Like the international wandering albatross that she is (I know, wrong hemisphere and I’ve used the metaphor before) Nicola Sturgeon returned from wherever she’d last been to put on a show that elicited this encomium from the Arctic Circle chairman and former president of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson:
The new Arctic neighbourhood needs Scotland.
Aye right, Ólafur. Here’s tae ye! I’m sure they speak of little else in the neighbourhoods of Moscow and Ottawa.
I’ve written before of the SNP’s fascination with things Nordic and especially the Arctic Circle talk shop.
As you’ll realise if you put tveir and tveir together, what interested me in this particular bash was not its happening but the fact that Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary i/c external affairs (that’s right, we both know it’s not a devolved function) used the Edinburgh forum to announce that our SNP government is going to develop ‘an Arctic Strategy for Scotland.’ Just what we need, along with a Mediterranean Strategy and strategies for other places we haven’t got a lot in common with.
If you had the will to search the manifesto that brought a diminished minority of SNP MSPs back into government at Holyrood in 2016, you’d find on page 41 reference to a ‘Nordic/Baltic Strategy.’ Personally, I was never aware of such a thing, as I assume MSPs were unaware of the Arctic Strategy until they read about it in the government press release. It’s not clear if these are to be two separate strategies or overlapping or just ‘Oh God, did we say that?’
You see the SNP are particularly prone to strategies.
You’ll find no fewer than twenty-nine in that 2016 manifesto, ranging from a Scottish STEM Strategy to a National Strategy to Tackle Social Isolation. So now we have thirty. Or thirty-one if you include the renewable energy strategy they’re going to help Malawi to develop (lucky old Malawi, all that expertise being brought to bear). Excluding their African side excursion, that’s one strategy to be produced or updated every two months over the five-year life of the current parliament (a few are older efforts being, as they say, ‘refreshed’). And that’s without allowing for parliamentary recesses.
Life’s too short to check how they’ve done so far with all this. But do you think that rate of strategy production is sustainable? I doubt it. And I doubt even if it’s needed. High-level usually glossy documents are a great temptation for governments. I wouldn’t be so cynical as to suggest that the inevitable colour photo and foreword by the relevant minister is the incentive. But you do have to ask how many of these productions generate anything more than marginal change.
It would be good if the SNP concentrated on the day-to-day services they’re responsible for rather than fritter away their time and resources on so many strategies, some of which are as much use as their Arctic Strategy is likely to be.
It would be good but not likely.
The full list of strategies in the SNP 2016 Holyrood manifesto: