So would YOU buy a car from Sturgeon, the Arthur Daley of Scottish politics?
NEVER has a political leader clocked up so many enthusiastic standing ovations during a conference speech for saying so little of any substance.
By the halfway mark of the First Minister’s keynote address, there had been eight of them, with her ministers, resembling the old Soviet Politburo, faithfully clapping every platitude — and there were many of them.
But it was also a speech full of sleight-of-hand and industrial-strength spin — the kind of slick pitch that second-hand car salesman Arthur Daley would have been proud of.
Having spent much of Sunday reassuring people she didn’t hate the Tories, after saying she detested them, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that ‘independence is actually the best way to protect the partnership on which the United Kingdom was founded’.
It’s the kind of Orwellian doublethink that we’ve come to expect from the SNP — but even then it’s an ambitious proposition: strengthen the partnership of nations by tearing it apart.
Well, it’s certainly a different take, or a new gloss on an old idea — indeed the party’s only real idea.
Daley might well have deployed a similar tactic when he assured his customers that the cut-and-shut car he was trying to flog them had only one careful previous owner, who used it for the shopping once a week.
The shtick about reaching out to No voters and respecting their opinions was hard to stomach after Sunday’s ‘hate gate’ row.
Only in Scotland could there be a raging semantic debate about the difference between ‘detest’ and ‘hate’ — like a dark version of Countdown’s Dictionary Corner.
Yesterday’s speech was an attempt to move on from those playground taunts to something more meaningful — but inevitably it collapsed under the weight of its own glaring contradictions.
Miss Sturgeon spoke up for institutions that have ‘shaped our shared history like the NHS, a fair social security system [and] public service broadcasting’.
The threat to these institutions, she asserted, ‘comes not from an independent Scotland but from UK Governments that are dismantling or undermining them’.
Yet while the health budget in Scotland is projected to go up by 2.5 to 3 per cent, NHS England will receive an average real-terms annual increase of 3.8 per cent over the next three years.
The First Minister wants to ‘embed a universal NHS in a written constitution’, providing a ‘constitutional right to healthcare free at the point of need’.
Meanwhile, the number of Scots on NHS waiting lists for treatment, a hospital appointment or a diagnostic test has soared to almost 750,000.
At least the NHS ‘constitution’ would give patients something to read during those gruelling waits in A&E departments…
The institutions threatened by ‘UK Governments’ are in fact most at risk from Miss Sturgeon’s own government, which has no idea how to run them effectively, or no interest in doing so.
And Miss Sturgeon had nothing but withering contempt for the ‘so-called “broad shoulders” of the UK’, which she said were ‘not benefiting’ Scotland.
It was a statement that could only hold true if you don’t count furlough, vaccines, and help with soaring energy bills as benefits — while the Union ‘dividend’, according to the Scottish Government’s own figures, is at a record high of nearly £2,200 for every man, woman and child.
Much of the speech sought to adopt a stateswoman-like tone, with Miss Sturgeon condemning ‘tyranny and oppression’.
She told Ukrainian refugees: ‘You have a home here in Scotland’ — even if that home is one of two ferries, berthed in Edinburgh and Glasgow (perhaps not quite the safe harbour many of them had in mind).
The land of milk and honey outlined by the SNP’s visionaries is always just beyond reach — but until we get there, it seems little, if anything, can be done about current deficiencies in public services.
Just wait until independence — in the first decade, there will be £20billion of investment from a fund called ‘Building a New Scotland’.
It will ‘invest remaining oil revenues’ — but hang on, hasn’t the SNP turned its back on the oil industry, in the process jeopardising 100,000 jobs?
These were mere details, and the applause continued to fill the hall.
The nuts and bolts of how the economy of an independent Scotland would work are to be revealed in a forthcoming paper.
On the currency front, the brilliant idea at the heart of the prospectus appears to be strikingly similar to the one the SNP has been endorsing, albeit in low-key fashion, for several years — sterlingisation.
It’s the kind of policy common in Latin American countries and would mean Scotland busking it with the pound without Treasury consent, or any economic control, until we were able to set up our own currency.
Launching that new currency could cost up to £100billion, to maintain the linkage between the successor to sterling and the pound, and to shore up its defences against speculators.
The First Minister berates Liz Truss for taking risks with the UK economy — but sterlingisation is a gamble of a different magnitude, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
In the meantime, the UK’s highest court — the Supreme Court in London — will today (TUES) start considering whether Holyrood has the legal right to call another referendum.
SNP president Mike Russell has said that if the Supreme Court ‘fails the people of Scotland then we will rise to that challenge too and put our case in the next General Election, whenever that is’.
By that logic, the judges should be in no doubt that if they rule against the SNP, they will have ‘failed’ the entire population of Scotland (presumably even those who don’t want independence — which accounts for most Scots).
Ramping up the pressure on judges — the country’s finest legal minds — is a measure of growing desperation within SNP ranks.
Yesterday in her speech Miss Sturgeon said her government will ‘respect’ the judgment and ‘reflect on it’ — maybe that’s something she should make clear to Mr Russell.
Most legal commentators believe the SNP will lose the Supreme Court case, meaning it will have to activate its Plan B — using the next General Election as a de facto referendum.
John Nicolson, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, yesterday cited Margaret Thatcher to back up the SNP’s belief that a Nationalist win in a General Election could be a default route to independence — supposedly she backed the idea, or so Mr Nicolson believes.
So the hated Tories do have their uses, after all… even the loathed former Tory PM, who remains the ultimate bogeyman for most Nationalists.
The SNP is unlikely to be quite so keen on the election-as-referendum plan if the polls continue to show the party on course for less than 50 per cent of the vote.
No doubt Miss Sturgeon and her sycophantic acolytes will be happy with her warm reception from SNP delegates in Aberdeen — even if she was preaching to the choir.
But for the rest of us in the real world of rising bills and mortgage payments, it was nothing more than the same old snake-oil act from a well-practised political con artist.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on October 11, 2022.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant