In a powerful article in the Scotsman, Jim Gallagher highlights the revelations of former SNP policy advisor Alex Bell who tells us that SNP leaders deliberately obfuscated the tax and spend realities of independence. He said:
“These were the actions of a government, not starry-eyed amateurs. Ministers with access to all the data, and civil service advice, chose deliberately to obscure the truth, over the biggest decision in the country’s history. It was in substance a strategy to mislead the poorest in the country into supporting independence as an escape from poverty.”
Important though the past is, his focus is on the future. He said:
“A party whose only purpose is hanging on to power substitutes populism for policy-making. Populism thrives on demonising the other: so in time of trouble Westminster can always be blamed. Politics becomes a Potemkin village – a façade of self-serving rhetoric. Witness the SNP response to poor Mr Bell – “we must be right because people vote for us”. What suffers is public policy. The symptoms of that disease are glaring already. The NHS is struggling; educational inequalities are moving in the wrong direction; the wheels are coming off Police Scotland, and more.”
Brian Wilson makes some similar points in his typically acerbic way.
Jenny Hjul takes up the theme in The Herald with a cutting analysis of the failures of the SNP ministerial team.
Angela Constance at Education has been dubbed the Minister for Gobbledegook for her inability to express herself in plain language. Ministerial press releases about improving English standards in the classroom have been easy-to-mock exercises in illiteracy, which is unhelpful for a government’s head of learning.
She was taken to task about the SNP’s ambitious childcare promises when she couldn’t answer simple questions put to her by campaigners. The Fair Funding for our Kids, left a meeting "frustrated and angry" after she was unable to tell them how many new nursery buildings were required, or how many extra training places and modern apprenticeships will be needed to ensure the right number of staff are available to work in the new nurseries.
Next there is health led by Shona Robison. On her watch, there has been a crisis in GP recruitment that has led to dozens of surgeries being taken over by health boards and primary health care targets being missed. Accident and emergency targets have also been missed every week for six years, with Glasgow’s flagship £842 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital delivering the worst performance in the country.
Then the long-serving Richard Lochhead at Rural Affairs. Farmers have been waiting weeks to hear from the Government about their Common Agricultural Policy subsidies and the fishing industry has lost faith in the minister over his "effective abandonment" of them in new conservation measures.
The above tells a picture of a government with limited ministerial talent below the First Minister and her Deputy. A government that has run out of steam and ideas. A government that blames anyone and everybody other than themselves for their failures. Scotland deserves better.