This swill-tub of hypocrisy was red meat for Nationalist die-hards — but Scotland just isn’t listening
THERE was an important admission buried in Nicola Sturgeon’s conference address yesterday, amid all the platitudes and reheated pledges.
With no detectable sense of irony, she condemned the UK Government for engineering needless conflict with the EU in the aftermath of Brexit.
‘Years or even decades of arguments with the EU is a recipe for instability and economic weakness,’ she cautioned, calling for ‘more co-operation, not less’.
Really? Is this the same Nicola Sturgeon who has devoted most if not all of her political energy to driving a wedge between Scotland and England at every turn?
If it is, then presumably she now has to concede that her own strategy has proved a ‘recipe for instability’ and a weak economy — effectively her message is: ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’
But then she has tied her party’s fortunes to the Marxist Greens, who are avowed enemies of the very concept of economic growth.
There were about 5,500 words in yesterday’s speech and the word ‘economy’ featured three times, while there were 23 mentions of ‘independence’.
Lots of cash was committed to laudable projects including more money for poorer children — but naturally there wasn’t any discussion of how to pay for it.
A strong economy would help, and it would give the NHS a boost, but there’s no indication that the SNP has any notion of how to create one.
The Barnett formula, which gives Scotland a share of UK Government spending, has made much of this spending possible, but of course the SNP wants it to stop.
That didn’t prevent the First Minister from accusing the Tories of an ‘assault on devolution’ — when in reality she’s the one who wants to tear it apart in favour of Scotland going it alone.
More than ever, Miss Sturgeon sounded like a crazed conspiracy theorist as she outlined the threat posed by a malign Tory administration working against Scotland’s interests.
The ‘current Westminster government is not a willing partner’ and ‘instead of helping to lay those foundations, it is undermining them’ — it’s simply not committed to ‘collaborative working’.
Pointing to the success of the vaccine scheme, Miss Sturgeon said ‘27,000 people [in Scotland are] alive today who would not be if we had no vaccines’.
And of course she was right when she said that ‘for all I know that might include my mum and dad, or yours, or indeed many of you’.
But the vaccines were masterminded by a Tory government in London, and Scotland benefited from its prescience, and its logistical prowess.
While demanding greater co-operation, Miss Sturgeon is also re-committing her administration to separatism — the antithesis of collaborative working.
She’s also denying the vital role of the Union in administering those vaccines that have saved tens of thousands of lives.
The First Minister also took time yesterday to write a letter, co-signed by her Welsh counterpart, to Boris Johnson, urging a Cobra meeting as soon as possible, and an assurance of Treasury support if lockdown measures were needed in Scotland but not England.
There was a petty swipe at Mr Johnson when she condemned the ‘Westminster system that enables someone like him to become Prime Minister in the first place’ — someone who was elected with a huge majority (unlike her).
Hardly a masterstroke of diplomacy — pleading for more furlough cash while ‘othering’ the man with the purse-strings…
It’s a swill-tub of contradictions, and Miss Sturgeon was saved from exploring how independence would work by the new Covid variant, a topic which dominated the first half of her speech.
In that sense, it was something of a cut-and-shut address, splicing together doom-laden warnings about the pandemic with a vision of what life could be like if the yoke of Tory rule were to be lifted.
Covid has demonstrated that crude nationalism has had its day — the virus is no respecter of borders, and Miss Sturgeon and her colleagues are obsessed with them.
But it’s the only shtick she knows — an old trouper running through familiar material, to an audience that shows every sign of having tired of her failed gimmicks.
Her speech was also an opportunity to engage in a bit of mud-slinging about ‘Westminster’, playing to the virtual gallery, and throwing some much-needed red meat to her enervated support base.
The First Minister declared: ‘I defy anyone to look at the broken, corrupt, self-serving Westminster system that we are currently part of and conclude that it provides a secure basis for the future of Scotland.’
Talking of ‘broken’, isn’t that an adjective that could be applied to the Scottish political system under the SNP’s rule?
Consider Salmondgate, when Miss Sturgeon and her cohorts tried to discredit a Holyrood committee which concluded that she had misled parliament.
Her deputy John Swinney disgraced himself by releasing legal advice relating to the affair in piecemeal fashion, and there was a censorship row about the impartiality of the prosecution service — whose boss has a seat at the Cabinet table.
A separate inquiry cleared Miss Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code but the final report was heavily redacted, with more than 1,100 words excised.
Meanwhile the SNP is at the centre of a police investigation over the whereabouts of £600,000 of donations.
So it’s clear that most of the stones being lobbed at the UK Government were cast from the sanctuary of a glass house.
Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive and the First Minister’s husband, has kept a relatively low profile in recent months, but popped up on Twitter yesterday to hail the delivery of the 200,000th ‘baby box’.
That’s about the only thing the party can lay claim to have delivered in its 14 years in office — a glorified goody bag.
Sensing the SNP malaise, many of its most ardent fans are steering clear of weekend marches through town and city centres (much as Miss Sturgeon always has).
The Nationalists are fighting battles from a pre-Covid era, while backing for their radical vision of constitutional upheaval drains away from the grassroots.
They bite the hand that helps to feed the country they profess to love — but their only big plan for the future is ripping it off entirely.
You might well wonder if anyone is buying this lunacy, and the polls tell us the answer — not nearly as many as last year, and from Miss Sturgeon’s perspective not nearly enough.
Her regime is beginning to buckle under the weight of its own hypocrisies — and its leader is still trotting out toxic distortions and indeed fabrications about wicked colonial oppressors in London.
It was tin-foil hat fare for the secret oilfield brigade, but it’s not clear that even the die-hard acolytes of old are listening anymore.
The SNP is an echo-chamber party, talking increasingly to itself and not to a country that deserves better than the same old diet of grievance and denial.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on November 30, 2021.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant