Jim O’Neill sets out a long list of reasons why criticism of the SNP is not only justified, it’s essential. The Scottish Government is failing.
I have been accused by some commentators on my blog of concentrating on the bad decisions of the SNP government, MSPs and MPs. Setting aside the fact that every criticism of the Scottish Government is tagged as #SNPbad by the cybernats, I want to let you into a secret. I really do think that the SNP have governed Scotland poorly due to their obsession with their failed independence project. As a result, they have taken their eyes off many aspects of governance.
The SNP are now into their third term of governing Scotland. One would think that they would have resolved many of the fundamental issues facing the country. So let’s look at some areas where I believe they have failed to do this.
On health, we are facing a serious shortage of nurses, caused by the failure of effective succession planning, and more and more nurses are signing up with agencies since they believe that conditions within the NHS do not help their careers. This is certainly the view that I heard from nurses that I spoke to during my time in hospital earlier this year. As a result, health authorities are spending shocking amounts of their budgets paying agencies.
There is also a clear crisis in General Practice recruitment. Just ask anyone who tries to get an appointment with a doctor. So much so that the government is now offering a bribe of up to £20,000 to anyone who will take a job in shortage areas. And these are not just in the widespread rural areas of Scotland. Areas that qualify for the payment include parts of Glasgow and other central belt towns and cities.
Bed blocking was supposed to have been ended by last Christmas. Indeed, it was a cast iron promise by the Health Secretary. Did she achieve it? Nope. There are also major problems with Social Care since local authorities do not have adequate income to fund it due to the much criticised Council Tax freeze.
In education, a major crisis in teachers’ workload has threatened the first national industrial action since the 1980s. The fact that John Swinney, Sturgeon’s most trusted minister, has been sent in to sort it out is an admission of the failure of previous education ministers, but his appearance at the EIS conference did little to lessen the anger. Last week’s conference at COSLA has decided to oppose the centralising grab for control of the schools, and even the august Royal Society of Edinburgh has criticised the pace of change. At the same time the SNP’s Named Person policy has fallen foul of the courts and Swinney is having to have a fundamental review of the policy.
As with nurses, there is a crisis of recruitment of teachers while many local authorities are having difficulty affording even those who are trained. Local authorities have lost thousands of committed public servants and have had to shut down many valuable local services as a result of the failed Council Tax freeze. This was supposed to be a short term measure to allow the SNP government to develop an alternative way of funding local government, but it has gone on and on without any alternative proposed.
Similarly, in social work recruitment and funding problems have led to enormous caseloads, particular in child care, which lead to the danger of some children slipping through the cracks, with inevitable results.
The economy is stalling, requiring a new investment of £100m, but no details of where the investment is going to be and where the money is coming from. Infrastructure developments, such as the new Queensferry Crossing, have been delayed, our railways have been sold off to Dutch government owned Abellio, and a protracted and unnecessary procurement of Clyde and Island services threatened the viability of government-owned CalMac.
So you ask me why I highlight the failings of the SNP government? Because they have failed to sort the problems in sector after sector.
This is my last offering for a few weeks since I am heading to Australia for my daughter’s wedding. However, in the words of the great Arnie, “I’ll be back”. But I can’t end without mentioning the wonderful by election win in Irvine East by new Councillor Louise McPhater. This was against the Sturgeon machine and was the result of extremely hard work by a fabulous local candidate, supported by a very hardworking team led by super-agent Robert Foster. It shows that the SNP electoral dominance can be broken and I hope to see many more wins across Scotland. It also means that Labour becomes the largest party in North Ayrshire after only four years of SNP.
Hasta la vista, baby.