Jim O’Neill reviews Nicola Sturgeon’s conference speech and questions whether “Progress” was an accurate backdrop.


“Progress”. Funny kind of rallying call. “What do we want? Progress. When do we want it? Oh some time over the next ten years or so.” For this is another Leaderene who wants to go on and on. The programme Nicola set out was for the next ten years. So, what did it contain? How nationalist was it?

Independence is clearly a nationalist shibboleth. But Nicola has set it on the back burner. Sometime after Brexit has been completed. That would take us to 2022 at the earliest. And Nicola also believes that the word “National” in the party’s title is a turnoff. So, the Scottish Nicola Party (see what I did there? No need to change the initials) will lead us into the next independence referendum. Progress?

Many of the other proposals are straight plagiarism from current Labour policies. We should be flattered. For instance, a National Investment Bank was in Labour’s 2017 Manifesto, and both leadership contenders support it.

But she has gone back home to Irvine for other key pledges. The Labour controlled North Ayrshire Council, led by Joe Cullinane, has already implemented free sanitary products in schools. And last week, the council passed a Labour motion by Robert Foster, calling for an exemption from Council Tax for care leavers. They even had a not-for-profit energy company in their 2017 manifesto, and work has already started on it. We only need support for municipal bus companies to round off the set.

But did Nicola give her home council credit for these ideas? Of course, she didn’t. It was as if, as in the Herald cartoon, she had thought of them all herself. These are all Labour progress, not SNP progress.

Maybe she was referring to the progress achieved over the past 10 years. OK, they built a bridge over the Forth, but what about public services?

After 10 years, and many education ministers, the attainment of Scottish children had gone backward, both by world standards and by the SNP’s own standards. Their laissez faire attitude to the inspection of schools has just been reversed, with many more schools to be inspected over the next year. John Swinney, the latest education minister, has alienated the workforce with even more changes to the curriculum, alienated local authorities by attacking their responsibility for schools, and failed to maintain the number of teachers through recruitment policies and the 1% pay cap, so that they are now offering people from industry who can teach the STEM subjects £20,000 to retrain as teachers. Progress?

The Scottish National Health Service is also in serious trouble. Recruitment problems, initiated by Nicola herself as health minister, and the public sector pay cap, have led to a crisis of staffing in nurses, and similar problems for hospital doctors have led to every target being missed by a distance. In primary care we are faced with doctors leaving, and practices closing their doors to new patients or closing completely. Progress?

In social work, lack of recruitment and the pay cap has led to ever larger caseloads, leading to burnout and absence through stress, causing even greater workload to others and endangering children, who fall through the gaps as we have seen in a number of cases here and elsewhere in the UK. Progress?

One of the great powers that the early devolved Scotland received was powers on economic improvement. But many poorer areas, like my own, have seen little improvement, with funding to local authorities cut, both through the austerity policies of John Swinney and now Derek Mackay, and also the Council Tax freeze. This has meant that councils have not been able to invest in their own areas and attract new businesses to replace the heavy industry lost over the last decades. Progress?

I know that this is just one Labour supporter’s view of the last ten years and the future years of the SNP administration, and I will be accused, as usual, of #SNPbad, but I challenge SNP supporters to point out where the improvements have been in the areas I have identified.

Progress? I think not!

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15 thoughts on “Progress?

  1. The SNP have been unlucky enough to be in power when the economic crash hit. Perhaps Mr O’Neil hasn’t heard of it? The money tap that the Scottish Labour/LibDumbs regime enjoyed was largely turned off by Westminster. Just ask the Labour administration in Wales how tough things have been—-but there again they will have implemented all the things O’Neil wanted for Scotland–have they not? Yes the NHS is struggling, but the Scottish NHS is performing better than elsewhere in the UK.
    O’Neil also brings up the council tax freeze. Could he say by how much he would have raised taxes and over what period of time? Remember this is a time period when living standards of ordinary people went backwards. Even now inflation is running faster than wage increases, while GDP per capita is actually falling, so wage rises cannot be justified without inflation going throw the roof.
    At the same time, Scottish Labour have identified a number of areas they would have raised income tax to pay for—by how much is hard to estimate, but it must be by at least 10p in the pound. Perhaps that is why the SNP are miles ahead in the polls, and Labour are stuck in a Corbyn fantasy land.

