14 December 2015

Will the SNP ever get round to fixing Scotland?


Devotees of the Bridge, the Scandi-noir television hit featuring a blonde detective and her chubby grey-haired lothario sidekick, will have noticed that the bridge in the series that links Sweden and Denmark is a very nice bridge. Look how robust it is. Look at the clean lines and robust metalwork.

If only the same could be said about the Forth Road Bridge, the tired old main artery linking Edinburgh with Scotland north of the river. Scotland’s bridge is, of course, closed to all traffic until January the 5th at the earliest because a crack has been found in a truss. The results in terms of traffic and rail transport chaos have been predictable. Incidentally, anyone from Fife, on the other side of the river trying to get across into Edinburgh and into civilisation, who thinks the trains are crowded during this emergency should try getting a train into London from the home counties any morning of the week. That’s real overcrowding.

Anyway, I mention the shame of Scotland’s closed bridge for a simple reason. Critics claim it could have been repaired easily with minimum disruption years ago if the SNP had not cut the maintenance budget, and abolished the toll, crossing their fingers that the second Forth Bridge that is under construction would be open in time. Alas, it won’t.

This is serious stuff that might – just might – cut through to sleepy voters. The SNP has been in government for eight years north of the border, and has control of transport and infrastructure policy. You might think, in the circumstances, that every minute of valuable ministerial time would be devoted to fixing problems that are in the First Minister’s purview, considering the wide range of powers the Scottish parliament has.

But no, not a bit of it. Today, Nicolas Sturgeon is continuing her lecture tour in which she travels to capitals and lectures other people about their failings and what must be done instead.

Sturgeon is in London, to meet Prime Minister David Cameron. Apparently, she is going to give him a piece of her mind about trade union legislation (which is a UK-wide matter, for obvious reasons, the UK being one labour market). She will also complain that there is not enough money, to which Cameron – amusingly – can now respond that if this is the way she feels she now has the power to raise taxes in Scotland.

The London trip follows a French trip. Last week Scottish devolved ministers were in Paris for the climate junket. It is unclear why they were there, although the French capital is very nice at this time of year. No doubt they were attending important seminars and choking down glasses of French wine and canapés at save the planet drinks receptions.

They are behaving as though everything in the SNP’s area of responsibility is in tremendous shape and they have spare time to go on the galavant. But they should have plenty to be getting on with at home, considering that they have made a mess of policing in Scotland. Their educational record is a national disgrace, in which the poorest pay the price of subsidies for the middle classes. Their “named person” measure, which appoints a state-sanctioned guardian for every young person is only the latest authoritarian move by a party that is obsessed with control. And at every turn they blame Westminster and howl about a supposed shortage of funds and austerity.

Rather than travelling around lecturing other people, shouldn’t the SNP get on and fix what it can in Scotland – its bridge, the education system, its NHS, its policing – before the voters notice that actually the supposedly competent Nationalists are rubbish at the tricky business of government?

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.