The SNP Under a Microscope: The Most Authoritarian Party in Britain

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Alongside UKIP, the SNP are set to be the wildcards in this year’s General Election, and with a strong performance by the party’s leader Nicola Sturgeon in the leadership debate this week attention is turning to what the SNP would do if it found itself supporting a Labour government.

But what do they stand for exactly aside from an independent Scotland? With so much attention being paid to what Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond would demand from a Labour government, very little attention has been given – in our humble opinion – to unique SNP policies and ideas.

For as much as the SNP would like to portray itself as a modern progressive force for change, its legacy in Scotland is one of stifling bureaucracy, paternalism, contempt for accountability, and a chilling propensity to heavy handed policing.

 

Named Person Legislation

This seemingly benign piece of legislation would see an adult from outside the family appointed as a guardian to supervise every child in Scotland under the age of 18. The named person will have a statutory role to look after the child’s wellbeing and they will have to draw up a plan for the child’s future.

The legislation says that the named person has a duty to “promote, support or safeguard the development and wellbeing of the child or young person.” The Scottish Government breaks down ‘wellbeing’ as having eight “indicators” with vague terms such as “achieving … respected and safe”, but which are not subject to outside intervention or interpretation.

The implied message here is that families are the source of, and not the solution to, problems normal young people face, and the Almighty State must step in. The scheme will pull resources away from those children most in need, and direct it towards every single child. Not only is this hugely wasteful and cumbersome, but those families and children most in need of support will be lost in the deluge of reference numbers.

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Authoritarian policing

Armed police on regular patrols, young people and children subject to random stop and search, football fans facing unprecedented levels of harassment, doubling the time police can detain somebody without criminally charging them. All charges levelled against the Scottish Police under the SNP’s watch.

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 created a single Scottish Police Force for the first time, established spring of 2013. The previous eight regional structures enjoyed localised police, more representative of local areas and responsive to local issues, and most importantly: local accountability. The local Chief Constable is now no longer answerable to elected councillors, but rather to a new (appointed) body; the Scottish Police Authority.

The Scottish Police Service admitted in 2014 via its website that the police had developed a policy of sending armed response units on routine calls not involving threats from weapons. The shift in policy was made without parliamentary consultation, with Deputy Chief Constable Ian Livingston justifying the change on the grounds that it would save money. Even the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority, Vic Emery stated he was told about the armed police question “after the fact”.

Statistics revealed in a January 2014 report that Scots were four times more likely to be stopped and searched than in any other part of the UK. Between 2013 and 2014 nearly five hundred and fifty thousand people, almost 10 percent of the population were stopped and searched. Figures discovered by the BBC showed that despite assurances that the practice of non-statutory searching of under 12s would stop, since June 2014 three hundred and fifty six children have been stopped and searched.

 

Paternalism

In 2008 MSP Kenneth Gibson, backed by the SNP’s public health minister Shona Robinson, argued for the total ban on cigarette vending machines, his chilling justification betraying the elitist mind set of the SNP; “with access, there follows temptation, and then consumption. That is why a complete ban on these machines is necessary”.

The Alcohol Bill passed in November 2010 and was little more than a sin tax which hurt poorest Scots hardest. Nicola Sturgeon, then SNP Health Secretary proudly promised “this journey is not over, there is more work to be done and we will not shirk from leading the way in addressing this challenge”. ‘More to be done’ took the form of an effort to set a minimum pricing of alcohol, which would have been a first in Europe. There is even talk of a ban on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets…because remember, people can’t be trusted.

The authoritarian streak showed itself again with the ‘Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications’ bill outlawed signing of sectarian songs, flag waving and even blessing oneself within the grounds of a football stadium. There have been dawn raids against people suspected of expressing non permitted views at football matches.

According to civil liberties organisations like Open Rights Group, the SNP’s plans to create a super ID database could breach human rights and data protection laws. The proposals would see a huge expansion of the National Health Service Central Register and would expand and share this information with more than 100 government agencies. As well as monitoring who had been treated for cancer, the database would record if a patient had signed up for membership of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens. Organisation ranging from Quality Meat Scotland to the Cairngorms National Park Authority would also be expected to provide information they gather about individuals.

