SNP MAKING SCOTLAND POORER
In her latest attempt to outdo Joseph Goebbels in the propaganda wars, Nicola Sturgeon’s outrageous claim that the UK government is trying to make Scotland poorer, must take the biscuit. The First Minister told the SNP’s annual conference in September: “By making us poorer, they’ll say we can’t afford to be independent.” Her claims are particularly ludicrous following the £19 billion ploughed into Scotland in furlough payments and grants, during the pandemic, by the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak. More than a million Scottish jobs were protected by that assistance, which could never have materialised had we voted for independence in 2014. Nor would a bankrupt, independent Scotland have even been able to pay for the hugely successful vaccination programme rolled out across the UK.
Ms Sturgeon doesn’t need any help from the UK government in making Scotland poorer. She is doing a fine job of it herself! Fourteen years of incompetent SNP government has left Scottish business and industry floundering. The latest debacle over our decrepit ferry service is almost beyond the realms of satire. Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), who procure new ferries on behalf of the SNP government, have decided to award a £100 million contract for two new vessels to serve Islay and Jura, to foreign shipyards! CMAL rejected a bid from Ferguson Marine, the Port Glasgow yard, controversially taken into public ownership by the SNP government in 2019. CMAL has shortlisted shipyards in Romania, Poland and Turkey for the contract, rather than trust Ferguson Marine, where two rusting hulks that should have been completed and delivered already, are running 5-years behind schedule at over twice the original estimated £97 million cost. The SNP’s disastrous lack of planning for their nationalised shipyard will now cost Scotland hundreds of skilled jobs.
Ferguson Marine would be a bad enough example of the SNP government’s cack-handed business and industrial strategy if, sadly, it wasn’t only the tip of a very large iceberg. At Nicola Sturgeon’s urging, when she was Deputy First Minister, the SNP government bought the ailing Prestwick Airport for £1 in 2013, in the run-up to the 2014 referendum on independence. Since then, Ms Sturgeon and her team have sunk more than £45 million of taxpayer’s money into the struggling edifice, even agreeing to a massive £187,000 bonus to the airport’s three senior executives within days of the takeover. Prestwick’s meagre earnings from US military aircraft refuelling on their way back from Afghanistan, will now have come to a halt, following Joe Biden’s decision to exit from the ‘forever war’. The Prestwick fiasco bodes ill for the SNP’s plan to nationalise Scotrail.
There have been further major financial controversies involving the SNP’s lack of business acumen, including at Burntisland Fabrications (BiFAB) and alarmingly also at the Lochaber aluminium smelter. Ms Sturgeon and her ministers were sucked into the struggling Fort William smelter in Lochaber in 2016, when they poured taxpayers’ cash into the hands of billionaire Sanjeev Gupta, who was sweeping up similar businesses worldwide, with the support of the now defunct financial services company, Greensill Capital. The SNP government guaranteed Sanjeev Gupta a staggering £575 million and with his empire now facing serious financial problems, Scotland’s taxpayers could find themselves confronting a bill running into hundreds of millions of pounds.
Despite their ‘Green Deal’ with the Green Party and pledge to cut carbon emissions to net zero in Scotland by 2045 at the latest, Michael Matheson, the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, had the embarrassing task in September of pulling the plug on his party’s flagship proposal to create a state-owned energy company. The original pledge was trumpeted at the party’s 2017 annual conference, with a promise that it would provide the people of Scotland with low-cost power generated from green, renewable energy. It was a myth. The inclusion of two extremist ministers, as part of the coalition deal with the Greens, means that Scotland can now look forward to the devastation of its unique landscape by the doubling of onshore windfarms, devastating the tourist sector. But Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry has not fared well from Nicola Sturgeon’s draconian controls during the lockdown, demonstrating clearly that her knowledge of and consideration for tourism and hospitality is marginal.
Now Scotland’s public spending watchdog has warned that we are facing massive economic volatility in the months ahead. Audit Scotland, the official body tasked with monitoring government spending, has said it will be imperative for the UK government, the Scottish government and local authorities to work closely together to minimise disruption to individuals, public bodies and services. Audit Scotland pointed out that “Most of the Scottish government’s spending in response to Covid-19 in 2020/21 was funded by Barnett consequentials from the UK government”, adding that “it will be challenging to match spending to available funding in coming years.” Their report underlined the findings of the SNP government’s own economic experts, who outlined in their annual statement on government revenue and expenditure in Scotland (GERS), how in 2020/21, £62.8 billion was raised by Scotland by way of taxation and other revenues, while public spending by the SNP government amounted to £99.2 billion, leaving a deficit of £36.3 billion. This deficit had to be met by fiscal transfers, involving the pooling and sharing of financial resources with the rest of the UK. Now a leading think tank, the Institute for Government (IfG) has said that an independent Scotland would face years of deep cuts in public spending or sharp rises in taxation as it faced “difficult economic choices.”
Far from the UK government trying to make Scotland poorer, the exact opposite is the truth, revealing that our First Minister’s attempt at project fear, is a thin-skinned effort to camouflage her own neglect of Scotland’s economy and obsession with independence. Her panic call for the British army to help Scotland’s beleaguered ambulance service, must be the final humiliation for this disastrous government. The evidence is frighteningly clear. The SNP’s profligate attitude to taxpayers’ cash and complete lack of business expertise, proves that they are unfit for government and would quickly steer an independent Scotland into a spiral of economic decline and bankruptcy.