There are many wider issues which have been neglected or shoddily managed on the SNP's watch. We touch on these areas of the SNP government's record:

Education:

Named Person:

Before being stalled by a Supreme Court ruling, the SNP ignored widespread criticism and ploughed ahead with their Stalinist imposition of a state guardian on every Scottish child to look after their "wellbeing and outcomes" from age 0 to 18. (But incongruously, the SNP government reduced the voting age in Scottish elections to 16.) The Named Person guardian will have unprecedented powers to snoop on families and unilaterally decide what's best for a child. Nicola Sturgeon claimed that the Named Person scheme was "not compulsory - it's an entitlement", but the actual legislation and comments from the Scottish Government's own lawyer prove that the scheme will certainly be mandatory for all children and the professionals involved. This insidious measure is widely despised on both principled and practical grounds, and has been rocked by scandal after scandal. Excoriating criticisms of the legislation came from, for example, the Faculty of Advocates and the Isle of Man's disastrous experience.

Deserving cases will become submerged in a sea of "false positives" (most genuinely vulnerable children are already well known to the authorities anyway), trust between families and authority figures will inevitably be eroded, and badly stretched resources and public money will be squandered. The government's publicity about state guardians comes complete with patronizing SHANARRI wheels and sing-a-long songs. The potential power of the Named Person to indoctrinate children politically is another huge concern, as the SNP has already targeted them at school with propaganda packs.

In an unanimous judgement, the Supreme Court deemed the Named Person provisions to be "defective" for breaching Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees everyone's "right to a private and family life". The Court declared Holyrood had exceeded its powers by making a law which allowed public bodies to share sensitive private information about children and parents without consent. Once the political furore dies down, the SNP government is still determined to proceed with Named Persons, after amending their legislation to satisfy the Court's legal requirements regarding information sharing.

Health:

The NHS in Scotland has been devolved to Holyrood since 1999 and controlled by the SNP government since 2007. Audit Scotland has recently said: "there are urgent workforce challenges, and the Scottish Government and health boards have not planned effectively for the long term." It warns the NHS risks "not training enough doctors, nurses and midwives with the right skills for the future" as its workforce ages (for example, one in three nurses is now aged over 50). The auditors say urgent action is needed to curtail wasteful practices, including a huge over-reliance on expensive agency staff.

The 2016 Audit Scotland report on NHS Scotland threw up many serious deficiencies, including:

A 2015 Scottish Academy investigation was also deeply critical and found NHS Scotland to have, amongst other things: a loss of leadership, too big a focus on spurious performance targets and not enough on quality of care, inadequate levels of staffing, too much defensiveness and insufficient weight given to patient complaints.

Despite laying more of the healthcare burden on family doctors, the Scottish government has failed to effectively address their recruitment and retention crisis. One in four GP practices in Scotland now has a job vacancy for a family doctor. A record number of practices - 52, equivalent to 1 in 20 - are now being run directly by health boards instead of GP partners, up by nearly 25% in two years. A 2015 survey of GPs in Scotland found:

Law and order:

The single Police Scotland force created by the SNP government has been mired in controversy after controversy, failing miserably in its duty on several occasions, notably regarding missing and vulnerable persons. The SNP's obsession with centralization has created a constabulary conspicuously lacking in local accountability and local knowledge. The government-appointed Scottish Police Authority (SPA) quango has proven woefully inadequate to govern the police. Officer morale has plummeted and the force's financial situation has lurched from one crisis to another. Most police control rooms and dozens of police stations have been closed, with many more under threat of closure or reduced opening hours, further estranging the police from the citizens they serve.

The first Chief Constable, Stephen House, quit a year early after numerous controversies, including: officers being armed on routine duties despite House's reassurances they would not be; an appalling incident which saw a dead man and critically injured woman found in a car three days after a crash was reported; and parliament being misinformed about 'stop and search' data, reneging on a commitment to abolish stop-searches on young children.

