This time it was a new list of old countries that Scotland could be just like, and the UK is allegedly worse than. There was much movement here. New Zealand, Portugal and Hong Kong were amongst those dropped from the last list of hand- picked Utopias, so we can’t be like them any more.
But apparently we can be like Denmark, the Netherlands or Estonia – all of whom have ferries. Or we could be like Belgium that has a perpetual constitutional crisis, with one part of it constantly threatening to leave but never doing so. Ireland has apparently been richer than the UK since 1970 – so they won’t have needed the £7billion bail-out the UK gave them during the banking crisis.
But despite Ireland and all the other countries on Nicola’s list apparently being richer than the UK, none of them has a National Health Service with treatment free at the point of use. Perhaps no one gets ill in those countries. Or we could abandon the apparent moral bankruptcy of the UK and join Denmark in agreeing to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Plus ça change, as every Scottish school child could say if only they still received a decent education. As an intellectual, analytical study, the First Minister’s ‘new’ paper had all the weight of one that said it was raining in London last Thursday, but sunny in Copenhagen on St. Swithin’s Day, so let’s vote for better weather.
And unlike the White Paper before 2014, there was no mention of whether Scotland after independence, or any of these countries, will still receive ‘Strictly Come Dancing.’
Nicola Sturgeon shared the glory – or blame – of this recurring historical moment with the man who has apparently made it all possible for her, her coalition partner, Patrick Harvie, of the Greens. Pat ‘the mandate giver’ stood silent as she talked about her ambitions for wealth creation, a policy he opposes. So much for unions of parties that agree.
There was much talk of Ms. Sturgeon getting her hands on ‘the levers’ but no mention of what she has ‘achieved’ with the levers she has got. Having tax raising powers will apparently make the transition to separation easier, but no mention that since she put up income tax, Scotland brings in nearly £500 million less than expected, £200m less than if she didn’t have those ‘levers’, and there is a homemade £3.5 billion black hole in her finances.
No, the UK was a bad place which didn’t respect the rule of law, with whom we would be best mates as soon as we left. Everywhere else on her list was better. But how Scotland is today barely got a mention.
Nor indeed was there much mention of how she will hold a referendum since the power sits with Westminster and they are unlikely to give it. She has the details of how she will hold a legal referendum without consent, apparently. She is dying to give them to us. She will do so ‘soon’. What a tease!
This announcement was, of course, in no way tied to her old boss, bezzie pal and mentor, Alex Salmond, publicly telling her on Sunday to get on with a referendum campaign. Her paper merely looked like something you could throw together in 48 hours for authenticity.
But if this was the launch of any serious campaign, I don’t think it was for a referendum. Even this early you could sense the building blocks of the next election campaign.
She says she has a mandate to hold a referendum. She demands the right to hold one. The Prime Minister says no. And then the First Minister tries to plunge Scotland into a grievance fest.
It must seem like a win-win for Ms. Sturgeon. She gets a grudge but doesn’t have to hold a referendum. And for the next few years Scotland doesn’t talk about our failing schools – or the widening attainment gap that the First Minister promised to close, asked to be judged on, and has now dropped as a pledge. No mention of the failing health service with waiting lists measured in years, not weeks, response times in hours, not minutes.
The Scottish public, she reckons, won’t notice the cuts, the failing economy, the flagrant waste of public money, the ferries not built and the trains that don’t run, if she can make them angry enough at Boris Johnson not giving them a referendum.
As Buzz Lightyear was once the must-have Christmas present for children, and may be again, the denial of a referendum and ensuing fight is Nicola Sturgeon’s perennial must-have gift.
Scots don’t need to open this parody of a paper to see who we could be better than.
We could be better than we are now, much better, without a First Minister who asks us to ‘look away now’ or we might actually see the results of her disinterested, disengaged government.
This was not about Scotland’s future, it was about Nicola Sturgeon’s. Yesterday was all about feeding the natives in her own Party for fear they might get restless.
I have not done a comparative study of political leadership in the countries she listed from Ireland to Estonia, Denmark to the Netherlands. But I will hazard a guess. They all have more serious political leadership than Scotland.
- Murdo Fraser is the Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife