THE SNP’s Westminster success is undoubtedly headline grabbing – but in practice it delivers little to Nicola Sturgeon and, more importantly, nothing for Scotland.
With Labour performing so poorly south of the Border as well as north, Ms Sturgeon’s plans have been frustrated. Far from mischief-making at Westminster, the SNP is rendered impotent.
With an overall majority, David Cameron doesn’t need to barter with Alex Salmond over home rule.
At his acceptance speech, the Prime Minister made clear he will promptly implement the outcome of the Smith Commission.
Alex Salmond can bluff and bluster all he likes but the SNP hasn’t enough power at Westminster to demand anything more.
More worryingly for Ms Sturgeon, in a campaign where she insisted ad nauseam that the general election was about “austerity not independence”, she failed to secure more than 50 per cent of the total vote in Scotland (including those eligible to vote who did not).
The First Minister will realise that many who supported her call to end Tory cuts would not back her in a referendum. And let us not forget 50 per cent of those who voted did so for non-separatist parties. Undoubtedly the 2016 SNP Holyrood manifesto will include the right to request a second referendum if the UK votes to leave the European Union, though an EU exit seems far from certain.
None of this provides Ms Sturgeon with an easy route to her number one goal: independence.
Of much greater immediate significance is that the SNP landslide means Scotland is virtually excluded from any role in Westminster.
The 56 SNP MPs will neither form part of the government nor the official opposition. This large block of SNP seats, far from delivering Scotland the stronger Westminster voice Ms Sturgeon promised us, will instead ensure Scotland becomes marginalised in UK politics.
Ms Sturgeon’s gain is Scotland’s loss.
THE SNP did well to persuade 50 per cent of voters to back them. This means, of course, that the remaining 50 per cent did not, no doubt in part because of their abysmal record in government. In education, in spite of higher spending compared with England, class sizes continue to rise and literacy is falling among primary and secondary pupils. University students here start repaying loans when their salaries hit £16,500 compared with £21,000 down south and there has been a shameful and illogical significant reduction in college places.
Having worked in healthcare I am shocked by the reduction in expenditure in Scotland compared with a rise in England which has resulted in bed closures and failing cancer treatment/hospital waiting-time targets; also there is reduced expenditure in training nurses and midwives. I know from talking to colleagues that hospital morale has plummeted. There is no proper monitoring of the Scottish Government at Holyrood because the SNP controls all the levers of power. As for the desire for “full fiscal autonomy” let’s not go there meantime!
At least in Edinburgh South last Thursday, by legitimate means including tactical voting, we prevented SNP’s Neil Hay from winning after his disgraceful tweet calling No voters in the referendum “Quislings”. At the Scottish elections next year the outcome will be very different under the Additional Member System and with strong leadership from the likes of Ruth Davidson, whose reputation continues to rise. She and other party leaders will ensure that the SNP is held to account for their proven inadequacies in government.
(Dr) Alan Brown