Here is why Nicola Sturgeon's sums do not add up - Brian Monteith

Nicola Sturgeon at Ruchill Park in Glasgow during campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election.Nicola Sturgeon at Ruchill Park in Glasgow during campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election.
Nicola Sturgeon at Ruchill Park in Glasgow during campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election.
Hooray for Holyrood! If there was an Oscar for Best Actress in the Scottish Parliament elections I would have to nominate Nicola Sturgeon.

She can take a script of utter fantasy and make her audience believe it is actual reality. Alice Through the Looking Glass would be an ideal movie for her – with a starring role as the Red Queen, allowing her to shout “off with their heads” at former close friends whom she now has no use of.

In the first full week of campaigning we saw Nicola rattling out promises like a nuclear-powered Gatling Gun she can have no possible idea how to keep. Electoral bribe after electoral bribe was fired in every direction to make sure she hit a target somewhere – but who’s paying for the ammo? The election give-aways might be costed but how they will be afforded is beyond her ken.

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Fortunately some people are able to work these things out and Sturgeon has been found out – and by an unimpeachable source. Not by what passes for the spoilsport opposition (who would say critical things, wouldn’t they) but by Hall of Fame inductees and all-time Oscar winners for public finance analysis – the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

In a seminal deconstruction of Scottish Government spending the IFS has spoken and the great oracle should have had the effect of a bromide – but I fear the Scottish electorate is in no mood to hear the truth. After a year of counter-productive lockdowns and tiers for fears that did not prevent the spread of Covid-19 but only delayed it, people want to hear good news, like going to the Ziegfeld Follies at the time of the Great Depression.

So the fact the IFS confirmed Scots have some thirty per cent more spent on them than the average UK person – thanks to taxpayers outside Scotland – has most likely washed over most people’s heads and was certainly no deterrent to Sturgeon announcing the spending yet more money she does not have.

The photograph of the week that summed up the falsity of the First Spender’s pitch was a side-on view of her being interviewed showing her standing on a green plastic crate. Promises from the SNP leader are literally not what they seem – while the view from the lens showed Sturgeon’s coiffured bobbing head, without the prop she would not have been visible at all. A metaphor for our times no less. Without the support of Boris Johnson and his UK Treasury, Scottish Government spending and all those freebies being offered would not be seen either.

But a star actor is only as good as her next show and Sturgeon has to keep delivering or she will fall over. So now – according to those chaps at the IFS – Sturgeon is making long term spending commitments on ephemeral here-today-but-not-tomorrow additional UK funding designed to help people and businesses cope with Covid. So not only is her government creaming-off funds meant to help people in distress to attract more votes to go her way she is making commitments that cannot be sustained when that Westminster tap is turned off. The Sturgeon plot line is to give out false promises like Imelda Marcos collects shoes.

But the obvious plot hole is that in time this approach just makes secession from Britain even more unaffordable than it was last week – but does Sturgeon care? Why should she if she regains power but is not allowed to have a legal referendum anyway? Referendums are not her purview.

What we are seeing is a complete disconnect between a politician and real life lived by real people.

Let us recall the landscape we live in; the worst level of drug deaths in not just the UK but the whole of Europe. That’s right, the continent of Europe.

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Scotland, a country where if you are homeless you are three times more likely to die than if you live in the rest of the UK. Scotland, a country where rising life expectancy across the rest of the UK becomes a fall in 40 per cent of our local authority areas.

Yet the offer is not to fix what’s wrong but to offer more promises and she will deliver on them. Like those previous promises of abolishing the Council Tax, ending student debt and delivering class sizes of 18 pupils. There was a cracker this week when Sturgeon promised three new cancer centres to deal with her lockdown-inspired treatment backlog, ignoring that last year she promised two such centres by this Spring and they do not yet exist.

We are asked to trust Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP. Trust? To borrow from the legendary advertising campaign, If Carlsberg did scandals… then the SNP would be the worthy example for filming.

Brian Monteith is editor of and served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively.

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