 

Fortress Holyrood

In May 2014 the Herald Scotland reported that SNP MSPs were obstructing scrutiny of government and protecting colleagues in positions of power. Sources claimed nationalist backbenchers in Holyrood were attempting to suppress a public petition calling for independence referendums from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. In a separate case, the SNP dominated finance committee was accused of withdrawing an expert’s invitation to give evidence after he submitted a report that contradicted government claims about an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU. The SNP majority on the public audit committee voted through an official report that removed criticism of Kenny MacAskill’s handling of the police force merger in 2013.

 

A unicameral parliament with minimal formal opposition would be bad enough in Scotland, especially when SNP MSPs have been told to maintain the party line or face punishment. And because of the SNP majority and the forced whip on the party’s politicians, the lack of scrutiny or opposition on bills can lead to some un-democractic outcomes – like the change in nature of Scotland’s police, for example.

So if you love the crushing feeling of a boot stomping on your face, you’d better vote SNP.

37 COMMENTS

  1. The SNP are a sideshow in the disunion story. It’ll be the English Tories that engineer Scotland’s departure from the Union.

    The English Tories have far too much to gain by us departing the Union. The UK loses seventy wingnut leftist MPs, the English Tories won’t have to keep making annoying coalitions, and of course the UK will gain heavily from Scotland’s departure: they will get all our jobs, defence, investment, research funding, talent and skills, whilst losing the cost of our welfare state, our huge public sector, our ageing population, the Barnett subsidy and our share of the national debt.

    The rise of nationalism in Scotland is a gift horse to the English Tories. They will find it laughably easy to package up and sell the idea of Scotland as a socialist millstone around the neck of the UK, a millstone that is holding back the UK from making progress.

    Watch this space. The English Tories will do a deal with the SNP to sell us down the river. They will sell Scotland off to the SNP so they can asset strip us, even though the consequences for ordinary hard working Scots will be devastating. Scotland is a dead man walking.

      • They couldn’t because most of their core support in the UK is (currently) unionist. But they did give us the referendum, even though only a minority wanted it. And crucially, they gave the nationalists the YES question. They knew we would be fatally wounded by the referendum, that the forces of nationalism and xenophobia would be strengthened. They’ve also put a person least likely to win back the socially conservative vote at the helm of the party in Holyrood.

        Now the Tories are causing more division by excluding Scottish MPs from key votes as Westminster.

        The English Tories are playing a very clever game here, and they are winning. The SNP will do their dirty work for them. As nationalism increases north of the Border, the sense of loyalty to Scotland their core vote elsewhere in the Union feels weakens. It becomes easier and easier to sell the idea of dropping Scotland to their core vote. And then they’ll be laughing all the way to the Bullingdon club. Via the bank, of course.

  2. I agree entirely with this piece, but that isn’t going to stop me voting SNP next month. The point is that none of these actions are relevant to the election that will be decided in four weeks as they are all within the remit of Holyrood. This election is about getting the Tories out and making sure that Labour is kept to the left on economic issues.

    Next year I will do my damnedest to make sure that the SNP do not have an overall majority in Holyrood, but the success of that really depends on Labour getting rid of its present leader, Jim Murphy. Aside from being a teetotal, vegetarian weirdo, Spud is also a member of the Henry Jackson Society who supported the war against Iraq.

    It should be very simple in a working class country like Scotland to undercut the SNP from the left. I doubt if types like Spud could do it, though. And if they tried, I doubt if many people would believe them.

  3. About the author: Lee Jenkins View all posts by Lee Jenkins

    Lee Jenkins is the Backbencher’s Deputy Political Editor. He is a social liberal, fiscal conservative, geopolitical analyst and utter arse!