Despite a string of profound problems, the SNP's dogma of centralized Scottish policing continues, with the British Transport Police (BTP) north of the Border being subsumed into Police Scotland. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) found that the controversial merger was "entirely" a political decision and did not include a detailed business case.

Between June and September 2017, the crisis engulfing Police Scotland escalated:

The justice system has not fared any better under the SNP's control: many local courts have been closed and soft-touch justice has disgusted the victims of crime and endangered the public by allowing serious criminals to be released far too early. According to UN data, Scotland is now the assault capital of the world, for attacks resulting in "serious bodily injury". And of course, we must not forget the debacle surrounding the al-Megrahi release in 2009.

Economy:

The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures show that Scotland ran a deficit - public overspending - of £14.8 billion or 9.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015-16, compared to the UK's overall deficit of 4%. No country in the EU has a deficit as high as Scotland's, and if Scotland were an independent member of the EU, it would be forced to adopt extreme austerity measures. An increase in Scotland's onshore revenues by £1.9 billion over the last year was almost wiped out by the share of North Sea oil/gas revenues falling by £1.8 billion. The rest of the UK is handsomely subsidising Scotland: public sector expenditure in Scotland is £12,800 per person - £1,200 greater than the UK average. Scotland on its own would simply not be able to support the SNP's high level of public spending; deep cuts and/or much higher taxation would be inevitable. Yet Nicola Sturgeon still denies the scale of Scotland's economic problems.

By gaining independence with no going back, the SNP wanted to grab complete power over Scotland's economy. Yet in all their years governing Scotland, and for all their carping at Westminster for supposedly depriving funding, the SNP never had the political courage to use the 3% income tax variation permitted by the Scottish devolution settlement. The voters were deprived of the opportunity to judge the SNP's ability to steward income tax before being asked to risk all. Tellingly, the SNP's first attempt at implementing a new tax - the Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) to replace stamp duty - was an abject failure, having to be swiftly reconstructed to be more in line with fairer taxation in the rest of the UK.

Energy:

Along with independence and the EU, another great SNP passion has been renewable energy, especially a determination to saturate the country with wind turbines whose output varies enormously with the weather. Heavily subsidised - even when the wind doesn't blow - these windmills and associated transmission lines have despoiled vast areas of Scotland's landscape and disturbed the local environments of people and wildlife. A third of Scotland's wild land was lost in only seven years, mostly to wind farm construction. The impact on tourism and for example, location filming, must be dire. Most of the financial benefits from wind power go to wealthy landowners, and overseas energy giants and turbine manufacturers; few jobs were created in Scotland. Meanwhile, fudging the need for reliable backup power generation, the SNP is committed to phasing out nuclear power and has imposed an indefinite ban on shale gas fracking in Scotland, jeopardising among other things the future of the Grangemouth petrochemical plant. With plunging oil prices, the North Sea oil industry is now in crisis. SNP ministers have had to downgrade their predictions for North Sea oil tax revenue by tens of billions of pounds compared to their extravagant claims made during the independence referendum.

Reforms:

Farming:

For two years in a row, the SNP government screwed up the payment of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies to Scottish farmers. Payments worth hundreds of millions of pounds were withheld because of the unworthiness of a new £178 million computer system commissioned by the government. So that they could stay in business while the shambles was resolved, farmers had to apply for loans. However, it then emerged that the government had wrongly calculated these interim loans for hundreds of farmers and crofters. Scottish taxpayers may face EU fines of up to £60 million because the SNP government has broken the CAP payment regulations.

Transport:

Consultations and referendums:

It is now manifest that the SNP's leaders can deceive, govern by stealth and pay lip service to public opinion with just as much aplomb as their opponents - so much for their lauded 'progressive politics' and 'fairer society'. Both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond said before the 2014 independence referendum that it was a "once in a generation or even a lifetime" event, with the former confirmed in the SNP's referendum manifesto Scotland's Future. Cynically ditching this pledge on the deceptive pretext that the Brexit vote "changes everything", Sturgeon is obsessed with holding another referendum, regardless of how the 'neverendum' is dividing Scottish society, and undermining financial stability and business confidence.

