Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, must feel that Christmas has come early. Not only did the Scottish National Party win back a swath of seats lost to Labour and the Tories in 2017, but with Brexit now inevitable, her campaign to break-up the United Kingdom has received a major boost.
We’ve had our fill of the SNP’s divisive rhetoric in recent weeks and months, and it’s clear there is a great deal more hectoring to come.
So it’s little wonder that increasing numbers of English voters are prepared to turn their backs on the Union and let the Scots go their own way. Scotland is, after all, a drain on national resources.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured outside the V&A Museum in Dundee on December 14) celebrated as the SNP brought back a swath of seats lost to labour on December 13. Her campaign to break up the UK seems to have been given a boost
Under the Barnett Formula – the mechanism by which public spending is divided across the UK – Scotland receives a full 20 per cent more per head of population than England, a substantial sum, however the SNP tries to spin it.
And if English voters are exasperated, many of us north of the border are deeply worried.
Breaking up the Union would not only put an end to this large subsidy, it would leave Scotland in serious financial trouble. Indeed, economists have warned that an independent Scotland would face years of cuts in public service, or tax rises, or a combination of both.
Many Brits are willing to turn their backs on the Union which would leave Scots (pictured, Sturgeon with Glasgow MPs) in serious financial trouble. Some are wondering why Boris Johnson is still bothering with the country which has seen year three pupils attainment drop by more than a third due to changes by the SNP party
Despite the generosity of the Barnett Formula, Scotland’s spending deficit was seven times higher as a percentage of GDP than the UK average during the last financial year. And that was after a heavy round of cuts to public services.
Much has been made of the Scottish oil fields and the wealth that would flow into an independent Scotland. During the 2014 referendum campaign, for example, the Nationalists promised that North Sea oil would underpin a booming economy.
But the price of oil, which peaked at almost $150 a barrel in 2008-09, has fallen steadily over the years. By the time Scots came to vote on membership of the UK, it was trading at about $50 a barrel – a figure that blew a multi-billion-pound hole in the SNP’s prospectus for an independent Scotland. It is still only at $65 a barrel today.
An independent Scotland would lose the security of sterling and would no longer have the protection of Bank of England to underwrite its debts. So it’s hardly surprising that Ms Sturgeon claims an independent Scotland would be welcomed back into the EU with open arms, joining as a fully fledged member.
She diverts attention from the fact that the financial circumstances in which an independent Scotland would find itself might make it ineligible to join.
And do Scottish voters really want to join the disastrous euro currency experiment?
In other words, Ms Sturgeon’s vision of an economically independent Scotland is a dangerous fantasy.
Then there is the question of competence: Ms Sturgeon and the SNP are simply incapable of running an independent nation.
First Minister and SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon is mobbed by SNP supporters as she arrives at the counting hall in Glasgow
While SNP and Labour campaigners have claimed that the National Health Service is under threat from a Conservative government, the situation north of the border tells a different story.
The Scottish health service is ailing under the stewardship of the SNP. Months after it was due to open, a flagship children’s hospital in Edinburgh lies empty after serious flaws in the building were discovered. Contaminated water supplies at a facility in Glasgow were blamed for the deaths of children who were undergoing routine treatment.
But Sturgeon’s idea of an economically independent Scotland is a dangerous fantasy and the country would be unable to run as a singular nation
Waiting time targets established and then enshrined in law by the SNP go unmet while staff shortages mean regular – and expensive – use of agency nurses to cover huge gaps in the service.
The picture is equally bleak in Scottish schools, with standards in both literacy and numeracy troublingly low.
When she became First Minister, Ms Sturgeon pledged that improving the performance of Scotland’s schools would be her top priority.
Earlier this year, a report revealed that attainment among fourth-year secondary pupils has dropped by at least a third in key subject areas since the SNP introduced the Curriculum for Excellence in 2013. It also revealed that the number of Higher (roughly equivalent to A-level) passes in the fifth year of secondary schools had fallen by ten per cent in the past four years.
It is not as if Ms Sturgeon has a mandate for holding a second referendum, however passionately she insists otherwise.
Of course it is true the SNP won 48 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats, but the fact remains that only a minority of voters in Scotland supported parties – the SNP and their fellow nationalists the Scottish Greens – that wish to end the Union.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photograph with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 29
In 2014, 45 per cent of Scots voted Yes to independence. Five years on, 45 per cent of Scots supported pro-independence parties in the General Election. These problematic facts contradict Ms Sturgeon’s breathless assertion that the Scots are on an unstoppable march towards independence. In truth, her movement is stuck, unable to move forward no matter the changes in the political weather.
We can be sure that Ms Sturgeon will ratchet up her rhetoric in the months and years ahead. Where there is the threat of unity, she will sow division.
Grievance is the fuel that drives her nationalist machine and she will find it wherever she can.
But the reality is this: Nicola Sturgeon does not have credible answers to the big questions thrown up by her plans for constitutional turmoil.
Yes, she has a convenient bogeyman in the shape of Boris Johnson. Yes, she will make the most of this Christmas gift.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson will attempt to keep the Union together – even as millions of English voters continue to wonder why he’s even bothering.