  4. Such nonsense in this piece. Tackling alcohol and tobacco consumption won’t help the Tory-supporting tobacco or alcohol companies but it will help people in Scotland avoid lung and liver cancer. The author would have you avoid ‘paternalism’ by dying early!

  5. The essence of the Named Person legislation still means that the behaviour of perfectly responsible parents is open to doubt by someone from the social services who thinks that they know best. This is arrogance of the worst kind in a country in which equality is worshipped as an ideal. We are all equal except some of us are more equal than others. I’m an intelligent well-educated father with years of experience of life and I would have no truck with anyone who thought that they were superior to me in at any level involving my children.

    • And where is the protection for the child from the parent who thinks they know best but doesn’t have a clue? What about the anti-vaxers or people who refuse medical treatment on religious grounds? Who looks after the child’s interest then?

  6. Well, this is interesting. Let’s take a different perspective:
    Named Person Legislation:
    There are many in Scotland, especially from the most deprived areas, for whom parental involvement is minimal at best. This is for a variety of reasons from poverty, working hours and lack of time right down to full on neglect. The Named Person legislation seeks to give those children someone they can turn to for help when nobody else is available. That the provisions are extended to all children is a recognition that even parents who are well off or outwardly involved don’t always get everything right. Children already have various places they can go to for help, childline, teachers, police, family etc but for many the idea of someone who they have a relationship with and who is always there for them will be extremely attractive.
    To view legislation that seeks to help give children greater protections and a person in authority they can trust as sinister is cynical in the extreme.
    Policing:
    There were indeed serious concerns about the routine arming of police without consultation, though after consultation it turns out that people either don’t mind or are quite in favour of police being armed. It should have been done properly and there were changes made both to policy and procedures. It was also recognised that Kenny Macaskill was too close to the police and was in danger of sleep-walking us into a police state due to the fact he gave the police whatever they wanted. He was replaced when Nicola Sturgeon came in for this and other reasons.
    The police responded to complaints about this and stop and search showing that there is accountability, though it should not have taken an FOI request to get the statistics. It is entirely fair to say that the Police Scotland single force has had teething problems, but concerns are listened to and addressed.
    The figures on stop and search are concerning, but again this is being looked into and Stephen House was asked to step down when his current posting is up. Personally I have had zero interaction with Police Scotland since its inception, but if I was stopped I would likely refuse a search. It’s good that this practice will be brought to an end, but to suggest that there is no accountability doesn’t sit with the facts.
    Paternalism:
    Alcohol is a huge problem in Scotland and things a have to be done to curb its use. The smoking in public places and pubs ban was widely welcomed but by the standards you place in the article it would be a draconian measure, a complete breach of civil liberties. Several countries are seeking minimum unit pricing, including the UK government. Plain packaging on cigarettes has already been introduced in Australia and the recognition that cigarettes are a huge problem is worldwide. Having machines that cannot determine the age of the person using them undermines the very notion of them being age restricted, not to mention the fact they tend to be extortionately expensive.
    The behaviour of certain fans goes beyond just shouting abuse at their opposite numbers and incitement to violence was commonplace. Instances of domestic abuse also rise significantly during certain matches so having legislation to try to change behaviour is a good thing.
    As for the complete misunderstanding of how a database works or how access to information is restricted, let me tell you that there is no plan to create a new database. The issue at hand is creating a VIEW of a database which exposes only certain fields and, in the case of the proposed usage, simply returns a positive or negative result. i.e the details are correct or not. There is no possible way for anyone to access the rest of the database, cross-search on given fields or retrieve any personal data. As an IT consultant I can tell you that the proposals are not as you describe.
    Oh, and several European countries already have bans on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets.
    Fortress Holyrood:
    This is probably the only part of the article I agree with. The Holyrood system wasn’t set up to deal with a single party having an overall majority so the committee system needs reviewed. But this is no more “sinister” than when the Labour party won with such a huge majority in 1997 and were able to push through whatever legislation they wanted – even over-ruling the Lords on more than occasion.
    Overall this piece is completely ridiculous as it makes a claim about the SNP being “the most authoritarian party in Britain” without analysing the policies of any of the other parties. By failing to make any comparisons with other parties this piece is simply “SNP bad”.

