SCOTLAND is in a bit of a state. Suffering not just from Covid restrictions, but from a deeper malaise that is worsening by the day. The condition affects all the organs of state and civil society –Parliament, the judiciary, the police, civil service, local government, the health service, the education system, the political establishment, the financial system, the media, the church, and the family – everything here is either broken or breaking down.
The sickness can be traced back to 2007, when the SNP overcame a zombie Scottish Labour Party. It did so by mesmerising Scotland’s poor, people whose votes Labour had taken for granted for generations.
The Nationalists, however, have not brought the benefits they promised. They have brought increased social atomisation, censorship, discord, more ill health, depression, job losses, unprecedented levels of national and personal debt, addiction of every sort- alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, violence, and perhaps even worse than all of this, widespread apathy and despair.
The SNP government’s rule has left many bewildered, unable to make sense of what is going on but recognising that something deeply sinister is happening that they cannot stop.
No one doubts the power of the political machine that is the SNP. It is almost cult-like, and highly disciplined. It has won seemingly impossible majorities at Holyrood and punches well above its weight at Westminster. Anyone speaking out against the Party or The Great Leader is dealt with swiftly and harshly. Scotland is in effect now a one-party state.
On Thursday the Scottish people get to vote again for the SNP, or its proxies Alba and the Greens. If this crew manipulates the proportional representation system to gain a ‘super majority’ for independence at Holyrood, it will mean disaster for dissenters, Scotland, and the United Kingdom.
Alex Salmond’s Alba Party is predicted by a recent Panelbase poll to win seats ‘on the list’ under the PR system in every region of Scotland. The poll says eight seats, Salmond, always ebullient, says 20.
The Greens are predicted to pick up SNP support on the list, estimates suggesting that one in seven SNP constituency voters will give them their regional vote.
Scottish 16- and 17-year-olds enfranchised by David Cameron and the SNP will doubtless also vote for the promise of an Independent Green Utopia, not yet understanding that unicorns do not exist.
Today’s Scotland has extraordinary levels of autonomy, far more than people realise. The SNP control the courts, cultural institutions, development, education, health and social care, law, local government, police, prisons, and tax, though not the military or overseas aid. The problem is that all they want to do – and perhaps all they can do – is whinge about Westminster and independence.
Before Thursday’s vote I had a look at the SNP’s legislative performance to highlight what we can expect from them in an Independent Scotland.
The SNP government have proved to be strongly statist in almost everything they do. They almost instinctively prefer to rule by diktat, legislating for outcomes without tackling the real underlying issues. If Sturgeon were permitted to issue executive orders, she would outpace Biden. This gives a veneer of competence, providing you don’t get too close.
They also appear to have difficulty legislating without criminalisation, creating ‘new crimes’ at twice the rate of the English Parliament. Such an approach reflects a certain distain for democracy and their own citizens. I detail but a few of the SNP laws and do not include Covid Lockdown Rules, egregious though they are.
Perhaps the most sinister of the SNP’s laws is the recently passed Hate Crime and Public Order Scotland Bill. Proposed by Humza Yousaf, the Justice Minister, this legislation is a national disgrace, criminalising as it does ordinary people’s thoughts and actions, even in their own homes. It makes Scotland the most repressive and authoritarian state in Europe, and the political representatives who voted in support of it should be ashamed.
The SNP government has also sought to exercise inappropriate influence on Scotland’s universities. The Higher Education Governance Bill 2016 included a new definition of ‘academic freedom,’ and required that university chairs be elected, rather than appointed. Trades Union representation on university boards and committees was also mandated.
This Bill was challenged on grounds of interference, ‘bad drafting, ministerial overreach, and incompetence’, but passed nonetheless. University principals, almost unanimous in opposition, were publicly silent, fearing that criticism of the SNP would mean a loss of funding.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, created criminal offences concerning sectarian behaviour at football games, such as singing, waving banners and chanting. Applying only to ‘football fans,’ most people thought it very silly indeed – it was repealed in April 2018.
When Sturgeon became First Minister in September 2014, she instigated ‘radical land reforms.’ The legislation includes a ‘sustainable development test,’ under which landowners can be required to release or sell land if they are deemed (by the SNP) to be acting as ‘potential barriers to sustainable local economic and social development’. Critics suggest it was modelled on Robert Mugabe’s ‘liberation’ land reforms in Zimbabwe. The action led to the Land Reform Scotland Act 2016.
2014 was a busy year for Holyrood’s parliamentary drafters. The SNP government passed legislation to introduce a ‘state guardian’ for every child. The ‘named persons’ provision in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 sought to appoint a public sector worker to monitor every child’s ‘wellbeing’. This is the Communist Party approach to children.
Opponents were repelled by the idea and decried the policy as government overreach, Stalinist in its efforts, and a gross intrusion into family life. Only after sustained opposition and a financial assessment of the resource cost was the provision dropped. The clause criminalising parents’ right to discipline their children, however, remains.
There is a clear affinity between the conduct of the SNP in government with that of other oppressive regimes. Lest you think I am exaggerating, consider the impact of only a few of their past legislative behaviours: suppression of free speech and expression; the introduction of laws to prevent public gatherings; interference in family life, restatement of biological facts, censorship, and the ‘cancelling’ of those who object.
That such authoritarianism has been permitted oxygen in the land of David Hume and Adam Smith is testimony to a gross failure of civic Scotland. Too many, including the media, trades unions, universities, the churches, charities, businesses, and prominent individuals have adopted the coward’s way – not daring to offer the SNP the open challenge necessary for a healthy democracy.
As James Baldwin wrote inThe Fire Next Time, ‘Civilisation is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless . . .’