Scotland will pay a steep price for a Green coalition of chaos that nobody actually voted for
IMAGINE you’re running the government and desperate to send out a signal that Scotland is back in business.
There’s every indication that the virus which laid waste to the economy has been brought under control, for now at least.
So what do you do? Well, Nicola Sturgeon has an idea: forge a ‘progressive’ parliamentary alliance with a group of Marxist eco-zealots.
Precisely how that’s meant to reassure employers that government is on their side is anyone’s guess – but maybe that was never the motivation.
Further details of the SNP’s pact with the Greens, which might well involve a couple of ministerial jobs, are expected this week.
The notion that it might also lead to the creation of any other kind of job – beyond the confines of Holyrood – is a tough one to credit.
Alex Salmond, for all his faults, devoted a lot of effort to building bridges with business ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.
They were reduced to smouldering ruins long ago by his successor and finance ministers who were either clueless, or knee-jerk tax-hikers, or both.
After the ravages of a pandemic that brought economies around the world to a state of grinding paralysis, the messaging from our political masters has never mattered more.
Yet the First Minister is signing off an agreement with a gaggle of Left-wingers for whom ‘profit’ and ‘economic growth’ are dirty words.
With the Greens’ back-up in the last parliament, middle-class families were hit by a £55million tax bombshell.
Naturally, they’re committed to ‘progressive’ taxation, and their main ambition is a ‘tax on all wealth and assets above the £1million threshold, including property, land, pensions and other assets’.
The Greens aim to review land inheritance laws to prevent automatic succession and predictably are keen to encourage more community land buyouts, ensuring that communities are not forced to pay market values for land to ‘wealthy landowners’.
How disturbing that these ‘lentil-munching, sandal-wearing watermelons’ – as the Greens were memorably branded by Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser (green on the outside but red on the inside) – are on the cusp of government.
You might recall that Green co-leader Patrick Harvie and some of his cohorts were photographed after the May election on a visit to an Edinburgh pub near Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence – breaking the lockdown cap on three households socialising together.
Only a few weeks before, Mr Harvie had stressed the importance of behaving ‘carefully’ and ‘cautiously’ as lockdown was eased – and urged people to ‘obey the rules’.
It seems he’s more than happy to preach but not necessarily to practise the content of his smarmy sermons – and we can expect many more of them in the months to come.
In 2015, Mr Harvie said capitalism was not ‘sustainable’ – and would end because it ‘must end’.
So it’s unlikely that he’ll be put in charge of promoting business – but then anything is possible (and in fairness he and his chums did do their bit for the ailing pub trade).
Then there’s Green MSP Ross Greer, who denounced Sir Winston Churchill as a ‘white supremacist mass murderer’, claiming that he is part of ‘our… shameful history’.
(Ross Greer: Jewish campaigners found his election ‘disconcerting’)
When he was elected in 2016, Jewish campaigners said it was ‘deeply disconcerting to Jews and to all right-minded people in Scotland’ that Mr Greer had voiced public support of Palestinian terror group Hamas – and had even boasted online that he had ‘wound up the Zionist lobby’.
He’s also an avowed critic of private schools – will a fresh war on the independent sector be part of the price the Greens exact for their ‘co-operation deal’ with Miss Sturgeon?
It might help to distract from the abject failure of her crusade to close the attainment gap.
And it’s worth remembering that neither Mr Greer nor his colleagues were directly elected in a constituency vote, and won their places in parliament as ‘list MSPs’.
Nor are they quite as cuddly as they might seem, according to former Green MSP Andy Wightman who recently hit out at Mr Harvie’s leadership and condemned the party for what he alleged was an intolerant approach to the debate around trans rights.
There’s an ugly strain of radicalism that has little to do with the environment among the Greens, the SNP’s facilitators-in-chief – whose sycophancy has finally paid off.
For the SNP, it’s a clever way of removing a political party from opposition – but then again it’s not as if the Greens provided much of that anyway.
In theory, Mr Harvie and his right-on crew will be able to protest about SNP policies even once their grubby agreement is ratified, but it seems unlikely – why change the habits of a political lifetime?
And it suits Miss Sturgeon to have the Greens propping her up to maintain the dubious claim of a pro-independence majority at Holyrood (although more than half of Green voters don’t support separation).
But that’s unlikely to stop her pointing out that the two parties of government in Edinburgh are in favour of tearing Scotland out of the UK.
(Double act: Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie)
It won’t change anything but might buy her some time with a restive power-base struggling to remember what they saw in her in the first place – and to outsiders it looks good ahead of the climate change summit in Glasgow this autumn.
Meanwhile, like the rest of us businesses are waiting with more than a degree of trepidation to see what this marriage of convenience means for them.
While the talks went on, the fate of 500 soon to be ex-workers at McVitie’s in Tollcross, Glasgow, along with about another 400 people in the supply chain, wasn’t exactly at the top of the First Minister’s agenda.
She had more pressing matters in mind, although she did spare some time to meet a couple of executives at Pladis, the Turkish company which owns McVitie’s, neither of whom controls the purse-strings – it didn’t work.
Pladis is planning to expand south of the Border at sites in London and Carlisle – which makes you wonder why it’s opting out of Scotland.
The answer isn’t hard to work out – neverendum is bad for business and employers are sick of it, especially after the last 17 months of economic turmoil.
The SNP showed time and time again a tin ear for the requirements of the business world as it imposed lockdown regulations with limited notice which betrayed a lack of basic knowledge – remember John Swinney tying himself in knots about vertical drinking and masked dancing?
Now a party that came fourth in the Holyrood election, which is anti-manufacturing and anti-business, is homing in on some of the levers of power.
That means a much higher risk of jobs being tossed on the scrap heap – and the economy being placed firmly on the backburner.
It’s a steep price to pay for a coalition of chaos that no one actually voted for.
And it proves that the one union that the SNP is willing to contemplate is a partnership that could make us all immeasurably poorer.
*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on August 17, 2021.
*Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant