Buried in today’s news was an interesting story – Scottish Water has lost its contract to Anglian Water, an English private firm. The Scottish infrastructure minister has claimed it was a money saving measure, but it does raise a few questions – why would you abandon a publicly owned body that provides Scots with cheaper water, a better quality service and one that is run not for profits, but people? Though the pouring money into public services argument might sound compelling, a further question has to be raised – are the SNP even interested in that?
The NHS in Scotland has been a slash and burn exercise, and as it’s a devolved matter, the Scottish government must take full responsibility for this. So it begs the question, why from 2013-14 did spending on the NHS drop by 1.2%? And why, since the SNP came to power, have private ambulances increased by 320%? There seems to be a toxic combination of cuts and privatisation to the NHS in Scotland (this isn’t even mentioning the SNP’s failings is education), and it is the Scot Nats, not the Tories, who are to blame. So when the Scottish infrastructure secretary makes excuses about funding public services, and Sturgeon goes into anti-austerity reveries, I’m not persuaded – the SNP are enacting austerity by stealth north of the border.
Something that must also be questioned is the idea that the SNP are somehow anti-establishment underdogs. Having been in power since 2007 (propped up by, ahem, the Tories) and having had a majority (in a proportional system!) since 2011, the SNP have become the Scottish establishment – this may not be bad in itself, but this level of hegemony has got to the point where no one has the strength to question their hypocritical rhetoric. The people of Scotland were promised a new politics – but instead they got lies and classic parliamentary immaturity.
One of the core tenets of the image they present of themselves, of course, is the idea of being the centre left alternative to Labour – of course, with a Bennite running the Labour Party, this is now a nonsense, but even before the election the SNP’s rhetoric was laced with falsehood. The IFS, after close scrutiny of all major parties’ manifestos, confirmed that Labour both planned to spend more and cut less than the SNP (s0 much for Keynesian stimulus). If Labour were the “Red Tories”, what does that make the Scot Nats?
The question is then, what is that drives the SNP? The answer is obvious: independence and nationalism. From their days as the “Tartan Tories” to their rebirth as anti-austerity crusaders, the raison d’être of the SNP has always remained the same – they want to leave the Union. I don’t doubt that there are many genuine democratic socialists and social democrats in the SNP, but their record suggests that from the perspective of the leadership it’s merely a method of scraping over a few extra votes, capitalising on frustration with Labour. So if you’re in Scotland and on the left, but put off by the broad church that is Labour, then at least put your support behind the Greens or the SSP – the Scot Nats aren’t our friends – they’re decisive pragmatists, whose socialism is an illusion.