There’s been lots of talk recently (and not just from me) about whether Nicola Sturgeon and elected SNP MPs and MSPs. still have independence as their number one priority or even if it’s on their priority list at all. Unfortunately, recent events have not made this clearer. Despite Sturgeon announcing the date for a second independence referendum on 28th June this year, little if any campaigning has happened, though I have been informed by SNP members who still speak to me that there have been three leaflets available to be delivered, though I can’t find much information about them on either the Scottish Government website or the SNP website, suggesting they may be information already in the public domain being recycled.
At the recent SNP conference, with just 12 months to go before the referendum is due, there were no debates on independence and no motions on the activities planned. It was almost as if the SNP has no intention of taking part in their own referendum.
There’s little comparison between current SNP inactivity and what was happening in September 2013, a year before the first independence referendum. Then, the campaign was gearing up, most Yes (and other) groups had been formed and many conversations and meetings were being held. I even got a “Yes volunteers briefing pack” from Shirley-Anne Somerville, produced before her conversion to deputy assistant Wokemeister. Now, the SNP won’t even discuss an independence strategy at their conference, though they are happy to discuss an unnecessary code of conduct, apparently designed to exclude any group who doesn’t share their views on gender and women with willies.
Of course, there is the (in)famous Building a New Scotland series of papers, promised by Sturgeon to provide all the information Scots need to allow them to make an informed choice about independence. The papers, not sure how many are planned, will be available in 17 different languages (not Scots, obviously). The first two, Independence in the modern world, issued in May, and Renewing Democracy through Independence, issued in June, were roundly criticised for containing no indication how the Government intended to achieve the objectives set out in the papers. But surely, the third, A stronger economy with independence, which was issued last week, was the icing on Sturgeon’s devolution cake. Criticised for its continued adherence to the Growth Commission’s idea of retaining sterling for an indefinite period (who would want to stick with sterling after the last few weeks) and its lack of detail as to how the benefits will be achieved (again), it doesn’t inspire confidence in the SNP’s desire for independence. Indeed, Richard Murphy, who supports Scottish independence, in his review of the document, was driven to say, “I doubt the conviction of those who wrote it about independence” and who can blame him. Read his full statement here in a Twitter thread.
Now let’s think of what happens next if, despite Sturgeon’s best efforts, Scotland achieves independence. With Sturgeon still in position as First Minister, she would lead the negotiations with Westminster to determine the terms under which Scotland would leave the United Kingdom. Obviously, Sturgeon would be determined to get the best deal possible for Scotland, wouldn’t she. Or would she?
Let’s look at some recent examples of her interest in the future of Scotland and the success of Scottish independence.
First, the ScotWind auction.
For years, the SNP have been promoting offshore wind generation as a jewel in Scotland’s resource crown, one of the reasons why an independent Scotland would be so successful. 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, no matter how much companies thought it was worth, 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 an area of 7000 sq.km.
The £100,000 price was a last-minute decision to increase the cap from £10,000 per sq.km. following bids for an 8GW (Gigawatts) area in England raising £875m per annum using a different auction method. To put it another way, given that the areas auctioned would allow the installation of at least 25 GW of wind power, the ScotWind auction represents a price of no more than £28m per Gigawatt.
Was that a fair price? How does it compare with other similar 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. Had ScotWind raised a figure similar to the US auction, the Scottish Government would have received a £13bn boost, or around 40% of their annual budget.
The cap not only prevented the Scottish Government getting a potentially enormous one-off bonus, but the auction rules mean they get only a tiny annual fee, there’s no government involvement in the on-going development and no real guarantee of local benefit from the projects, in either supplies or jobs.
Why was the auction deliberately set up to minimise the advantage to Scotland and the Scottish people? Was this the action of a party determined to deliver a successful independence?
Now the island ferries.
Much has been written about the island ferry fiasco, so I won’t repeat the details here. Those who want to find out more need only look at Iain Lawson’s blog, Yours for Scotland to see statements from Professor Alf Baird and Dr. Stuart Ballantyne, among others, who know much more about ferries than I do (or the Scottish Government do, apparently).