  2. Was it not a Labour council ( Glasgow) which instigated a council tax freeze?
    Did Labour (under Ian Gray) not have a manifesto pledge to have a council tax freeze?
    Why have so many Labour councils KEPT the council tax freeze, if they disagree with the concept?
    This is a pathetic article, full of memory lapses and magical thinking. Is O’Neil not just “full of it”?

  3. The FMS speech to the conference was well written and very well delivered even the Stretsil joke.
    I actually liked what I heard .
    I did think I had heard some of it before Wait I have The National Investment Bank was in the Labour 17 manifesto the FM must have forgotten to mention that.
    Free sanitory products in schools great idea but wait the Labour controlled North Ayrshire Council have already introduced it and its Labour policy .The FM must have forgotten to mention that . Although her family live here .
    Our FM must have forgotten to ask NAC to do that when NAC was under SNP control and her mum was Provost
    But wait after losing a by election to Labour Nicolas dad was the SNP candidate .The SNP took the huff and resigned control to those big bad guys who they had sworn to keep out the Labour party.
    I forgot to mention the council leader was on holiday and another councillor refused to go he had to be voted out .
    All because Nicolas mum the Provost had decided to reset the party .
    Our FM did not mention that . I wouldn’t have mentioned it either but Jim is to polite to do it . I am not
    As Jim says NAC Labour councillor Robert Foster persuaded NAC to pass a motion asking for a Council Tax freeze for care leavers .
    Our FM forgot to say why The SNP group when they were in control of NAC did not do that before they got reset and left Labour in control.
    Our FM does know how to reset her party lost 21 seats and she had to reset that word again the Indy 2 ref
    In other words she aint doing it.
    And remember it was supposed originally supposed to be before Brexit .
    Remember the conversation with Scotland wander what we said because the SNP did not tell us Our FM did not tell us that either must have forgot
    The day job and I do believe they are now concentrating on it .
    The pay cap is to be lifted again Labour party policy
    Our FM did not mention anything about tax nor did she explain how we pay for the 840 million child care scheme .
    This is what governing is about there will be wage claims from the Jannies Caretakers pavilion attendants cleaners and all the other people who work in Leisure by that I mean my old colleagues in Local authorities .
    Those wage claims will in the first instance go to local authorities who no matter what party is in control will have to go to the Scottish Government for more funding what will she say to those people if it happens and many of them vote SNP and are exactly the people she needs to vote for her
    That is just some of what the day job entails
    There were a few upsets at side events .
    It appears Michael Russell John Swinney and Michael Mathieson all got told what delegates thought of them
    A former police officers mum told Michael Mathieson
    This isn’t a Tory Government . This isn’t a Labour Government
    This is my party and you are letting down your officers apparently he had not a lot to say in reply..
    Then for me Mhairi Black who might be a future leader gave the speech that I thought Nicola should have and didn’t
    She got stuck into Jeremy Corbyn the BBC and told her own people to get out there and get our Independence
    Something our FM didn’t do.
    Finally Gavin was it you and your good lady who caused all that Indy trouble in Spain
    You will have to give me a full report on this blog.
    And I have to say as always although I am a labour party member I regard the blogs as light hearted discussion blogs its my view you get not the party

