BY EFFIE DEANS
The problem with Scottish politics is that we have a devolved parliament that is uninterested in devolution. Scottish politicians of all political parties pretend to be interested in those areas of life that the Scottish Parliament actually controls, but campaign primarily on issues that we don’t control. The same goes for supporters.
What areas are controlled by the Scottish Government. Well here is what it says itself. Devolved matters include:
The economy, education, health, justice, rural affairs, housing, environment, equal opportunities, consumer advocacy and advice, transport and taxation. The power to set a Scottish rate of income tax is a new addition to our responsibilities and further powers will be devolved to Scotland over the coming years.
That’s rather a lot. In fact, these are the issues that most affect ordinary life in Scotland. If the SNP Government spent its time trying to improve those areas that it controls, it wouldn’t have any time to do anything much else.
There are some areas that are reserved and controlled by the British Government. These include defence, international relations and foreign policy, constitutional matters, macro-economic policy and immigration.
The SNP Government spends a great deal of time pretending that reserved matters are really devolved. It discusses nuclear weapons. None of the SNP’s business. It continually discusses relations with the EU and argues about EU membership. Again, this is reserved. Scotland was never a member of the EU. The decision to join and leave were never Scotland’s to make. Only independent sovereign nation states can make such decisions.
The SNP Government and the Scottish Parliament in general continually argue about Scottish independence. But this is a reserved issue. It is a constitutional matter. The SNP Government has no more business arguing about Scottish independence than abolishing the House of Lords. It is outside its remit. But if it is outside its remit, it therefore cannot make manifesto commitments to having a referendum on such a matter that is none of its business. Manifesto commitments with regard to elections to the Scottish Parliament can only be about devolved issues that this Parliament actually controls.
Now the SNP Government wants control over immigration. It wants to issue its own visas. Once more this is simply a failure to understand devolution. The SNP is very quick to complain if the British Government does anything that might affect devolved matters, but continually strives to involve itself in those areas that are none of its business. Nicola Sturgeon has no more business meeting EU leaders than does the leader of Aberdeen City Council. This is why they said get lost.
SNP supporters continually blame something called Westminster for anything and everything that may be wrong with Scotland. But it is failure to take responsibility for your own actions that is the primary cause of failure both in ordinary life and in politics. If the SNP took responsibility for the Scottish economy, tried to take action that would make us more efficient and profitable I would still disagree with them, but I would respect them.
The Scottish Parliament has become the equivalent of a student debating society. Each party campaigns on the issues that it doesn’t control. They are either pro or anti-independence, pro or anti EU. At the same time each party only pretends to campaign on issues like healthcare, housing and transport. They pretend, because the Scottish electorate is uninterested in these matters too. Scottish voters no more pay attention to the Scottish Parliament than Aberdeen voters pay attention to the council. We are all interested only in higher things.
This would not matter so much in ordinary times. But the pity is that it matters now. The SNP chooses its politicians not because they are experts, nor because they are passionate about improving Scottish healthcare or the Scottish economy. Only one qualification is necessary to be successful in the SNP. You have to think Scottish independence is the only thing that matters. It also helps if you are related to or sleep with someone else who is in the SNP.
We have indulged ourselves for years with things that are outwith our control. We have ignored schools, and hospitals and the police. We have not voted according to how Scottish political parties have performed with regard to devolved issues. If anything has gone wrong with any devolved issue it has been easier to blame Westminster rather than ourselves. We have not taken the first step towards independence, taking responsibility for your own actions, for which reason we are simply unready to take the second.
But our failure to take responsibility for the things we do control means that Scotland is not as well prepared economically and in terms of healthcare for the difficult times that may be ahead. The SNP spent its time trying to bribe voters with free this and free that rather than using the money to make Scotland more efficient and our healthcare system more effective. The SNP neglected the day job because that is what their voters wanted.
We may need a Scottish Government in the next few weeks and months that is sober and competent. Instead we have a bunch of libertines unqualified to run a whelk stall because they dream only of this whelk stall being independent, joining the EU, and being free from nuclear weapons. Meanwhile when they don’t sell any whelks, they blame Birdseye because the captain has a posh accent and votes Tory.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.