by Henry Hill
Tuesday, 11
October 2022
Review
10:15

Nicola Sturgeon has run out of ideas

The SNP conference was a sad affair
by Henry Hill
Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the SNP conference.

Reports on the tone of this week’s SNP conference, from those unfortunate enough to be there, are grim. For those of us who managed to be elsewhere, Sturgeon’s keynote speech surely encapsulates why.

In theory, the Nationalists expect to fight another independence referendum next year. If the wider ‘Yes’ movement thought for a moment this was feasible, Aberdeen would have looked like the staging ground for a conquering army.

But it didn’t, because they don’t. Year after year, Sturgeon has held her coalition together by promising the big campaign was just around the next corner. The act is running thin.

Even the First Minister can’t seem to maintain the pretence any longer. She struck a markedly sombre note on the question of independence, reminding voters that breaking away from Britain would not be an “economic miracle cure,” and that wealth will not “suddenly and magically start trickling down.” Of course, in practice independence would be a fiscal disaster.

These comments were essentially a new — and depressing — spin on Sturgeon’s economic case for independence. Which really just highlights the fact that, eight years on from the last referendum and with the full might of the Scottish Government at their disposal, the SNP still haven’t been able to produce one. 

We probably shouldn’t put our expectations for another vote too high, given that one of Sturgeon’s ministers chose this week to start talking up the nonsensical idea that what remained of the UK would continue to pay Scottish pensions in the event of independence.  

Such talk is a timely reminder that the Nationalists have been extremely fortunate to be led by two very able politicians in succession. Think about the situation she inherited when she succeeded Alex Salmond in 2014. Yes, the separatists had just lost the referendum — but they had lifted the pro-independence share of the vote up to almost half the electorate, where it has stayed.

Her unionist opponents had panicked in the closing days of the campaign and offered ‘The Vow’, needlessly opening up the charge that the ‘No’ vote had been conditional on vague promises of even more devolution. 

Tens of thousands of energetic new activists were flocking into the SNP. In 2015, they smashed Labour to win nearly every Scottish seat at Westminster (just the outcome which the UK Government used to argue, in pre-devolution days, would justify independence).

And a year after that, Brexit gave the First Minister an excuse to re-open the independence question. It also pushed a chunk of elite opinion in London to fall in behind the suddenly-fashionable cause of ‘independence in Europe’ for Scotland. That Boris Johnson was woefully unpopular north of the border was a cherry on the cake.

Yet here we are, eight long years later, and the Nationalists have gone… nowhere. Not backwards, certainly — their stranglehold on Scottish political life seems almost as strong as ever. But not forwards either. 

If Sturgeon does bow out after the next election, we might see time finally catch up with the SNP machine.

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Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago

The title is interesting: “Nicola Sturgeon has run out of ideas”. Other than independence, what were her ideas anyway?

Last edited 1 month ago by Linda Hutchinson
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
  1. It’s Scotland’s oil wealth, we can live off its taxes
  2. Destroy the oil & gas industry with green & red tape and taxes
Last edited 1 month ago by Brendan O'Leary
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago

In the last independence referendum, like you, the Tories sneered at the idea that Scottish oil was viable. Now the Tories are wet for Scottish oil again, all of a sudden. Go figure

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

If you read my comment as a sneer at the viability of oil (did you forget gas?) then you read it wrong. I’ve worked in the industry for over forty years and in that time the current SNP/Green coalition is probably the worst administration that’s happened to the Scottish industry.

Colin MacDonald
Colin MacDonald
1 month ago

I think it involves ending fossil fuel “subsidies” whilst at the same time using fossil fuel “revenues” to launch us into green sunlit uplands.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

A “subsidy’ being anything less than 110% tax.

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 month ago

“…the English are evil, everything bad everywhere on earth is their fault, and we must escape from their brutal tyranny even if we end up living in caves, on turnips…” That seems to summarise the entire programme…

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

In that case, the title ought to have been: “Nicola Sturgeon has run out of idea” (singular). l

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
1 month ago

The most depressing thing about the SNP is how mediocre it has been in government, partly because it had to go into coalition with the Greens. The most worrying thing about the SNP is how it runs itself like a totalitarian government, stifling dissent etc etc. The most amazing thing about so many Scots is that they put up with it, anything rather than a Labour/Conservative/Lib-Dem or coalition government. Scotland is becoming a banana republic compared to how it was run 40 odd years ago. One wonders if it is because many Scots are Irish and have consciously or unconsciously got a prejudice against the English. History shows that they might have a point.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
1 month ago

It should be remembered that there is no UK pension pot. State Pensions are paid out of the current year’s taxes so there is nothing for Scotland to inherit (other than the liabilities that will be satisfied from future taxes).

Scott McArthur
Scott McArthur
1 month ago

Tell me again, what exactly is the purpose of Scottish Independence?
Much like many of today succession or unification movements, the politics behind it resolves nothing besides switching existing elites for new elites. If there was a clear upgrade in leadership and vision, well then it would be a no brainer, but the closer one looks at it, one gets the feeling that it is simply another case of here’s the new boss, same as the old boss.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott McArthur

That was a song from the Who, wasn’t it?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott McArthur

It’s worse than that. Northeast Scotland and Highlands & Islands would be even more marginalised under a Central Belt-dominated independent state than under the present arrangement.

Carol Scott
Carol Scott
1 month ago

I am a Scot living in England. I long thought I would retire home where my family are. However not under the current situation, my family might need a bolt hole in the SE! So here I am long past retirement age. The other thing is how utterly incompetent the SNP are, everything they touch falls apart, too many failures to list. I never liked Alec Salmond as a person but he did run a reasonably competent government. I worry about my grandkids education. I had a superb education to university level in Scotland. Such a shame, there was always a rivalry but not the bitterness the SNP have created. None of my friends vote SNP but they are sensible people.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 month ago

Worth bearing in mind that the pro-independence side has only led a handful of polls since the last Scottish Parliament election and only one since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. It’s also worth acknowledging that when the question is framed as Leave vs Remain as per the Brexit vote, support for independence collapses. Makes one wonder how the Brexit vote might have gone had it been a yes or no question on whether Britain should leave the EU.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

How might it have been different? I haven’t heard this theory before. Is it another “the general public are mindless sheep (except for me and my pals)” claim?

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt M
John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 month ago

Worth bearing in mind that the pro-Independence side have only led a handful of polls since the last Scottish election and only one since Russia invaded Ukraine back in February. Interestingly when polls are done where the question of independence is framed as Remain vs Leave, support for independence collapses. It also gives good for thought on what might have been if the Brexit vote had been framed as Should the UK leave the EU, yes or no?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

How would that differ from the actual question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Tom Scott
Tom Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

That essentially was the question, and the answer was ‘yes’.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago

Gosh, that is SO boring (and I live in Scotland).

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Not sure why the downvoters, but here we are…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

Here is an idea? Merge Scotland and Northern Ireland and sell them to their Presbyterian mates, Canada? They call all then happily underperform together bound by one big orange sash of mediocrity!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago

Here’s another idea – why don’t you shut the door behind you as you leave mate

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
1 month ago

Becuse Canada wouldn’t be daft enough to pay money for them. It would probably demand a very large payment be made to Canada to take them off our hands.