  4. David. Am I to blame for the indy trouble in Spain? Let us hope not, though I am a democrat and deplore the Spanish police use of force on people hoping to do no more than cast a vote.
    I have been to Spain a few times. When I was in the Royal Navy based for 18 months at Gibraltar in 1969/1970, Franco had closed the border at La Linea, so myself and two friends who wanted a holiday in Spain, had to travel by ferry to Ceuta ( a Spanish enclave in N Africa) then another ferry to Algeciras (back where we started nearly, in the Bay of Gibraltar ) thence into the countryside of Andalusia. We hitched wherever we went, and went where we were taken. People were exceptionally friendly ( this was before mass tourism) and we spent very little on the basics of life. If memory serves, we were there for about 8 days then back to Gib. I was aged 20. Our Spanish was very rudimentary and English speakers were as rare as hens teeth where we were. A great experience.
    Another time was about twenty years ago, when my wife, two children and I were staying with French friends in Mont-De- Marsan and they took us out every day to see the sights. One day we went through the Pyrenees and eventually we found ourselves in Spain. Though we passed through no customs posts and it was French Basque country and into Spanish Basque country. Watched several games of pelota—astonishing game.
    So I like the Spanish, though I have never had a package holiday there. Not as much as I like the French. Both peoples tend to be laid back and enjoy life. I hope Spain/Catalunya can solve their constitutional dispute in a friendly manner. Proper federalism/confederalism might do it—just like Scotland/England—but it takes a willingness to negotiate and that seems to be a problem for both Spain/England.

  5. Was having a laugh glad you enjoyed your hols .It has been reported that last Saturday a small secretive group of very powerful business men
    Some with family links going back to the Franco regime held a meeting.
    Then let the Catalan Leader know that the Catalan economy would be ruined if independence was declared on Monday. The leader knew that that they had the power and influence to do it .
    The regions banks were pulling their HQS out . I think they have done it and are not going back . Tourists were cancelling reservations
    National cops were manning railroads and airport .
    Ferry loads of National cops were in the harbour Naval Frigates were in the harbour although I don’t know if the ships are normally there . It was CH4 news that reported that.
    The unions had called a 5 day strike and called for crowds to come out and force local businesses to close.
    The clincher might have been Spain saying no trade with Catalonia and France saying publicly no EU membership
    In Madrid I believe its a right wing Government . The report I read said even more right wing forces told the PM if he showed any sign of Weekness he would be replaced.
    The EU were terrible it was disgraceful that they did not condemn firmly the violence The Scottish Government to their credit did .
    If the EU does not act we could have a civil war in Europe
    The EU for me has got to mediate behind the scenes .Give both sides a way to draw back without saving face .
    If they cant let the UN do it

  6. The Scottish Governments childcare project is huge in scope and is going to be expensive .BBC fact check mentioned a very much smaller and different voluntary project has been under way in Wales since 2016
    Its called Parents Childcare and Employment Pace
    It aims to help improve Employment prospects for parents where their main barrier to accessing training or job opportunities .
    Aimed at parents aged over 25 not in employment
    Young parents aged 16 to 24 not in employment education or training its called neet
    Providing one to one support in family friendly locations
    Supporting parents in their search for training and employment
    Helping with better off in work calculations
    Providing Employment advice and guidance including self employment
    Identifying child care options
    Funding child care
    Identifying training requirements
    Getting parents closer to the workplace
    When the site went up the scheme was voluntary
    40 pace advisers working locally
    Pace is a 13.5 million pounds project jointly funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund ESF
    For more info on Pace Email Pace@wales.gsi.gov.uk.
    Wales voted to leave the EU does that cash go with it
    And its on BBC Scotland a nice little squabble has broken out between the Scottish and UK Governments over rail funding
    The BBC says no Tory MPS or MSPS are available for comment
    I said in a previous comment to a previous comment Nicolas speech and the programme for government
    Is the day job etc
    Well Ruth its time to start being a responsible opposition
    Its time for you to start doing the day job as well
    Not being available for comment on things like this for me is definitely not doing the day job

