Sunday, 15 November 2015


For the last few weeks Labour have been doing their best to plant the idea in voters' heads that the current SNP government is utterly incompetent.  Health services?  They must be hiding the truth from us.  Education?  The attainment gap between the richest and poorest is getting wider, the number of college places has been drastically cut.  Policing?  Making a single Scottish police force has been a disaster and it's all the fault of the SNP.  Week after week Kezia Dugdale chooses one of these subjects and accuses the SNP govenment of doing an utterly awful job.

It's becoming clear that Labour, backed up by their friends in the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, are going to make this the central plank of their election campaigning.  So far Ms Dugdale has managed precisely one policy announcement (which turns out to have more holes in it than the finest Emmental) versus weeks of 'SNP Accused'.

Will it work?  On the surface, you'd think so.  The modus operandi seems to be to take one unfortunate incident, such as an elderly man dying on a trolley in A&E after waiting 8 hours for a bed or Lamara Bell and John Yuill lying undiscovered in their crashed car for three days despite their car having been reported to the police.  These are, of course, unfortunate incidents, and everything possible should be done to try and ensure that they do not happen again.  However, the current Scottish opposition like to try and paint these incidents as commonplace and typical of the services.

That, I think, is where this strategy will fall down.  Scottish voters are not stupid.  They can see that, by and large, things are going pretty well here in Scotland.  The NHS is mostly meeting its targets and is much better thought of by those who use its services than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.  College places have indeed been cut, but the reality is that most of those places were for short courses that did not lead to a recognised qualification. Labour now claims that free tuition fees are simply a sop to the middle classes, which is a bit of a turnaround from 2011, when both they and the Liberal Democrats pledged to maintain free tuition.  Forming the 8 Scottish police forces into a unitary force has saved money on salaries for 8 chief constables and other senior management posts, and what Labour aren't telling people is that they pledged to create a unitary ploice force in their 2011 manifesto.

So far their strategy doesn't appear to be working.  The latest opinion poll shows support for the SNP running at 58% on the constituency vote and 52% on the list vote.  Given the relentless negativity of Kezia Dugdale, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, you'd think that lead would be declining by now. 
So why isn't it? 

For one thing, as previously mentioned, people can judge from their own experience of the various services.  No-one is saying that what we have is perfect, but it's a lot better than what we had under the previous Labour/LibDem governments.  For another thing, the three Unionist parties are continuing to band together to oppose their mortal enemy, the SNP.  This will not play well with a large percentage of the electorate, who see the Unionist parties as taking their orders from London and not standing up for Scotland, as amply demonstrated last Monday during the Scotland Bill debate.  And no amount of protestations about how Labour in Scotland are independent of UK Labour regarding policy is going to be taken seriously when everyone saw their attempt at an independent policy on Trident being slapped down by London HQ.  Finally, continually criticising the NHS, police and education sector is simply going to annoy those working in this sector, who are doing the best they can.

The SNP have no reason to be complacent.  There are issues to be addressed, and they must be seen to be taking them seriously.  However, the opposition needs to stop the relentless negativity and start coming up with credible ideas for solving the problems, or another tsunami will sweep through Scotland next May.

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