With much fanfare, Sturgeon launched the 'The National Survey' in 2016, boasting that it was "Scotland's biggest ever political listening exercise", to lead a "conversation" on independence. This descended into farce when it was found to breach data protection law and the SNP refused to publish its findings. In 2012, the results of the consultation on the 2014 referendum took an excessive 5½ months to publish, but what influence could the findings have when the Referendum Agreement had already been signed by Salmond and Cameron 8 days earlier?

The SNP's Scottish Parliament election manifesto in 2011 pledged only to consult on same-sex marriage, yet once elected with a majority, the SNP pushed through the legislation in 2014 despite profound and principled public concerns. As feared, the government has failed to adequately protect the rights of people who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

Revised 3 October 2017

Scandals

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SNP MPs, MSPs, government and party officials have become embroiled in a variety of scandals which surpass even those of the previously dominant Scottish Labour party. Just a selection follows here, and a summary of SNP MPs' misdemeanours is also available:

Revised 30 August 2017

Extremism

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The SNP, founded in 1934, has long accommodated extremists both within its own ranks and among allies of convenience in the push for independence. Fascists, anti-English racists, 'tartan terrorists', anti-Semites, and more recently, Islamists and former IRA terrorists have all featured in its history. The 2014 independence referendum provided a unique opportunity for the SNP to finally rid itself of the taint of extremism and showcase its political maturity. Yet few reasonable observers would disagree that during the referendum campaign the bulk of fanatical, unpleasant and undemocratic behaviour came from SNP members and supporters. Online harassment and bullying by the so-called 'cybernats' were especially vile at that time, and still continue. The SNP leadership only really addresses the problem when their hand is forced by adverse public opinion (such as caused by the hounding of the late Charles Kennedy MP), and even then their actions are rarely effective. They were forced to suspend a member when she was charged by police after abusing and intimidating Conservative campaigners during the 2017 election. Examples of the SNP's past and present links with extremism are:

Revised 17 October 2017

Humza Yousaf and the Islamist shadows

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Humza Yousaf, the SNP's Muslim showman at Holyrood, is media-friendly, seems personable (but glimpse another side), and has been shown much favour by Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. He is the Scottish Minister for Transport and the Islands, and previously was the Minister for Europe and International Development. Regrettably, Yousaf has proved remarkably ineffectual in both of these roles and is now regarded as an increasing liability for the credibility of Nicola Sturgeon's administration. Being caught driving without insurance by the police has upped the ante.

Yousaf was asked in a podcast interview if he felt that his religion influenced his politics. He replied: "I was taught as a young Muslim that 'to kill one innocent person is as if you killed the whole of humanity'. So these things were taught to me from an Islamic perspective through our scriptures, through our teachings and so on … does that influence my politics on these issues? Yeah - I don't doubt that it has done." Yousaf either doesn't understand or knowingly misleads us about this teaching from the Quran. It is not an all-encompassing prohibition of murder; it is actually a warning to Jews not to make war against Muhammad, or else they will face terrible punishment. Here is the whole of the relevant verse, and the next verse which together paint an entirely different picture from Yousaf's selective quotation:

Quran 5:32: "That was why We laid it down for the Israelites [Jews] that whoever killed a human being, except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be regarded as having killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as having saved all mankind. Our apostles brought them veritable proofs: yet many among them, even after that, did prodigious evil in the land."
Quran 5:33: "Those that make war against God [Allah] and His Apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter …"

Here are other examples of Yousaf's Islamic partiality:

Despite the SNP's hero worship of him and his stellar rise to government high office, Yousaf has the following skeletons which will continue to rattle in his cupboard:

Revised 24 August 2017

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