Nicola Sturgeon's political legacy is 14 wasted years – Brian Wilson

Speaking on BBC’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’, Nicola Sturgeon reminded us she has been a minister for 14 years – five of them in charge of Scotland’s NHS and seven as First Minister.
Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minster for seven years and was Health Secretary for five in a 14-year period in government (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minster for seven years and was Health Secretary for five in a 14-year period in government (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minster for seven years and was Health Secretary for five in a 14-year period in government (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Subjected to an unusually challenging interview by Martin Geisler, Ms Sturgeon asked him to “stop shouting at me” when Mr Geisler sought to stem the flow of verbiage which is her long-established stock in trade when in a tight corner. The ego does not like challenge.

At present, she is in several tight corners and the appeal to her longevity in office sounded distinctly counter-productive. For the obvious question it raised was “what really has been the point, other than in the interests of personal and party dominance?”

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With so many balls at her feet to make Scotland a better society, why have so few been kicked and so many open goals missed? Perspective is a harsh judge in politics and if she needs evidence of that she need only look to the fate of her old friend and mentor, Alex Salmond, in the court of public opinion.

A decade ago, he was untouchable. The rigid discipline he enforced within party, government and every client group dependent on its patronage had done its work. Ms Sturgeon learned at the feet of the master and became, in turn, the enforcer, her husband contributing to the continuity.

This is what nationalist parties do. By identifying themselves with “the nation”, they rule pretty much for ever and deliver very little. Those who oppose them are divided by factors other than the constitution.

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Nationalism may divide the nation but it unites its adherents which is a perfectly satisfactory dichotomy for those who benefit handsomely from it. The objective of power is to retain it.

Mr Salmond at least delivered a referendum on independence. Then the whole edifice, which Ms Sturgeon played such a crucial part in building, collapsed. A decade from now, what will there be to look back on as her own legacies from domination of Scottish politics?

The interim report is not promising. Baby boxes and a Gender Recognition Act (but only if a free vote is denied?) are pretty thin gruel after 14 years of non-stop self-promotion, wrapped up in woolly protestations of egalitarian beliefs and a perpetual flow of headline-catching gimmicks, most of which taper off into absolutely nothing happening.

Who can forget her 2017 conference speech in which she announced a Scottish energy company to ensure “energy will be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland – renewable, of course – and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible”.

How they cheered. It was rubbish then and is rubbish now, formally laid to rest this week with another trough of Barnett Formula largesse down the drain. Scottish electricity consumers, contemplating their latest bills, are entitled to wonder: “Where did it all go wrong?” The same question can be applied to literally scores of grandiose, utterly unfulfilled, announcements.

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It is now generally accepted that many problems faced by the NHS in Scotland date back to Ms Sturgeon’s tenure. It should have been embarrassing even to the faithful to hear her yesterday trying to blame Brexit or pointing out that the ambulance service in England faces similar problems. We had far more money and all the powers to produce better outcomes. Why didn’t we?

Ditto education, on which Ms Sturgeon asked to be judged when she became First Minister. Have there been any memorable landmarks, other than withdrawing from international comparators which produced the wrong results?

The promise of a referendum by 2023 is more delusory waffle for an audience of the wilfully gullible. There isn’t going to be one. It is not within her powers to deliver one, unless she wants to become a Scottish version of Clara the Catalonian Fugitive which, in fairness, I doubt. And what’s more, a substantial majority of Scottish opinion doesn’t want one either.

So what, after 14 years, has been the point of her political longevity? I ask the question sotto voce, lest I should be accused of shouting, even in print.

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