Waiting for Change
A bombshell Freedom of Information disclosure and a Humza Yousaf gaffe pose huge questions for the SNP's General Election Strategy. Plus: planes, trains and buses.
For months now Humza Yousaf’s election strategy has been muddled. First, he had to square his analysis that Scots were not ready to support leaving the UK with an election position that a vote for his party was a vote for independence. Then, with Labour running neck and neck with his party in the polls, his strategy was to argue that there was no difference between Labour and the Tories.
Yesterday two things happened that turned that muddle into a midden.
Youaf Wants a Labour Government
Firstly Yousaf finally accepted that Labour was preferable to a Conservative government and talked about Scotland’s place outside inside the UK, rather than outside it:
“I want to see Rishi Sunak out of the door…I think that's a good thing. But the best outcome for Scotland is, yes, a Labour minority government where the SNP MPs are able to make sure Scotland is not forgotten about."
So the SNP Leader’s position now is that:
he wants the Conservatives to lose - but not by too much
he wants a Labour government - but doesn’t want you to vote for one
and says that voting SNP will deliver independence - but it will also secure a stronger position for Scotland within the UK.
Makes perfect sense.
Labour needs simply to repeat: Humza Yousaf says a Labour government is best for Scotland, so vote for one.
Vote for Change…In 8 Years’ Time
Just as damaging to Yousaf’s strategy yesterday was the publication of previously secret advice on an independent Scotland’s prospects for joining the European Union. Generally speaking, you can tell how much a government didn’t want to release information by how long it took them to release it. This request was submitted way back in 2021 so they really didn’t want you to see it.
The document directly contradicts what SNP politicians have been saying for years. For example, the document suggests Scotland cannot join the EU under the SNP’s currency policy and we would be required to sign up to the Euro:
“There may be areas in which Scotland, upon independence, is not ready to take on the full requirements of EU membership. Key among those is the currency question.”
“The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union obliges all Member States to adopt the euro and only Denmark and the UK have formal opt-outs; all newer members have been required to join the EMU.”
And that lowering a border with the EU means erecting one with England:
“The more integrated that an independent Scotland were to become with the EU, the greater the barriers to trade and cooperation that would arise on the island of Great Britain.”
But most damaging is how long they say it would take Scotland to join the EU:
“The best case scenario for Scotland would involve a total timeline 3-4 years and the upper limit could be up to 8 years…”
Why does this matter for the SNP’s general election strategy? The party has consistently said that its response to the cost of living crisis would be joining the EU as an independent state. Whatever your views on the EU (and I want to see us rejoin) the SNP is now fighting an election on a platform of doing something to help people in 8 years’ time.
At Your Expense
The media are having lots of fun with the disclosure of credit card spending by the Scottish Government. Stories of spending on yoga or nail polish are largely frivolous, but the story about Nicola Sturgeon spending thousands of pounds on airport upgrades so she could be met like a VIP brought to mind the great Australian Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. In 1973 he decided that all his Ministers would fly economy. Facing complaints he responded:
“I travel economy and I'm a great man and I could travel economy the rest of my life and I'd still be a great man. But most of the people around this table are pissants, and they could travel first-class the rest of their lives and they'd still be pissants.”
He understood that greatness in politics comes from doing great things not from seeking status.
Talking about politicians not travelling like the rest of us…another great Gough Whitlam line was when he was pressed on who would succeed him. What would happen if he fell under a bus, he was asked. "With the improvements, my government has initiated in urban transport, this is unlikely to happen,” he replied.
In Scotland, you would be lucky to find a bus to run you over if you did fall over. New figures show two-fifths of bus services have been cut since the SNP came to power in 2007 - more than 1,200 routes gone. And this is before First Bus cancel night services in Glasgow.
For years now the SNP has sat on powers that would allow for bus services to be taken into local control. The traditional explanation for this was their closeness to bus-magnate Brian Souter, but I think the real reason is more fundamental to the way our society works.
Nearly half of people in Scotland with an income of less than £10,000 travelled by bus once a week or more compared to a sixth of those with an income over £40,000. Yet those on buses are seeing their fares rise by up to 15% while those on trains by less than 5%. Bus passengers get screwed because Scottish Minitser know they have less economic and political power than those on trains.
New Edition of NoNSense
My occasional series on the common myths, misinformation and madcap conspiracy theories of Scottish nationalism continues with a biggie. One of the most-repeated phrases in Scottish political debate is ‘The Vow Was a Lie’. It’s extraordinary because it is a claim made without any evidence whatsoever. It is a feeling in search of facts. Read the latest edition of NoNSense here.