The only people who can stop this

by | 13 May 2022

The combination of constant failures, right-wing economics, endemic corruption and constantly-creeping authoritarianism is making the SNP's legacy in government a toxic one. Only the party members can stop it.

Ah right, so the email was titled “CMAL contract aware to Ferguson shipyard – a request for Ministerial approval” with a priority of “high” and was sent from the responsible civil servant to either CMAL or Fergusons (redacted, naturally) containing the words “…moved on as quickly as possible” in the week the contact was agreed? I feel a fool for being so cynical – of course it is totally reasonable that it got lost and took months to find.

Seriously? That’s what we’re meant to believe in Scotland? The Auditor General runs a major inquiry, complains that he can’t find any record of why concerns over a lack of guarantee was overruled and this is what they pull out the hat when under pressure in parliament?

Then think back on all the people suspended from the SNP for a Tweet or a blog someone didn’t like. Think of everything that happened in the Salmond case. Then compare and contrast with what happens when a loyalists politicians is found outright guilty of unwanted sexual contact. Enemies get lectures about integrity, loyalists get to sexually assault young men, have their actions covered up and then get to lead a parliamentary debate on bullying.

There is an inquiry into allegations a government minister was involved in bullying. That inquiry appears to uphold the complaint, but the public isn’t allowed to know ‘because GDPR’? Remember, this is the government which was trying desperately to shove out the conclusions of its not-legally-sound inquiry into Salmond which the police tried to stop them doing but which (phew!) was leaked by ‘someone’ anyway.

Then take a look at increasing signs that the Covid Inquiry is a carefully-designed whitewash, staffed by the people responsible for what is being investigated and refusing to be open and transparent. Really, who doubted it since numerous government agencies have already been trying to whitewash what looks very much like criminal negligence leading to mass fatality.

Once you’ve absorbed enough evidence of government cover-ups, start absorbing some information on how right wing this government is.

Begin with the story that finally broke in Scotland this week that the New York Times has done a lengthy exposé on how the Scottish Government has created a scheme that funnels public money to rich landowners for peat bog restoration and then lets them keep the significant profits in carbon credits.

For context you may then wish to remind yourself that the Scottish Government thinks putting the Executive Chairman of one of the biggest landed estates in Scotland in charge of its plan for economic recovery from Covid is acceptable. Policy is written for and by large landowners.

Buying things without telling your partner is secretive – refusing to disclose crucial information you know you are legally required to disclose and then lying about it is corruption

Then take a look at a new prospectus from the Scottish National Investment Bank which is working full-time to devise a scheme whereby private financiers can make a healthy profit from Scottish householders so the government can effectively privatise the response to climate change. Thatcher only sold the council houses – the Scottish Government is commodifying the householders.

That’s not all it’s been trying to privatise this week. Read Nick Kempe’s description of what leaked documents about the set-up of the National Care Service tell us about the strategy being pursued by the Scottish Government and KPMG (just fined for forging documents) and then try to explain to me what it is that Thatcher would have done differently?

In Committee the Scottish Greens voted in an SNP slate to reject virtually every single progressive amendment made to the pointless, toothless ‘Good Food Nation Bill’. The Scottish Greens have turned into a national disgrace, Nick Clegg to the SNP’s David Cameron.

Of course it’s not just about cover-ups and privatisation, the Scottish Government is centralising and authoritarian. Again, look at their National Care Service Plans or try and find anyone not on the payroll who thinks granting the Scottish Government an automatic right to close businesses and schools without parliamentary approval is necessary or acceptable. Through it’s practices and its policies, the Scottish Government is slowly abolishing the Scottish Parliament.

Before I continue, pause for a second and reflect on the fact that all of the above occurred between Monday 9th May and Thursday 12th of May – four days. This is four days of Scottish Government and we’ve got just shy of 1,500 more of them to go.

Scotland’s journalists got their early interpretation of this government wrong. It read the press releases, watched the speeches and concluded it was a ‘grown up’ government. It has taken them a long time to come round to what the evidence was telling them, but they have been doing a good job in the last couple of years. It must go further.