    • You understand that you just argued against the universal Named Person Scheme in your attempt to promote it. Condescendingly claiming that there are lower working class parents who just can’t get their parenting act together is often trotted out. But what are the figures to substantiate this? Also the pilot scheme in part of Highlands saw 20% of the children being nominated by Named Persons for services with the service providers later accessing most of them didn’t need! Just about as useless an intervention as one can imagine. Further the idea that parenting doesn’t work because of a lack of good beurocracy is a joke right? You can’t sit down and “plan” a child’s upbringing like they are a business plan, or the better analogy, a prisoner drafting a sentence plan on how they will try to avoid reoffending. Judgements by the state are already showing themselves to be problematic. The winter’s drive to squirt a weak form of the four most dangerous flu viruses in the world up little children’s noses was primarily rolled out during the school day. Within three weeks of the vaccine team half of my son’s 33 children strong class were off school ill with respiratory infections! A pattern repeated throuout the school. Also let us add the unhealthy ability of SNP supporters to keep their politics out of the classroom. I’ve seen children come home with SNP posters and one teacher was recently called out after having her primary class march through the streets with her in an SNP inspired activist protest.

      • I specifically said that it wasn’t about poor people and that just because people are affluent doesn’t mean they are good parents. It’s nothing to do with how much you earn, but how much you care, how much time you can spend with your kids and whether you have a clue what you’re doing.
        As for the utter tripe in your comment equating a development plan with a prisoner sentence plan, seriously, have you NEVER worked in an organisation where you get a development plan? One where you set goals, achieve them and take responsibility? That there were issues during the roll-out is not only expected but actually a good thing because it means lessons can be learned and processes improved before the next stage.
        I recognise what you’re saying about the flu’ vaccine but that’s an issue with the manufacturers and the testing process. I would guess that since that incident there was a halt to the roll-out? Or a change in procedures?
        I would agree that specific parties shouldn’t be promoted in class-rooms, but teaching kids about politics, how to protest something, how to get involved, yes absolutely.

    • Also claiming that Scotland is happy there are armed police on the streets taking routine calls is rubbish! It is a deeply worrying situation. If you’ve ever lived in a country where the police carry guns you would know this is a very bad move. The nonsense over gaoling men for singing stupid sectarian songs is yet more evidence of this unthinking use of the criminal law to regulate non-criminal activity. Similarly with the plastic bag legislation – which no one who made a submission to Holyrood supported – is again criminalisation of absolutely nothing! Kindness, generosity is criminalised! Now a shop assistant can’t give a bag to someone if their shopping bursts or they will be committing a crime! Of course the
      Legislation says that the check out assistant won’t actually get the conviction, no that will be the Manager. But what Manager is going to take a £10 000 maximum fine and NOT sack the checkout assistant? Utter madness! Add to all of the above the we know best incompetence to all they touch and I hate to say it but the article
      Pretty much hits the mark!

      • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-31024883 I didn’t say people were happy about it, I said there was broad support – which I said because of this article. I have lived a country where police carry guns (Germany) and once I got over the initial shock it didn’t bother me in the slightest. As long as the police are trained well and trusted it is irrelevant. What I said was that it should have been done properly and that steps have been taken to make sure it would be done differently.
        If someone’s bag bursts then they absolutely could be given a replacement since it would be a faulty product they were just sold. I don’t know if anyone has been actually charged or even if the legislation will ever be enforced, but I can tell you from my own experience that the bags which used to live in the boot of the car and never make it into the shop now always come with me. Frankly I care more about the environment and having a planet to pass on to the next generation than whether it upsets a few people that they have to pay 5p. It’s a paltry sunk and yet it has caused ~90% drop in the use of supermarket carriers. That is a LOT of plastic bags that no longer end up in the sea or in land fill.

    • “… for many the idea of someone who they have a relationship with and who is always there for them will be extremely attractive.”

