As most regular readers will know, I’m not a great fan of the current SNP and especially not a fan of Nicola Sturgeon, current party leader and First Minister. In my view, nothing the SNP have done over the last eight years under Sturgeon’s leadership has brought us one step closer to independence.
In fact, it’s worse than that. Mandates have come and gone, opportunities have come and gone, but still no progress towards what is supposed to be the party’s raison d’etre, the very reason why they were formed almost ninety years ago. Progress has been so slow that the cynical amongst you might be tempted to believe that the lack of progress is a deliberate choice on the part of Nicola Sturgeon; that she is only interested in extending the length of time she remains in power and, to that end, preventing Scotland escaping from this one-sided union.
It has certainly been my view for some time now, but two recent events have, I think, put this view beyond doubt.
The offshore wind ripoff
First was the sale of the off-shore wind energy licences for a tiny fraction of their true worth. For years, the SNP have been talking up Scotland’s enormous potential for renewable energy generation, through wind, wave and hydro, and how that could represent a huge benefit for an independent Scotland, money for the government and jobs for Scottish workers. That, of course, could only be true if the Scottish Government was careful about the way in which licences to develop these resources were granted. Licences would have to be auctioned in a way that would produce the greatest benefit to Scotland, both in terms of getting the highest price possible combined with a guarantee for the involvement of Scottish manufacturing and development resources.
Why then did the ScotWind auction earlier this year place a cap on the maximum amount companies were allowed to bid? What sensible organisation running an auction would decide that no matter how high buyers were prepared to bid, a limit would be placed on the amount the seller was prepared to accept. In this case, the maximum bid was set at £100,000 per sq.km., hence the total of £700m raised from a area of 7000 sq.km. To put it another way, given that the areas auctioned would allow the installation of 25 GW (Gigawatts) of wind power, this represents a price of £28m per Gigawatt.
Was that a fair price? How does it compare with other auctions? Coincidentally, at almost the same time as the ScotWind auction, the US government held an auction for areas just off the coast of New York and New Jersey. This was for a much smaller area than the ScotWind auction, supporting only 7 Gigawatts of wind power, but it raised a total of $4.37bn. Converting to Sterling, this represents a price of £530m per Gigawatt, 19 times the ScotWind price.
What could be the reason for such a difference? Is US energy worth so much more than Scottish energy? Well, let’s look at the average retail price. In the US, the average price is around 9p per kilowatt/hr whereas in the UK, the average price is currently about 28p per kilowatt/hr, but that is expected to rise to 51p per kilowatt/hr in October.
So why did ScotWind place such a tiny limit on the selling price of a resource worth 5 times what it’s worth in the States? Two possible reasons are they were incompetent or it was deliberate. However, one action which goes against the possibility of incompetence, just not knowing the true worth, was a last minute decision to increase the cap on bids from £10,000 per sq.km. to £100,000 per sq.km., so given that they seemed to realise the asking price was far too low, you can assume there was some understanding of the value of what they were selling. You know what reason that leaves.
But that’s not the only bad news. Included in the contract with the buyers is that they will be charged an ongoing annual rent, expected to raise between £50m and £90m for the Scottish Government. Remember the ‘good old days’ when in 2017, Nicola Sturgeon announced at conference that the Scottish Government would create a not-for-profit energy company to sell energy to households in Scotland for “as close to cost price as possible”. Was it really ever likely to happen or was it just announced as a soundbite for the media and for the conference standing ovation. Anyway, it was cancelled last year, coincidentally just before the auction. Had that gone ahead and had a Scottish energy company been responsible for the ownership and selling of the wind power, this would have brought the Scottish Government the full value of the resource, estimated to yield between £3.5bn and £5.5bn annually. Instead, this money is all going to major energy companies, with only crumbs for the Scottish Government and for Scotland.
Mob rule in Perth?
The second event was the SNP’s reaction to recent happenings at the Tory hustings in Perth, the only hustings to be held in Scotland. An anti-Tory demonstration was talked about and, on the day, many hundreds turned up from different groups to protest about Tory government actions and policies. There was a substantial police presence and the protesters were placed behind barriers, somewhat distant from those who turned up to hear the two candidates. Many in the crowd made their feelings known, some using strong language, but there was no violence and nobody was arrested.
Despite that, several Tories who attended the event, and many other unionists who didn’t, described the crowd as consisting of evil nationalist, independence supporting idiots and put messages on social media accusing the evil nationalists of grabbing and spitting at pensioners, all impossible because of the distance between the crowd and the attendees and because of the large number of police, who would have surely taken action had such things happened. So they were just lying. One incident widely discussed was when James Cook, a BBC reporter (not a journalist) approached the crowd and was shouted at by a guy wearing sunglasses and a skipped cap pulled down over his head, not looking in the least suspicious. Apparently, what the guy said what so awful that it threatened the whole concept of freedom of the press and free speech (not the guy’s, obviously) and almost reduced Cook to tears, though whether it was tears of horror, tears of joy or tears of shame was not revealed.
Of course, the gutter press (is that all of them?) picked up on this and, very quickly, the event took on the appearance of an out of control mob of Scots separatists threatening the safety and wellbeing of a group of innocent, mainly elderly Tories going about their lawful business of listening to their potential leaders describing new ways of ripping off Scotland.
That the media printed (and broadcast) such rubbish is pretty much to be expected, but less expected was the reaction of SNP politicians, though perhaps it shouldn’t be. SNP policy now seems to be placate unionists at all cost, no matter how many independence supporters are harmed in the process. Without even a moment’s thought, taking Tory statements as gospel and certainly not taking time to find out for themselves, SNP politicians jumped in with both feet, only too anxious to blame the crowd.
First up was David Linden, apparently only too happy to believe every word from Andrew Bowie, describing what he believed to be independence supporters as morons. Does he really believe tbat independence will be gained by being nice to the Tories?
He was followed by a host of other SNP politicians, including Sturgeon and Swinney, only too happy to blame independence supporters for everything that happened, even though no evidence exists. To be fair, those two were more concerned about Cook than Tories, unlike John Nicholson and Pete Wishart, who just knew it was all Alba’s fault. I wonder why the SNP are so really keen to keep in with the media? Could they be worried about something the media could make public?
So why are the SNP so anxious to demonise independence supporters and other independence supporting groups? Why are the SNP so anxious to keep in with the Tories and the media? Why are the SNP so anxious to split the independence movement? Will these actions bring independence closer?
These two events have served to crystallized my long held opinion that the SNP are no longer the party of independence. Under Sturgeon, the party has morphed into a self-centered group of individuals more interested in their own prosperity than the country’s.
Are they so besotted by the power and the money that they’ll do anything to keep them, no matter who suffers? Has the party been so infiltrated by biology deniers that the leadership are frightened to face up to them? Or has this always been Sturgeon’s cunning plan to become the UN’s World Biology Denying Representative, gathering more money, status and power for herself and for the person she married.
Who knows, apart from the dynamic duo themselves?
What I do know is we have a party in government that is doing everything it can to stop Scots achieving independence and, unfortunately, a change at the top, whether by resignation or sacking, will only bring up the next biology denier in line, meaning no change in policy. After 80 years of working to gain independence, the SNP have completely changed in the 8 years of Sturgeon’s leadership and there seems no way back.
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