Redact, deny, hide, misrepresent, cover up – yet still the word the media uses is ‘secretive’. Privatise, merge government with big financial interests, hand policy-making over to the financiers, protect the interests of the landed aristocracy – yet the descriptor the media uses is ‘centrist’.

Buying things without telling your partner is secretive. Refusing to disclose crucial information you know you are legally required to disclose and then lying about it is corruption. Doing it again and again and again is endemic corruption. And the SNP’s economic policy is right-wing, not centrist.

SNP loyalists say I drone on about all of this because ‘McAlpine hates the Scottish Government’. That is not how it started – in early 2015 I remained enthusiastic. It was the weight of evidence which changed my mind.

Scotland is in peril from all of this. Standards in public life are in free-fall, Scotland’s future is being sold cheap to global equity firms and aristocrats and democracy is being undermined.

People say ‘this can be fixed after independence’, but people who say this do not have a sufficient understanding of how hard it will be to reform what is left behind. Common Weal has already looked at how Scotland could reverse the ScotWind scandal and it will take a level of courage not demonstrated by any politician in the Scottish Parliament. Rebuilding a real National Care Service will be much harder once it is centralised and privatised…

If Scotland is to be saved from this awful state of affairs there seems (for now) to be only one group of people who can do anything about it – members of the Scottish National Party.

But here’s the problem; in times past the daily media revelations of incompetence and corruption would have had some kind of implication or consequence, but that doesn’t seem to be the case now. This is exacerbated by the spinelessness of BBC Scotland.

The opposition can’t do anything about it mainly because they are not very good but also because Scotland operates across a constitutional divide and the Scottish Greens have sold their souls. The voters can’t do much about it because indy-supporting voters basically have nowhere to go.

The SNP’s backbenchers could do something about it but given that Cabinet Ministers put their hands up when they want to go to the toilet, backbenchers don’t dare. They just hold it in until they’re excused.

Civic Scotland is divided in two. Half of it is directly attached to the Scottish Government via feeding tubes, the government’s money and patronage buying their silence. The other half, the more progressive half, doesn’t have anything like the leverage to do much about it.

And the wider indy movement has tried to do things around a civic approach to campaigning or to put a progressive vision of independence forward, but they have been undermined on every occasion.

This leaves the primary opposition to the Scottish Government as the Auditor General and the Information Commissioner and they are playing a blinder. But they are required to do so diplomatically and it’s not their job to follow through.

So if Scotland is to be saved from this awful state of affairs there seems (for now) to be only one group of people who can do anything about it – members of the Scottish National Party. I know many of you, I know that things like dirty schemes for funnelling public money into the pockets of big Tory landowners turns your stomach.

I know you voted for a National Energy Company and not a (corrupt if the word means anything) ScotWind auction. I know you want fair and equal treatment of everyone in your party, not lynch mobs for the leadership faction’s enemies and total immunity for its loyal servants. I know you want serious steps forward towards independence, not the pretence you’re being fed.

But whether you like it or not, all of this is being done in your name. If you are permitted a party conference at some point you can act or not act. You can pass motions that show your discontent by supporting decentralisation, strengthening of local democracy, collective ownership of energy, land reform and more. Of course you’ll be ignored like you have been, but it provides a clear message to Scotland.

From there you can exert further pressure. You can put forward motions to censure the Scottish Government, perhaps over ScotWind or the peat bog financial scam. You can get together with colleagues and approach your elected representative and tell them red lines have been crossed and instruct them to pass that message on to whips. You can even vote to censure the Scottish Government.

Of course you’ll need to work together or leadership-controlled HQ will do its usual and lose your submitted motions down wherever it loses inconvenient things. But if you’re determined, you can do it – no-one else can.

I know many of you believe that you don’t need to because there is a referendum next year and after that you don’t need to support the SNP any more. I understand your desire, but there must be a red line for you somewhere. If you feel you must sit through your October conference, bite your tongue and hold your nose, can I suggest perhaps you define that red line for the future.

By next year, at conference, if you are shuffling around saying ‘we did everything we could to hold a referendum but it wasn’t enough so I need to hold my nose a bit longer’, accept that you’re definitely the problem.

The SNP’s legacy in Scotland is now shaping up to be almost entirely toxic and the signs are that no-one but no-one can do anything about it. Except you.

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