  7. The comment above should read where childcare is their main barrier to accessing training or job opportunities
    A company called Peoples Energy owned by its customers They say new company will take funds away from them
    Then I looked at Nottingham City Council they set up Robin Hood the first not for profit energy company owned by a local authority
    The aim is cheaper gas and electric for Nottingham tackle fuel poverty and low energy bills

  8. Here is a little something that’s on the STV politics Scotland page.
    Maureen Watt the Scottish Government Health Minister .Was at Meadow Bank Sports Centre on May 18 .
    To give a speech on the benefits of active learning through physical activity for people with learning difficulties
    The minister then claimed the expenses of 4pounds 86 pence for a taxi rather than walk 0.9 miles to the Scottish parliament building
    Clearly the minister must be skint if the money she earns did not leave her with enough to pay for the cab .And NOT CLAIM IT BACK
    Or even better do what she had been preaching WALK

    1. David, a word to the wise. She is 66 with asthma. Miles Briggs, an obese Tory who complained about this, is much younger than her, but has also claimed taxi fares for short trips from Holyrood to Princes Street—this is one of the crows you are flying with!
      Or how about Labour MP’s Sarah Champion who claimed £17 for attending a poppy day thing—also Adrian Bailey who claimed £13 for the same. he also claimed £2.25 for tea and cakes twice, £3.35 for cake coffee and two plums.
      John Prescott–two toilet seats, mock Tudor beams–David Miliband—hundreds of pounds for taxi rides from the airport after a holiday etc etc.
      There are hundreds of dodgy claims out there by Labour and Tory politicians from pennies to thousands of pounds ( I believe all those found to have defrauded the system in the 2009 scandal were all Labour MP’s)—please don’t attack a poorly pensioner for something able bodied politicians do to a far greater extent.

    2. Maureen Watt is a 66 year old who suffers from asthma – and you want her to run for a mile to get to parliament on time to save £4.86? Give her a break for goodness sake!

      1. Lewee and Gavin my apologies and thanks for your comments I did not know about the asthma
        I apologize for any offence caused

  9. Let me help answer your question ‘what progress?’

    Record health funding – over £13 billion in 2017, £3.6 billion more than 2007.
    Higher exam passes up by a third since 2007
    Free, high quality childcare has been increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds from low income households
    Scotland outperforming the UK on female employment and inactivity rates.
    Prescription charges abolished.
    Recorded crime in Scotland has reached its lowest level in 43 years..
    NHS staffing is at record high levels, up more than 12,300 in the last ten years.
    Patient satisfaction continues to increase with 90 per cent of NHS Scotland patients rating their care and treatment as good or excellent.
    Scotland’s A&E services are the best performing in the UK.
    Over £5 billion has been invested in Scotland’s health infrastructure since 2007, including the South Glasgow Hospitals and Emergency Care Centre in Aberdeen.
    Nurses in Scotland are better paid than anywhere else in the UK.
    IVF is being expanded to more families – making access in Scotland the fairest and most generous in the UK.
    Our hospitals are cleaner and safer. In over 65s cases of C.Diff are down 86 per cent, and cases of MRSA are down 93 per cent.
    Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of population in the UK, and we’ve made sure more practices are now open in the evenings and at weekends.
    A record nine in ten people are now registered with an NHS dentist – up from just 52 per cent in 2007.
    All children in primaries 1 to 3 now get free school meals
    The percentage of pupils leaving school with at least one Higher level or equivalent qualification has increased by almost 45 per cent since 2007
    The number of full-time college students completing recognised higher education qualifications is at an all time high.
    Full-time college students in Scotland can now benefit from the highest bursary of anywhere in the UK.
    The number of graduates from Scottish universities going into work or further study is among the highest in the UK.
    Graduates from Scottish universities are earning more than their counterparts in other UK nations.
    The poorest university students who are living at home are benefiting from a minimum income guarantee of £7,625 per year – the highest in the UK.
    Since 2007, the number of female entrants in STEM subjects at Scottish universities has increased by 26 per cent in first degree courses and 47 per cent in postgraduate courses. 
    Scotland’s youth unemployment is the third lowest in the EU.
    Productivity growth in Scotland is four times as fast as the UK – as measured by output per hour worked. Since the SNP came to office, productivity has increased by 9.4 per cent, while stagnating for the UK as a whole.
    In Scotland, under the SNP, police numbers are up, while they’ve fallen in England. 
    The reconviction rate has been reduced to its lowest level in 18 years
    ….and the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing was built – a decision Labour failed to take while in office

