In the immediate aftermath of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, an interesting, if entirely predictable, social media phenomenon occurred. Some of the more vocal supporters of Scottish independence rallied round the banner of being one of “the 45”, i.e. one of the 45 per cent of Scots who voted Yes on September 18th. I immediately found this interesting as a choice of branding, as it reinforced – to anyone with a basic grasp of mathematics or access to a calculator – the fact that there were more people who voted No than voted Yes.
It smacked of renaming a losing sports team after their score in a landmark loss. Furthermore, it allowed we Unionists, or at least of those us of a smug and ‘wind-up merchant’ disposition to laconically retort, “Yes, yes you were”. The phenomenon gradually drifted away as Scotland’s social media returned to as close as it will ever be to a normal state of affairs, but came back to mind this week in an incident of numerical serendipity.
The reason for this is that it has emerged that the European Union has suspended approximately £45million of funding designated for Scotland, which was intended to aim at alleviating joblessness in some of our poorer areas. The EU Commission itself has gone on record as citing “irregularities” in spending and in the system used for managing the funding. As if this incompetence were not gaoling enough, it has also come to light that these issues were highlighted as far back as last December – a time in which, presumably, the Scottish Government thought it was going to be tied with other, constitutional, activities.
So, the story is relatively straightforward: the Scottish Government was advised in advance that its procedures were out of step with the rules of receiving this massive sum of money, there has been insufficient action taken to rectify the situation (although assurances have been made that something is being done) and, therefore, the money has been stopped. The buck, it would seem, ought to be addressed to Bute House.
In another publication, I have written at length about the preferred tactics of the SNP when in government. They are masters of taking credit and redistributing blame (even though they are woefully unable to redistribute anything else), and seem wedded to that tactic. If one were to throw in a dash of mismatched rhetoric and actions, sprinkle in some broad sweeping policies and just hint of antagonism, et voila, the SNP in government!
Sturgeon pictured later attempting to shift blame to the States.
However, their usual M.O. is of no use in this case. This funding mechanism exists as a relationship between Edinburgh and Brussels; Westminster keeps its nose out of it and so, when the government in Edinburgh has not met the necessary and sufficient requirements set by Brussels, fault lies with Edinburgh. Interestingly enough, the Scottish Government has not attempted to shift the blame to Brussels, perhaps to keep us some pro-European appearances. Regardless, the bottom line is clear, it’s a Scottish Government error and a costly one at that.
Opposition politicians have been, quite rightly, quick to criticise the SNP Government. Tory enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser raised the point that such an error “calls into question the SNP’s financial management”, while Labour’s Jackie Baillie said that the suspension of the money was “hugely concerning” – both are right. Such criticisms are even more damning when we look at the Scottish Government’s official response (more frank responses are, one imagines, taking place down phone lines at this very moment). Where they cannot shift blame directly down south they have taken to fudging the blame and obscuring their rhetoric.
The Scottish Government have cited a “technical issue” – a catch-all term which leaves the reader knowing even less than when they started and have also resorted to an attempted passing of the buck to other “public bodies”.
The former specifically tells us nothing; think of your own work place, is there anything that can go wrong which could not be obliquely passed-off as a “technical issue?”
The latter excuse is to blaming Westminster or local governments, as New Coke was to Coca-Cola; unwanted, useless and completely unpalatable. It reeks of the responsibility shifting that the SNP have made the main tool of their trade. Regardless of what the technical issue may have been or whichever other public body was responsible for this mess, the responsibility is one the Scottish Government must shoulder and should have seen coming. They have messed up, many of Scotland’s poorest will not receive this necessary funding in time and they should not be allowed to forget about it. The Scottish Government may be able to speak for “the 45”, but it must be held to account for absence of the £45million.
Take all the time you need chaps, I’ll get the kettle on.
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