Stand by for SNP government relaunch: 10, 9, 8, 7 …

Today’s Times has confirmation of a rumour that seems to have been bouncing around for a while, in their own words – Sturgeon set to relaunch government in autumn. SNP considers radical new policies. In a grave error of judgement, the paper’s editorial praises the move as ‘sensible’ and says that ‘the SNP should be applauded.’

Where do you start with this nonsense?

I’m confident in my judgement of ‘nonsense’ because The Times seems to have got hold of a list of the ‘radical new policies’ and the words squib and damp come to mind.

Let’s take the four areas (that’s all there are) one by one.

First, we have local government, where the radical policies seem to involve

  1. devolving some unspecified powers and spending down from councils to equally unspecified ‘local communities’
  2. sucking up some functions like road building and maintenance to ‘a nationwide body like Transport Scotland,’ i.e. to Transport Scotland itself since there is no other agency responsible for roads, and
  3. making councils combine some back-office functions like HR to save money.

Of these, 1. is scarcely new as it was in the SNP Holyrood manifesto in 2016, 2. is hardly empowering anyone except the Scottish Government and its quango and 3. is old hat, councils have been doing it on a voluntary basis for years.

Second comes the bold heading ‘Climate change,’ which seems to boil down to household energy efficiency and diesel emissions, the first promoted in one guise or another for many years, the second coming after diesel vehicles have started to go out of favour anyhow. Meantime, in an apparently un-coordinated action the government finished a consultation on a draft ‘Scottish Energy Strategy’ at the end of May under which these sorts of actions should surely fall. Incidentally, that strategy was comprehensively trashed by the Energy Matters website, although being a serious endeavour, it would not welcome my description of their demolition job.

The Times’ short list then turns to ‘eye-catching’ welfare reforms exemplified by incentives to get women back to work after having children and ‘easing in-work poverty.’ This from a party that asked the UK government to hold on to devolved welfare powers for a few years more as they weren’t ready to take responsibility for them.

Lastly, the economy gets attention, and so it should, although whether potential incentives for exporters and ‘help’ (subsidy?) for manufacturers will make any difference is a moot point. On which subject it is relevant to ask, what’s happened to the conclusions of the party’s ‘Growth Commission’?

This is all feeble and mostly recycled stuff. Meantime, you will observe there is no mention of education or health, the two biggest areas of Scottish government spend. Perhaps the SNP think they’ve got those well in hand. I doubt if the people of Scotland agree.

This all demonstrates two problems the SNP face.

First, like most governments in power for a long time, they have grown stale. We knew that anyhow, but their rather sad list of allegedly radical new policies does nothing to dispel the conclusion.

Second, there’s what I’ve highlighted before as their ‘pinball’ tendency, constantly ricocheting around to find, or pretend they’ve found, something new to promote (or complain about). Even in their current short list, you’ll note proposals for one area (local government) that were flagged up last year, another (climate change) that has just been the subject of consultation, a third (welfare) they’ve declined to take charge of when they could, and a fourth (the economy) supposedly being dealt with by a separate ‘commission.’

None of this is going to set the heather, let alone the electorate, alight. It reminds me of those North Korean missiles that are launched to frenetic adulation and a roar of flames and smoke, only to go wildly off-course and crash back down on to the launch site.

Roll on 2021 and the next Holyrood election

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4 Responses to Stand by for SNP government relaunch: 10, 9, 8, 7 …

  1. Sam Duncan says:

    “devolving some unspecified powers and spending down from councils to equally unspecified ‘local communities’”

    This isn’t “devolution” at all. As you say, we still don’t know who these “local communities” are supposed to be. As far as I can make out, this boils down to Holyrood taking powers away from elected local representatives (of which I’m hardly the world’s #1 fan, but they are elected) and excercising them through appointed and/or favoured agents instead.

    Hey, they might yet surprise us all and introduce a bill to re-establish the burghs, but this looks a lot more like “nationalism by the back door” to me.

    “sucking up some functions like road building and maintenance to ‘a nationwide body like Transport Scotland,’”

    There they go again.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Roger White says:

    You raise a good point on ‘communities’ that would be worth an article itself. I’ve seen two suggestions in this case. Either it might mean community councils, or groups of councillors (e.g. the typically three that represent one ward). The latter is already used for some modest disbursal of funds in some councils and sometimes causes problems. The former would not be feasible with the current status of community councils and the poor state many are in. Whatever you think of councils they are monitored and audited by Audit Scotland. Similar levels of accountability would be needed for alternative deliverers of services.

    More generally I’d ask ‘What is the problem that this is the solution to?’ and for the life of me I can’t see the answer.

    The whole thing is likely not only to be a can of worms but also a sham.


  3. Lulu says:

    The SNP does seem to have just engineered a big centralisation of school education. The legislation steamed through Holyrood with support from the tories. As far as I can tell headteachers are to be given more discretion over how they spend school budgets, but will be answerable to the quango Education Scotland, which answers to J Swinney MSP.

    On a lighter note, my partner and I had a good laugh at parents evening recently. The children had done a Scotland project about their favourite Scottish sounds, tastes and even ‘Scottish thoughts’! I kid you not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger White says:

      I think that much of the emphasis on Scottishness in school education comes not from any strength but in part from a sort of weakness and uncertainty on the part of those who set the agenda. I recently compared the Higher English curriculum with an A level equivalent and had a sense the latter was much more outward looking and international.


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