    1. If “NHS spending is at a record high” why am I still waiting to see a consultant about a knee replacement that was referred by my GP in February and my physio in August? Something is broken somewhere.

  10. It also turns out our FM instead of going for a jog on April 26 against the rules she took a trip in an official car to Stirling on a party campaign trip
    .Then on May 30 a publicly funded motorcade was used to take SNP ministers to the partys manifesto launch in Perth . Apparently there was 8 ministers involved .The code says ministers must not use public resources for party political purposes .
    The official car fleet costs 1 million a year
    Of course if they got the bus Stagecoach in my area they have the monopoly say the no 11 route witch is the main route .
    They would encounter a few problems that us ordinary Mortals who have to use the bus every day experience because we don’t have a taxpayers government car to go for a jaunt in.
    Massive holdups and long waits due to neverending roadworks and temporary traffic lights.
    At Irvine x the buses can be that late when we get between 2 and 5 busses turning up at once . The Stage coach bus inspector emerges from
    his lair in the Stagecoach shop and sprints across the road .Does he do this to make sure the sometimes up to 40 waiting passengers get on a bus
    No he moves the other busses on without picking up . Road works you know Then our bus packed full of people trying not to fall because the bus moved off before they found a seat. Or if its standing room only hope you don’t fall everytime the bus jercks as it stops .
    I wont mention trying to help wheelchairs users and mums with prams and we do try to help.
    So several roadworks and arguments later we arrive at Kilmarnock bus station .
    You will usually be met with a crowd of passengers wanting to know why its a bus station with no no11 buses .
    The Kilmarnock bus station Inspector will say roadworks you know.
    The bus you just got off will leave and you can go about your business .
    You come back full of the joys of life into the bus station stances I and 2 empty nae buses well it is a bus station road works you know
    So our bus inspector is sitting at his desk shouting get your no 11 tickets here .Note he does not say please .
    There are usually a crowd of drivers also waiting for buses to arrive road works you know.
    Then one day I said to our bus inspector can we not get on one of those buses over there .Our Inspector said whut buses .
    One of them I said EH naw our Inspector said we need them fur the schools
    I did not bother pointing out it was 11 am
    Then I saw the solution to our problem .In stance no 3 there was a single decker empty no 11 sitting there annoying nobody
    So I said to our Inspector will I get on that bus over there. Our Inspector said whut bus I said that one and I pointed to the innocent empty no 11 sitting unnoticed by our Inspector until I pointed it out in the wrong stance.
    Our Inspector jumped up looked at the empty no 11 in stance no 3 and shouted how did that get there . I said will I get on it . Our Inspector said eh naw pal ive got wan coming for you. Then he shouted again how did that get there .
    So a no 11 came we got on it.
    Our driver got off to stretch his legs and left the bus doors open so we overheard our Inspector saying to our bus driver gonnae dae us a favour hide that bus . This produced grate laughter on the bus .
    Then our driver came back the other no 11 safely hidden from public view
    I hope they remember where and we went on our way
    What if our ministers had to visit Ayr bus station Stagecoach again . No public toilets no Inspectors when the Cummnock bus turned up very late the driver told waiting passengers who wanted to know why the bus was so ,late its the rain.

  11. Again apologies for any offence caused over Maureen Watt the story is still on the STV site. It does not say she had asthma
    Galloway and West Dumfries Conservative MSP Finlay Carson in March claimed 1200 pounds .To build his website the company he used is owned by him and his brother

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