Our discourse has ventured so far beyond reasoned debate and into a nether-world of tribalism, ignorance and hubris that I cannot yet see any good coming out of this Scottish Parliament election.
There is no one party to blame for such a demonic state of affairs, if only because all have made errors of judgement that questions their fitness to govern.
Nevertheless, by far the greatest culprits in turning our democracy into a circus show of what would normally be unelectables and freaks is the SNP leadership run by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and her husband the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.
Last week I rebuked the Scottish Conservatives for what I felt has been their mistaken strategy of repeatedly banging-on about the threat of a referendum rather than attacking the soft underbelly of SNP failures from 14 years of rule.
I was therefore heartened by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross challenging Ms Sturgeon on her record during the STV leaders’ debate. She was visibly toiling when being held to account and made the admission of taking her eye off the ball that has been apparent to anyone with an open mind.
Left to her own devices, the First Minister and patron saint of hubris, is having a dreadful campaign.
She has now had two bad leadership debates and is admitting embarrassing truths and errors while her face-to-face interviews provide ample video clips for her opponents to show her culpability in wholesale failure.
Sturgeon badly needed a good manifesto launch – but instead its content simply revealed how much the SNP takes not just the Scottish electorate for granted, but also those who believe in breaking up Britain.
Mark my words, Nicola Sturgeon is on course, by her own actions, to ensure her legacy is that “independence” is never realised and she must in time become the most unpopular, even despised, SNP leader – even by nationalists themselves.
Those wishing to preserve the British family in all its, sometimes dysfunctional but more often admirable, glory will I believe come in time to raise a glass to the work of Agent Sturgeon.
Just as the Supreme Court victory of Gina Miller ensured paradoxically there could be something approximating to a genuine Brexit (because it meant Theresa May could not railroad through any-old scheme agreed between Chancellor Merkel and herself using the Royal prerogative), so the economics of secession have been sent into a galactic orbit we might never live long enough to see the return leg of.
Let me put it this way.
Holyrood has many tools at its disposal. So many in fact that the SNP Government has actually rejected the offer of further powers over taxation (VAT) and welfare (benefits) because First Minister Sturgeon and her ministers cannot cope with the current monkey wrench. Even a wing nut is proving too much for them.
The way to convince Scots that divorce will be painless and being forever single offers a better option is to show first a devolved Scotland can be more prosperous and compassionate than marriage to the rest of the UK is.
This requires reducing the current unsustainable deficit of £15 billion by spending less than revenues generate. Thus, for Sturgeon to propose increasing the Scotland’s public deficit to levels of financial pain – around £60bn per year – will require her next election promise to be free morphine for all and can only be described as either utterly ignorant or intentionally anarchic.
While respectable think-tanks like the Institute for Fiscal Studies feel the need to be polite and say proposed SNP spending would be “a difficult circle to square” – requiring either tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere, or more likely both – I can put it far more simply; it is plain nuts.
I have often written there is no sensible financial or economic case for separatism and that it inevitably must lead to a scorched-earth austerity that would strip the paint off your front door.
The latest uncosted SNP variation of that economic theme has simply doubled-down to make secession so destructive as to take your door off at the hinges, cause the ceiling to fall in and the plumbing to seize up.
If the pandemic has taught Sturgeon anything it is that the UK will support Scotland through great pain – including eye-watering levels of cost – so why not just pile on more charges for the Treasury to meet?
Retaining power counts for everything, and offering freebies paid for on the never-never where the English taxpayer funds the debt payments can secure the election result. Or so goes the theory.
Such an approach relies upon either the gullibility of the Scottish electorate – which means the Sturgeon’s SNP is taking the public for mugs – or a degree of ignorance in the First Minister about economics that should automatically disbar her from the position she holds.
Interestingly when questioned on the economic costs of secession by interviewers she could not provide an answer. Like so many questions asked of her lately.
Under Sturgeon’s SNP Scotland’s public finances shall never see a surplus ever again. And when the SNP lose, as one day they must, there will have to be a reckoning and, of course, Westminster will be blamed.
Supporters of independence must think very carefully before voting for Sturgeon’s SNP. They might be better voting for someone else or in protest voting for no one at all.
Thank you Agent Sturgeon. Your job is done.
- Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org and served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively.