Napoleon Bonaparte famously said: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” His words should be inscribed above the entrance to the Scottish Parliament, where for fourteen years the SNP has mismanaged Scotland so badly that many critics put it down to malevolence, while the truth is closer to rank incompetence. Obsessed with breaking up Britain, successive SNP administrations have allowed educational standards to slump, the NHS to descend into chaos, drug deaths to soar and business and industry to suffer. SNP government intervention in the industrial sector has been an unmitigated disaster, squandering hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. They even landed Scottish taxpayers with a £600,000 bill over their bungled handling of the Salmond sexual harassment case.

Scotland’s Auditor General, who acts as a watchdog on government spending, has pointed to the SNP’s slipshod interventions in Prestwick Airport, Ferguson Marine and the Lochaber smelter. They bought Prestwick Airport in 2013 for a token £1, but despite repeated attempts to sell the Ayrshire facility, it has swallowed more than £43.4m in unpaid government loans. It is a similar story at Ferguson Marine, taken into public ownership by the SNP government in 2019, as two overdue ferries lay rusting on the stocks. The £97m contract for the two ferries has spiralled with the final cost to the public purse now over £300m. 

Last year the situation became farcical. Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), who procure new ferries on behalf of the SNP government, decided to award a £100m contract for two new vessels to serve Islay and Jura, to foreign shipyards! CMAL rejected a bid from Ferguson Marine and shortlisted shipyards in Romania, Poland and Turkey for the contract. However, under the SNP, failure must never go unrewarded; according to a report in the Sunday Times, the person appointed by the SNP government to run the Port Glasgow shipyard – Tim Hair – received fees of £1.3m since being hired in 2020, averaging £2,500 per day, 25 times more than the average worker at the yard. Tim Hair has announced his imminent departure and he’s been followed by the yard’s chairman and another board member.

There have been further major financial controversies involving the SNP’s lack of business expertise. They plunged in to help the ailing steel smelter in Lochaber, acquiring the site from Tata Steel for £1, before selling it on to Sanjeev Gupta of Liberty Steel, potentially in breach of state aid regulations. The SNP government provided Sanjeev Gupta with a staggering £586m power purchase guarantee 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.

It was against this doleful background that Kate Forbes, set out the SNP’s budget for 2022, announcing yet again a virtual standstill for Scotland’s beleaguered local authorities. Despite the fact UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has provided Scotland with its biggest ever Barnet Formula windfall, thrusting an extra £40bn into the SNP/Green coalition’s coffers, Kate Forbes left Scotland’s councils a facing real-terms cut of £250m. Her sudden announcement last week of an extra £120m for councils, still doesn’t come close to what they need. In a cynical move, the Finance Secretary announced that she was removing the long-standing cap on council tax increases, giving the green light to significant hikes in local taxes to mitigate her savage cuts and facing our councils with a dilemma in election year. Should they raise taxes and risk the disapproval of their electors or cut services? Against the background of a huge surge in the cost of living, council tax increases are the last thing struggling households want.

Those who wonder how this situation could have arisen and question where Rishi Sunak’s money has gone, need look no further than the SNP/Green administration’s determined efforts to open quasi embassies in cities around the world. The SNP Government spends £9m a year on offices in Beijing, Washington DC, Ottawa, Paris, Brussels, Dublin, Berlin and Copenhagen, as well as one in London and plans are in the pipeline for a vastly expanded network, promoting Scottish independence worldwide. Much of the funding will come from the £370m allocated to the budget of Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture. So, while Scottish councils, Police Scotland, the NHS, drugs and alcohol policy, the travel smartcard and action on fuel poverty, all face major budget cuts, the SNP/Green government happily squanders taxpayers’ cash on fantasy nationalist propaganda. 

The annual Government Revenue & Expenditure in Scotland (GERS) figures are a sobering reminder of how an independent Scotland would struggle to survive for at least the first decade after the breakup of the UK. GERS demonstrated how Scotland spent £15.1bn more last year than it collected in tax, a GDP deficit of 8.7 per cent. Now the post-pandemic deficit is 25%. Nicola Sturgeon and her nationalist colleagues bewail Brexit and pledge a swift return to EU membership. An independent Scotland with that sort of soaring budget deficit would not be welcomed back into the EU and the creation of a hard border with England would compound our financial difficulties. While the UK was a member of the EU economic and customs union for 47 years, Scotland has been a member of the UK economic and customs union for the past 313 years. We have enjoyed the free movement of people, goods and services throughout the UK during all that time. We have also enjoyed the benefits of being a member of the UK monetary union, social union, political union, cultural union, common security union and everything else that goes with our long-standing partnership over the past three centuries. If Brexit was bad, Scexit would be catastrophic. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has stated that SNP plans for independence would lead to a “decade of austerity” with cuts in public services having to make up for slow growth.

The other famous Napoleon quote which Nicola Sturgeon should make her own is: “If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.”