jimtoggleJim O’Neill notices a striking lack of comment on key issues during the SNP conference and a deliberate muddying of the waters over a second independence referendum, and also pays tribute to a fine comrade.

 

Well that was the 2016 SNP conference that was.

A Sturgeon speech a day keeps the Tories away? I think not. What it did do was to muddy the waters, particularly on Indyref2:

  • Day 1: “We are launching the Indyref2 legislation next week.”
  • Day 2: “We are not rushing into Indyref2.”
  • Day 3: “We will go to Indyref2 if there is a hard Brexit.”

Admittedly it’s a change from “I will only go for Indyref2 if the polls guarantee I will win”.

Of course this obsession with independence made Sturgeon forget to make any mention of the 1 million pounds per day that has been cut from our NHS. Or the fact that, according to the head of the Police Federation, police cars are held together “with duct tape”. Or the crisis in primary healthcare. Or even the thousands of local government jobs gone as a result of the misguided Council Tax freeze.

Mind you, “an emotional Nicola Sturgeon” promised a root and branch review of the children in care system. As well she might. Who has been responsible for the children in care system for the last ten years? My goodness, the SNP Scottish government! And who has led calls for reform? Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. It’s about time Sturgeon noticed that something was wrong.

And then we had her sidekick, John Swinney, the failed leader, announcing that local decisions would be made by local people. I thought he was Education Minister, not Local Government Minister. Unfortunately, he didn’t define what he meant by that. Given his intention to bypass local government in the field of education, you will forgive me if I suspect that this is another way to bypass local government. Having failed to destroy local government through the Council Tax freeze and the failure to replace it, is he now trying another tack?

As a co-operator, I am very much in favour of empowering local communities to control things in their own communities, from tennis courts to small community shops, but this requires a strong element of capacity building. It doesn’t work by diktat. And there are some services that require accountability at local level, an accountability that can only be provided by an elected local council. So, Mr Swinney, let’s see your detailed plans for this, or will they just be like your detailed plans for the replacement of the Council Tax, a Local Income Tax, that fell apart as soon as they got any level of scrutiny?

Ministers also inexplicably failed to mention that Scotland’s growth rate was only 0.7%, as against the UK rate of 2.1%. Nor did the collapse in jobs in the oil industry and in construction merit a mention, despite the building of the second Forth Road Bridge, incidentally with Chinese steel, while the Scottish steel industry collapsed. Maybe some of these issues will come up in First Minister’s Questions some time soon? Maybe the First Minister might even answer the questions posed? On Nicola’s performance so far, I’m not holding my breath.

Finally, I’m going to indulge myself in speaking about a local comrade, Brian Brown. Brian, in his eighties, never missed a CLP, and few Co-operative Party meetings. He always contributed wisely, not by looking back to the past as many older people are wont to do, but by looking forward, and he took particular pleasure in engaging with our younger members. He was also very active in CND and the Socialist Health Association along with other causes. You will be much missed, comrade.