In Power But Not In Office – Scotsman Article – 13 August 2021


The re-elected SNP administration’s first hundred days are fast approaching, and they’re resembling a Government in power, but with no idea for what purpose. Normally that honeymoon period’s viewed as critical for making your mark and setting political direction.

To be fair as incumbents there’s perhaps slightly less need. But given that there’s new faces in office and the country’s coming out of lockdown, you’d have expected some energy and profile. The manifesto they were elected on may have been light, as well as uncosted, but you’d have thought they’d want to be laying out some big plans for the land.

Likewise you’d have supposed that new Cabinet Secretary’s would have wanted to go hither and thither, pressing flesh and meeting key stakeholders. Maybe they have but they’ve sure has hell kept it hidden from the rest of us.

Instead, as ever it’s the Nicola Sturgeon show and it’s a mixture of commentary on coronavirus and minor baubles being dispensed to show some activity and suggested largesse. The latter though only confirming that the big ticket items, such as health, housing and education remain unaddressed, so minor proposals are needed.

When the big story’s about a political fix with the Greens, then you realise this is about machinations for political control, not a radical transformation of the land. Bums on ministerial seats for the Greens and entrenched power for the SNP, a new political age this sure isn’t.

Of course when you park your raison d’etre of independence there’s always going to be difficulties to say the least. But in the absence of that or even a push for the devolution of more powers, then it was always going to be this way. The call for drug powers is more about political posturing than seeking to extend Holyroods remit, let alone tackle the horrific problem, welcome though it may be. Instead the purpose seems to be staying in power but with little idea for what purpose.

It put me in mind of a conversation I had with an SNP politician back in 2017, now not an inconsequential government figure. They’d bumped into me at a social event and were berating me for comments I’d made about New SNP. I tried to explain by saying I was struggling to see what the Party was for. Independence I was told. I replied that it was off the agenda at the moment, as indeed time has shown, so where stood the Party. Again I was given the mantra Independence and with my patience wearing thin I said where stood the party on core issues like class and social democracy. To be told “Nicola says”, at which point I walked off in exasperation.

That seems to encapsulate this administration. Even the big plan of a national care service’s being soft pedalled and other policy ideas are thin on the ground. A political fix with the Greens is about staying in power, nothing to do with policy other than identity politics, and certainly not pursuing independence.