Regular readers of this column will know that, more often than not, I have little option but to write about Scotland’s SNP government at Holyrood – or more particularly its First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon – after there has been a particular embarrassing policy failure which cannot pass without analysis and comment. I don’t mind admitting there are times when I feel like I am on an SNP-designed treadmill, for there have been so many dreadful statistics about avoidable life-limiting outcomes – and a clear deterioration in our public service standards – that I cannot avoid writing about them.
Let me also say, this was not the case when I first started writing this column in 2009. Back then there were a great many other issues demanding my attention, from the failings of other political parties in Scotland and the UK, to various existential challenges facing other democracies or their leaders. I did not feel I was regularly having to scrutinise and hold to account Alex Salmond for the decisions he or his ministers had taken. Even then, if I did focus on the Scottish Government (as it had become known) there was actually a debate to be had about policy detail, the framing was not always a blame game about Westminster or the British Prime Minister.
This all changed after the Scottish referendum of 2014 when, after Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, the growing imperative became the SNP’s need to keep nationalist supporters motivated by working ceaselessly for a second bite at the cherry. This was despite a written commitment to respect the outcome of the peoples’ vote.
Further, defeated campaigners had to be kept on permanent red alert, ready to mobilise at any time in the coming referendums that would be promised year after year, after year – always fixed temptingly on the horizon and therefore always just out of reach.
Before the 2014 referendum there had been an SNP strategy of sorts that relied upon selling the idea “if Holyrood could achieve great things then just imagine what full Scottish sovereignty might deliver?” Fundamental to this plan was being able, at least in the short-to-medium-term, of relying on an economy dependent on extraction of oil and gas from Scottish fields and, with the need to win the referendum by 50 per cent plus one vote, not picking fights with various interest groups that could make the difference. These might include parents of school children, employees in financial services, workers in the defence or oil industries.
After 2014, whether by design or disinterest, there has been a litany of Holyrood failures in education, health, policing, local government, transport and more, that can only be laid at the feet of the SNP government. With every additional year more bad decisions have had the time to mature and be exposed to the excoriating antiseptic of daylight. Blaming past administrations or Westminster is a fraud against responsibility.
This tightening embrace with reality has put paid to any aspirations of Scottish exceptionalism achievable through independence, so much so that the SNP’s strategy has been forced to change to full-on fantasy economics while building a new majority involving a Green Party that would have opposed the discovery of fire or the invention of the wheel.
Some readers might think I am being extreme in my criticism of the new SNP-Green administration but I sit at my computer having had to weigh-up what I should write about as if two bizarre plot lines had been plucked from The Outer Limits. Should I choose the circulation to Scottish 14-year-old pupils of a SNP Government survey asking if they have recently had anal or oral sex (with the genuine possibility the answers may not remain classified) – or that Nicola Sturgeon’s new-found opposition to oil and gas extraction has created such medium-term industry uncertainty to cause Shell to pull out of the Cambo Field development – with Green politicians cheering on the potential job losses?
We now live in a political world that cannot be recognisable to most ordinary Scots – and it is one created by their own government. The impact of SNP-Green policies will have life-changing consequences and they will not be for the better – not least requiring greater importation of oil and gas than sourcing it from our own reserves.
This SNP-Green coalition means tens of thousands of highly paid jobs of expertise in the oil industry that also support tens of thousands more in the gig economy of hospitality, events, transport and ancillary services will simply disappear. The North and North East of Scotland will become a jobs desert. Watch the property prices collapse, families finances ruined.
Now there literally is no economic business case for an independent Scotland. Were such an outcome to happen the first government would inherit a scorched earth laid waste by the nationalists themselves.
Fortunately Shell can be replaced – although not without some cost to Scotland’s reputation causing other investors to withdraw from plans yet to be confirmed – but fortunately the final decision on Cambo does not rest at Holyrood.
While Green MSPs luxuriate in the pain and discomfort of ordinary Scots facing a chilling economic winter and our First Minister abandons the economic norms on investment and employment from oil extraction there is one person who can save Scotland from itself.
Boris Johnson has the final say and must champion and get behind the Cambo oil field. Whatever his past mistakes, and they may be legion for many, he can ensure there is still a Scottish economy to debate over when eventually there is a change of government. The time for Johnson to speak is now. Sturgeon is now picking fights, he must come out the winner.
Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org and was a former member of the Scottish and European Parliaments.