What has always puzzled me is why the Scottish Government have persisted with support for the current ferry replacement policy, led by CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited), a public company wholly owned by the Scottish Government, when that policy has clearly failed. So much is currently wrong, complex, one-of orders; high cost; often incapable of using existing island facilities; leading to slow delivery of replacement vessels and resulting in an aging fleet, prone to breakdown and providing a poor service to island communities.
There are better ways. The Clyde Catamaran Group have submitted proposals for the replacement of the CalMac fleet with low cost, internationally proven designs, which would lead to a modern, responsive fleet, saving both build and operational costs, while providing a much improved service to the island communities, a service that would allow the islands to prosper. It is nothing short of unbelievable that these proposals have hardly been considered by the Scottish Government/CMAL, often without even the courtesy of a reply to communications from the group.
What reason can the Scottish Government have for ignoring the obvious advantages contained in the proposals. Is it stupidity, is it a determination not to admit that mistakes have been made, is it corruption as has been suggested by some, or is it a deliberate act to ruin another aspect of Scottish life. The last option sounds unbelievable until combined with other Scottish Government behaviour, as described above and below.
Finally, there’s this.
The release of the third paper in the Building a New Scotland series. I’ve already mention above the almost unbelievable plan to retain Sterling for an indefinite period. However, that’s not the worst of it. Sturgeon states that although there’s no legal responsibility for iScotland to accept any UK debt, she thinks we have a moral obligation to help out Westminster with their debt problem. Setting aside the stupidity of alerting your opponent to your thinking in advance of any negotiations, why would we want to take a share of debt that was mainly accrued to benefit England, especially in the circumstances where the English government have been ripping us off for centuries. If anything, our stance should be that we are owed multi-billion pound reparations for all we have lost by being part of this union.
Accepting a share of UK debt without significant concessions from the other side (which is unlikely to happen) will damage Scotland and has the potential to make independence less successful. Why would any independence leader suggest such an action?
Scorched earth policy?
These are just three examples of the SNP and the Scottish Government making decisions which appears harmful to Scottish independence, but there are many others, such as the divisive GRA amendment policy and the inaction of SNP MPs in Westminster, both of which impact on the possibility of Scotland regaining her independence and make it more difficult for independence to be a success.
Much has been said about Sturgeon’s alleged interest in securing a UN or EU post after resigning from her current position as First Minister of Scotland, but the events described above point towards her last gift to Scotland, before leaving, being the implementation of a “scorched earth policy”, doing her best to disadvantage the Scottish people and make independence seem less attractive.
Is there another explanation? Recent statements from Sturgeon and senior colleagues seem to confirm a continuing involvement of the SNP at Westminster following the next UK general election, currently scheduled for 2024, which, considering the current SNP plan to hold an independence referendum a year from now, would suggest either an expectation of defeat or certain knowledge that the referendum will not take place.
Let’s look at some of these statements.
Ian Blackford tells BBC News that at the next UK election, the SNP will have a growth plan for the UK. Why? Will we not be negotiating independence by then? See the clip here (courtesy of WoS). Meanwhile, his boss was telling us she was looking forward to working with Rishi Sunak and that we also need an immediate UK General Election to get rid of the anti-Scottish Tories and replace them with anti-Scottish Labour.
How do you build a “constructive working relationship” with someone you want to leave and are campaigning against? Perhaps because there won’t be any campaigning?
In the meantime, let’s hang around doing nothing. What else could I do?
And call for a general election, which you won’t get and, in any case, it’s only to give the SNP three extra years on the Westminster gravy train.
And if that’s not enough, here’s Tommy Shepherd worrying about English residents. Pity he doesn’t spend time worrying about Scottish residents suffering from colonialism. Still, I suppose the extra £15k for making such statements makes it seem ok.
Do these comments sound like they come from people who want independence above all else? Do these comments sound like they come from people who you would want to be negotiating the future of an iScotland? If not, what are SNP politicians for?