with incomfortabe echioelThe major curiosity in the last gasp of the Scottish Election campaign has been SNP Leader, Nicola Sturgeon’s sudden ramping up of the possibility of indyref 2.
Yes, she is still caveating like mad, hoping that the faithful will be gulled by the headlines; and, yes, it is inconceivable that she would move for a second referendum in the near to medium term – but she has started the game of inflaming expectations.
Is the SNP’s private polling showing less stratospheric results than they had hoped?
Is RISE splitting the indy vote?
Are the Greens looking likely to steal more electoral crumbs than the SNP would tolerate?
Has the campaign strategy of focusing on ideas, propositions and more uncosted giveaways failed to disguise the fact that the party has had nine years to put ideas and propositions into action – and nine years to pay for the constant stream of giveaways that has marked their tenancy of government?
Is nine years of inaction taking its toll on the vote?
In that nine years the SNP has done very little except mismanage and degrade performance in the key areas of education, health and policing – and make Scotland an entrenched and divided nation, viscerally focused on a single core constitutional issue that must be resolved if healing and growth are to be achievable.
And in that nine years, far from paying for the headline spending to buy mass votes, Finance Secretary John Swinney has:
- been revealed in December 2015 by a Guardian investigation, with uncomfortable echoes of Robert Maxwell and Philip Green, to have covertly borrowed billions from pension funds as well as international banks and the UK Treasury. This spending spree is calculated to reach £50 Billion of debt by 2020.
- run up a deficit of £15 Billion fo Scotland.
The current deficit [£14.9 Billion in 2014-15] is a near record for Scotland – and includes Scotland’s geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenues.
The deficit figures released in March this year by Scotland’s own responsible body, Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland [GERS] revealed the deficit that is his deficit is 9.7% of Scotland’s GDP – twice that of the UK whose deficit of £89Bn is 4.9% of its GDP.
The deficit is 17% of that of the UK – where Scotland’s GDP is around 8% of the UK’s – something of a negative double whammy.
Were Scotland to have been independent in this performance, it would have been in the red by £2,800 per person in Scotland, raising £10,000 per person in tax revenues and spending £12,800 per person.
This is a deficit per head of 28% between earning and spending.
What Scottish household could fail to understand the impact of such a deficit on their own domestic finances?
The cost of trailing indyref 2
The sudden switch of campaign emphasis to trailing the possible imminence of indyref 2 is putting party before country in irresponsible degree.
Uncertainty as to Scotland’s near term constitutional future, ratcheted up by the once and future First Minister herself, could not be more damaging to Scotland’s economic recovery.
Businesses will not invest for growth until they have clarity to breed financial confidence. External investors will be in similar limbo. Meanwhile, jobs leach from the North Sea.
Now we have a specific timeline for indyref 2
This uncertainty took another hike on 1st May, with Ms Sturgeon telling the indy paper, The Herald on Sunday, that: ‘I will lead Scotland to independence’.
So how long can she seriously be looking to be around to do that? There is the key to the timeline we now have.
Apart from the bathos of the echo of Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land, this Sturgeon pledge sets a timeline to which attention must be paid.
The SNP have had nine years in power already and are certain to win another five in the Scottish Election in three days time, Thursday, 5th May.
Margaret Thatcher got eleven years and three election victories.
Her successor, John Major got seven years and one election victory. Like Sturgeon, he inherited his role mid term from his predecessor without the benefit of an election . He went on to win one election on his own account, as she will do this week – and then suffered a cataclysmic loss to Tony Blair.
Blair got ten years and three election victories before handing over mid term to Gordon Brown – who failed fatally at the first attempt to win an election under his own banner.
Nicola Sturgeon cannot count on being First Minister of Scotland for more than this coming five years.
Her party now has no choice but to confront the state of decline their politically motivated inaction has brought about in the loss of direction in key public services; and in addressing a range of important issues they had conveniently buried but which cannot stay down for much longer.
These include managing Scotland’s income tax regime and managing other taxes devolved to Holyrood – and fracking.
The omens are not good.
Scotland’s unemployment rate, its economy and its deficit are unpromising to say the least and do not stand comparison with those of the UK.
Its spending plans are unsustainable.
John Swinney has made something of a cock-up of his first effort at tax creation – the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax with which he replaced Stamp Duty. This has damaged sectors of the housing market and has failed to deliver on the target he set for revenue raising.
It’s early days yet but it’s been rather a cack-handed first go.
The income tax proposals for Scotland, led by the First Minister as her own, with no credit attributed to the Finance Secretary, sees the country’s key middle earners facing a tax hike that will make them – between income tax and council tax- more highly taxed than their counterparts south of the border.
The Daily Mail – the best selling and most successful campaigning newspaper in the UK – continues to conduct a successful campaign to expose the multiple dangers and inoperability of the dreadfully ill-conceived Named Person clause in the Children and Young People [Scotland] Act 2014.
The impact of this campaign – which has publicised this atrociously illiberal and incompetent piece of legislation south of the border – will act as a brake on families with children considering migration to Scotland.
Were they to do so, their children would immediately be placed under the supreme authority of state guardianship through a Named Person, whether or not their parents chose to engage in the process.
And so – the date
The SNP are looking at the 2021 Scottish Election as one in which their popularity will be substantially less – a process that has already begun with even Ms Sturgeon’s gold-plated popularity ratings on the plunge.
As For Argyll has said, this scenario is likely to see the SNP with no choice but to play the indy card in that election, to try to ensure their re-election.
Ms Sturgeon’s announcement in yesterday’s Sunday Herald can only be tied to such a timeline.
The politician who insists that she and her party take nothing for granted in the coming shoe-in election on Thursday, cannot be counting on her and the SNP’s gaining yet another majority in the 2021 election – and considering indyef 2 in that later term.
To do that they would in any case have to make it a manifesto matter in that election, seeking a mandate of a second referendum.
Should Ms Sturgeon and the SNP win in 2021, they cannot with any realism be contemplating now the certainty of their winning again in 2026 – making that decade-distant term the one in which Sturgeon sees herself as ‘leading Scotland to independence’.
The announcement in the Sunday Herald means one thing – that if Nicola Sturgeon is to lead Scotland to independence, the 2021 election is her only real chance of doing so.
In the foothills of endgame
That means five more years of putting off all hard decisions, leaving Scotland in limbo with scant investment, with businesses relocating their registration at least in necessary self-protection; and with yet more freebies by the bucket load, paid for by continuing covert borrowing – towards a deficit on a scale an independent Scotland could never support.
One sure fact is that Scotland will tire of the SNP and tire of Nicola Sturgeon, She lacks the depth of personality and she and her party are too much of a one note samba to survive in a politics always hungry for the new.
They have been that ‘new’ – in major measure.
They are now the establishment in every way.
The spell would appear to be weakening and the feet of clay are visible under the tattered hem of the flouncy skirts that had concealed them.
We are in the foothills of endgame – which will still be some time away.
Ms Sturgeon’s sudden conjuring of the possibility of an early second independence referendum – expectations of which she has previously striven to cool – is a desperate play to arrest what she must privately see as the start of a decline.
Thursday will indubitably see MS Sturgeon elected as First Minister on her own account.
However, the fearfulness and caution that led her to fail to understand the momentum the SNP infantry had placed in her novice hands – and that would have secured independence had she had the boldness to announce early that she would make it a 2016 manifesto mandate – may well limit her time at the top.
Hence 2021 is looking certain to be, willy nilly, a last throw of the dice.