      That was as far as I needed to read (although I did, in fact, continue!). You appear to have little idea of the proposed workings of the Named Person Legislation! You make it sound quite benign! What you appear to have failed to grasp is that there will not be a “someone” with whom a child (up to 18!!!) will have a relationship. Those who would be granted this intrusive right to interfere in the life of ‘ordinary’ families will have so much on their plates that there will be no opportunity to realise your utopian picture!

      By the way, is it not hypocritical of the SNP to, on the one hand, wish to give the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds while, on the other hand, regarding them as children who need a ‘named person’ to deal with their alleged “wellbeing”? Would not such a ‘named person’ be in a position to influence many of these young people as to the way in which they should vote? Is this the SNP’s ‘hidden agenda’?

      • Wow. That’s a pretty dark place you’ve got in your head. If this was a Labour policy I’m sure you would still be complaining of nanny state but would you accuse them of trying to unduly influence younger voters? You are allowing your own bias to cloud your judgement

        • Frankly, I would have exactly the same concerns regardless of which Party was trying to foist such a despotic policy on the Scottish people! Anyone will have their judgement ‘clouded’ by their bias (and none of us is without bias!), but I suspect that the vast majority will be in agreement with me on this issue – not that something as clear as public opposition would sway the SNP (or the CONmerchant/LIEbour/LimpDumb Parties) from their own communist (yes, they are more that than they are socialist) bias.

          • So you think that the named person will always be an SNP member? That’s why it’s a dark place you’ve gone to. You really are quite bigoted even if you don’t understand that. Communist? Please.

          • Did I say that? I cannot find where I did so. I referred to any Party foisting such legislation on the general public.

            Please let me know if my comments are too erudite for you to fully understand, and I will endeavour to stick to the limited vocabulary that is alleged to be that of the average reader of the Daily Record!

          • If you wish to engage in a battle of wits to determine which of us has the greatest and most flexible vocabulary that would be an exercise in futility. You clearly have your opinions set without taking the necessary time to fully understand the principle aims of the legislation nor do you seem to have any grasp of the lives lived by the very people it aims to support. This legislation is an attempt to ensure that every young person has someone they can turn to, a guide if you will. For many that will be their parents or a close family member, however, for many around the country the named person will be a welcome addition to the plethora of support options available to them and would most likely be a positive experience. Your assumptions that this is somehow a sinister plot of a nanny state are fallacious at best.

          • Please be so kind as to point me to the wording in the proposed legislation that states that: “For many that will be their parents or a close family member,…”

            I will be greatly relieved to discover that this option would be available. However, the experience of parents in the areas in which the idea was (allegedly!) evaluated, together with that of my own daughter and son-in-law regarding a communication that was sent home with my, then, P2 grandson, would suggest otherwise.

            If you can provide me with the information to back up your own assertion, then I will readily apologise. If you can’t, then I expect no less from you!

          • Just for completeness sake, to be erudite you would have to have, or claim to have, a greater level of knowledge than I. As this is a matter of opinion pertaining to legislation that has not been fully enacted that does not apply. Good day to you sir.

  7. Don’t forget the Airgun Licence they are pushing through. We have fought very hard against this ridiculous proposal and I attended a PPC meeting at the Scottish Parliament.

    Airgun crime has fallen by huge amounts, 22,500 people signed a petition against it and 87% of the responses to the public consultation were against it. The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents voiced concern and the regulatory review group said key studies were not carried out. It will be a huge waste of money and a burden on the police as welll as criminalising people who have not caused harm or loss to anyone.

    One only has to look at historical evidence to see that authoritarian Governments do not like their citizens having firearms.

    If current trends continue then it wont be long before murders is higher than airgun offences… still the Scottish Government sees airgun offences as the priority……

    • The SNP are ideologically FAR more like a Communist Party. The Italian Fascisti would have been hugely against the immigration of foreign races, against the SNP’s anti-family Feminist policies, and the Named Person Legislation is surely outright Marxism.

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