An analysis of the SNP’s independence promises

On 12 July I posted a list of thirteen SNP promises about independence that had been made recently on their web site. I concluded

No Thanks! will be keeping an eagle eye open for future promises of milk and honey. All will be noted in a postscript to today’s list.

Well, the postscript began on 14 July and I’ve kept it up to date. As of today an additional 26 promises have appeared, making a total of almost forty. And that’s with a month still to go to the referendum.

Here’s the list. It’s a long one, so be prepared to scroll down to get to the meat of this post.

promises table

Many years ago at work I submitted an appeal for my salary to be regraded. In the guddle of a subsequent reorganisation I was handed my personnel file in error and against my list of claimed responsibilities, my then boss had written ‘Is there anything this man doesn’t do?’ I am reminded of my presumption by the SNP’s list of promises

Is there anything this political party won’t deliver?

Or perhaps, as marketing people might say, a promise for every demographic. Of course, I might be told that press releases only give a partial, even ephemeral, view of issues. More sadistic readers might even refer me to the 670 page door-stopper that is Scotland’s Future.

Fair enough. But what this list does is tell you what the SNP want to get over in the rough and tumble of the referendum campaign, how they’re responding to their opponents and, sometimes tellingly, what they don’t address.

So their promises are worthy of some comment and analysis.

A few words of caution. This is a political party. So what I summarise as promises are sometimes hedged around with the politicians’ get-out-of-prison-free words, like ‘could,’ ‘opportunity,’ and ‘offers.’ On the other hand there are plenty of ‘will’s and ‘will be’s when in fact a more honest word might be ‘perhaps.’

You’ll realise I’ve ordered the list by subject and broadly in order of number of references to each subject, although it’s topped with a few general promises and tailed with some odds and ends that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere else.

The first obvious conclusion is that positive references to the economy and the NHS far outweigh statements on any other single subject.

The promises on the economy range from the most general – we will be more prosperous, to the specific claim that independence will unlock the potential of the food and drink industry. What the list doesn’t promise, because the SNP can’t, is what currency an independent Scotland will use. Other press releases elsewhere on their web site cite experts who say that we could use sterling but these are mere defensive actions against one of the No campaign’s strongest arguments for staying with the UK.

The repeated statements about the NHS are interesting. At first, there was only a general and relatively modest claim that ‘Yes could be positive for health.’ But then someone realised that reforms to the NHS in England could be used to punt the myth that this threatened the health service in Scotland, almost completely ignoring the fact that health is a devolved function. Much has been written on this subject and I may return to it. But for those interested ITV Borders Political Editor Peter McMahon provides a good summary of the real issues involved.

I’ll leave readers to scan other subjects on the list and draw their own conclusions. As I say above, there’s a sense of something for everyone here although there are also some telling omissions, for example

  • the SNP’s policy of growing Scotland’s population through increased immigration
  • defence
  • shipbuilding.

Do the party’s private polls tell them that these are not the vote-winners they thought they might be or that people just don’t believe the policies on them they’ve set out elsewhere?

A quick glance at the tail-enders I couldn’t categorise is instructive. Here we have the ludicrous ‘independence to slash the cost of family holidays’ and the yah-boo-sucks to the neighbours of the completely unprovable claim that a separate Scotland will ‘outperform’ the UK.

If you tell me the referendum is not about the SNP I would respond that they have a majority in parliament until after their putative date for independence. Insofar as anyone on the Scottish side would have a whip hand in negotiations with the UK, they would.

In any case, I’m not sure an ever-growing list of promises helps the SNP. It certainly doesn’t seem to have shifted those pesky polls that, within a few percentage points, consistently show most Scots do not want to leave the UK.

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