It is now over a year since the Scottish Parliament passed a piece of legislation. But Scotland is no SNP-ruled utopia which has no need of legislative reform or intervention.
Over the past year the number of people in Scotland living in relative poverty has increased by 2%. Child poverty has increased by 4%. The income of the top 10% of the population is now 38% higher than that of the bottom 40%. Two years ago the difference was 15%. Spending on schools has declined by 5% in recent years. For seven years in a row the number of teachers for pupils with Additional Support Needs has fallen.
Under the SNP, pupil performance in numeracy and literacy has declined. Since the SNP came to power in 2007 the number of FE student places in Scotland has slumped from 379,000 to 270,000. With another 10,000 places being cut last year, the decline continues. Apart from English students, students in Scotland do not pay undergraduate tuition fees. But the amount of money allocated for non-repayable student bursaries is falling while levels of student debt are increasing.
Scotland has the worst record in the UK for getting poorer students into university. Life expectancy and health lag behind the rest of the UK in many areas. This was the case before the SNP came to power. But the gap between life expectancy in Scotland and England is increasing — to Scotland’s disadvantage. nhs cuts After adjustment for inflation, spending on the NHS under the SNP has declined.
NHS Scotland cancelled almost 8,000 operations last year for “non-clinical” reasons, such as a lack of beds or staff, or dirty equipment. Nearly 700 patients died in Scottish hospitals last year despite being medically fit to leave, with delays caused by a lack of care home vacancies or a failure to put in place support in their own home.
Housebuilding in Scotland in recent years has been stagnant or increased only slightly. Scotland’s economy is growing at just a third of the rate of the UK as a whole (0.7%, compared with 2.1%). Scotland is currently running a deficit of £15 billions, representing 10% of its Gross Domestic Product. Annual oil revenue is running at £76 millions, compared with £2.3 billions in 2014/15. This is not the record of a left-leaning social-democratic government. It is not even the record of a half-efficient centre-right government. It is the record of failure by a nationalist party whose sole priority is a policy (i.e. independence) rejected by a majority of the electorate in 2014.
Despite its record of failure in government, the SNP has found time to stage a Holyrood “debate” on a second referendum on Scottish independence; this was suspended after the Westminster attack.
The cybernats knew, of course, that it could not be a coincidence that such an (alleged) incident occurred just as Holyrood was debating a second referendum: “How convenient that they [the media] were all there, helicopter and all, when the random ‘terrorist’ attack occurred! It’s becoming all so predictable, on the day when Holyrood were debating #Scotref.”
But the SNP was always going to back a second referendum, despite opposition from a majority of the electorate. The Scottish Greens were always going to back the SNP, despite their manifesto commitment to support a second referendum only if a million Scottish voters signed a petition calling for one. And Theresa May had made it clear well that the Tories in Westminster would not — at least in the immediate future — agree to the “Section 30 order” needed to allow a second referendum to take place.
The SNP’s pretext for a second referendum is that a majority in Scotland voted “Remain” in last June’s referendum on membership of the EU, whereas a majority at UK level voted “Leave”. But now the SNP has pulled back from linking independence for Scotland to membership of the EU. This is to avoid alienating the 38% of Scottish voters, and the 34% of SNP voters, who backed “Leave” last June.