The Scottish National Party conference in Perth ought to have been a festival of ideas, showcasing solutions that only be applied by independence. Instead it has reminded everyone that the SNP is bereft of ideas* – and why the union is not in as much danger as Alex Salmond makes out.
Salmond’s speech laid into the “Lord Snooties” down south, and the “London government” which would “put this first class nation in the second class carriages.” His message – and that of his colleagues – seemed to be that an independent Scotland would have so much money that it’d be first class for everyone.
Nicola Sturgeon’s speech suggested that the problem of Scottish poverty is not enough welfare payments. “Independence is about having the powers we need to eradicate, once and for all, the obscenity of child poverty in our rich society,” she said. Quite – but powers to do what? She didn’t say. The irony is that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform agenda, which could yet make British poverty history, was born in Glasgow. He visited in Easterhouse, one of Glasgow’s welfare ghettoes, and realised that Britain was making the most expensive poverty in the world. IDS did so because Scotland is part of his country, and he cares what happens there.
George Osborne’s decision to cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p was attacked by Sturgeon: “I do not believe that would ever be Scotland’s choice.” Entrepreneurs, take note. Alex Neil, now health minister, also said an independent Scotland would mean “a fair tax system that places the heaviest burden on the broadest shoulders”. Translated: tax the rich even more!
The SNP conference has heard that the answer to every problem is more money. Here’s Kenny MacAskill, now in charge of policing:-
Swingeing budget cuts imposed by the Coalition Government mean I have to make changes to legal aid. They seem intent on abandoning a legal aid system south of the Border. We seek to preserve the integrity of it here. But, without independence all we can do is mitigate the damage.
Scotland’s state spending/GDP ratio is about 53pc, according to the CEBR, one or the highest in the planet. And still the SNP makes out that Scotland is being kept on starvation rations by the parsimonious English.
The SNP conference was at its weakest when trying to define Britain: not as the nation of Olympic triumph but as an institution whose main purpose is to fight evil wars. Here’s Alex Neil again:-
The ‘No’ campaign claims that the UK has been a raving success: Tell that to every family who have lost a young son or husband or brother because of the illegal war in Iraq. Tell that to the young men who have been serving in Afghanistan without the proper equipment to keep them safe and protected – many being the same young brave men who on their return from Afghanistan are now being rewarded with a P45. The UK hasn’t been a raving success for them.
Set aside what the UK military has given Scotland, the teenagers who left school with no qualifications and were given them an education and a career by the military (my dad amongst them). Set aside the fact that the UK was pretty successful at winning two world wars. If an independent Scotland would be as pacifist as the SNP claims then it would be military P45s all round.
It’s been a bad summer for the SNP. The Olympics showed how popular Britishness is amongst Scots, as Salmond’s laughable “Scolympians” notion was ignored by a country which has never been as petty and small-minded as the SNP. If Salmond’s lot did have great new ideas for an independent Scotland, the union may be in some danger. But judging by the SNP conference, the union looks pretty safe.
PS This article has been up for five whole minutes, without me being denounced by Cybernats. Where are you all?
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.