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.
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.
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.
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.