There are few things that the SNP has achieved in 13 years of government, yet their approval ratings fail to take a hit.
There should be little doubt that if any other party had overseen the atrocious governance that Scotland has been consigned to for over a decade, that party would be unelectable for years afterwards, but somehow the SNP seems to escape this fate. For a party who has consistently demanded that they “be judged on education” and who’s main slogan at the 2019 General Election seemed to be “save the NHS from the Tories”, they have failed both the health and education sectors with remarkable frequency.
Andrew Neil confronted Sturgeon with this reality in the run up to the general election: “maybe the NHS needs saving from Nicola Sturgeon?”. The country with the worst drug addiction rate in Europe has seen the SNP cut drug funding by £15 million, miss 6 of their 8 waiting time targets, overseen a new Edinburgh hospital that is 8 years behind schedule, a new Glasgow Hospital who’s contaminated water supply led to the deaths of children and has seen the gap in premature mortality rates between deprived and affluent areas increase to its highest point in 12 years. Yet, the rhetoric from the SNP media machine has always been that this is Westminster’s fault, taking credit for the few successes that they find, and conveniently forgetting that they run the Scottish NHS when greeted by it’s abject failure. Westminster and the opposition parties must do more to force the SNP to deal with their failures.
An SNP government in Holyrood has failed a generation of children. After almost a decade of the SNPs “Curriculum for Excellence” project, Scotland has plunged down the global rankings on maths and science and seen the number of pupils achieving A-C grades at Higher-Level plummet by about 10% in the last year. About 1,515 fewer pupils passed their Higher English exam whilst, in Higher history, the pass rate plummeted by 14.6 % overall. If the SNP are supposed to “be judged on education”, as was their rhetoric, they should be nowhere near government.
How then, do they maintain an undeniably impressive approval and electoral record?
The first, and most simple explanation, is that as a single-issue nationalist party, their policy failures do not really matter to their supporters. Their base does not seem to care about their record, simply that they are the most likely party to deliver IndyRef2. Every SNP failure is attributed to Westminster, or the “English Invaders” that oppose them in Holyrood. Thus, the SNP will always be a protest vote. One which is rarely thought out properly, and more often
emotional than logical. Yet, most worryingly, one which is almost impossible to win over. As Charles de Gaulle put it, “Patriotism is when the love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first”.
The second explanation is one vastly more nefarious. Over the past decade, the SNP has routinely attempted to intimidate those journalists and academics who don’t subscribe to it’s divisive and damaging ideology. The 2014 Referendum was the first dangerous example of what was to come. SNP supporters marched on the BBC Scotland headquarters, banners emblazoned with the face of political editor Nick Robinson who, amongst other journalists, was forced to step up their personal security in the run up to the election. Another example is the case of Stephen Daisley, who was digital politics and comment editor at STV until last year. It is alleged that in 2016, at a STV briefing in Westminster, Pete Wishart and John Nicolson “hijacked” the briefing and launched an “ugly” denunciation of Daisley before Wishart continued the tirade on Social Media. STV removed Daisley from the post, allegedly saying “We can’t afford to have a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee complaining about us.” In addition, Mr Nicolson also asked bosses at Birkbeck College to give a psychology lecturer “a little extra marking” after she criticised him on Twitter whilst SNP minister Shona Robison complained to Dundee University when a respected history professor spoke at a Better Together event. The SNP has routinely engaged with the intimidation of both journalists and academics, stifling criticism of their woeful record and successfully evading proper scrutiny. This is behaviour more befitting of a third world dictatorship than a UK devolved government.
The SNP has failed Scotland. It has fallen short on health, and it has fallen short on education yet it continues to maintain a vice like grip on a nation strangled by it’s failure. It acts as if it is more than a single issue party fundamentally based in toxic nationalist sentiment, with a decade of intimidating the media bringing them into lockstep with it’s nefarious agenda.