‘NOW move along please, there’s nothing to see here.” Such could have been the comments by the police outside the conference centre in Glasgow as the First Minster and his deputy opened their Christmas show that they hope will run and run. Unfortunately for them I believe it’s about to become an almighty flop
The launch of a White Paper was nothing other than the self-serving and highly partisan pantomime of an election manifesto with bells on.
But there’s a catch, and it isn’t that Salmond is forever playing the dame or that Sturgeon was born to be Buttons, it’s that to get to the Ball we have to break up the United Kingdom first.
Some people are desperate to be seduced by all the bright lights, the sweet serenade of the nationalist chamber orchestra and the promise of milk and honey – forgetting that the carriage will turn into a pumpkin and the horses into mice when the clock strikes and economic reality dawns.
Now I have worked on a number of White Papers for various governments but never before have I seen one as thick and as flashy as a Littlewoods catalogue. But there’s a catch – it doesn’t have any prices yet!
Why’s that? Well, while this White Paper cum-manifesto cum-catalogue has lots of fancy goods like you’d expect – but no-one has bothered to cost it – or if they have they’re scared to tell us because it’s all too expensive.
Sure, it has some politically fashionable bling for the trendsetters amongst us, some bribes aimed at the stay-at-home mums thumbing through it over elevenses, some gifts targeting students keen to avoid debt – but this catalogue is all on tick and won’t be paid for until after consumption, maybe not even by you, but by your children and their children to come. It is the mother of all HP agreements with interest rates to make Wonga envious.
Worse still, no-one can say with certainty what currency the goods will be sold in – pounds, euros, dollars, groats? Who knows? Alex Salmond can huff and Sturgeon can puff but they can’t guarantee what the currency will be – so if you don’t know that you can’t say what your pension will be worth or if your job will be viable – never mind the price of milk
Like so many party manifestoes, this document tries to please everyone, it is Fifty Shades of White, and just as sordid (and badly written) as its namesake.
Take the glossy pages on childcare. Why were these not in the catalogue before? All this sales talk about having to break up Britain first is just flannel. The suppliers at Holyrood already have the powers to provide more childcare in place. In fact the offers that were made in previous editions about more free care have never been delivered. If outraged parents could take the SNP to customer complaints they would be demanding their money back.
Then there’s the sections on Europe, universities and immigration. Again the smooth words just fly off the page but they are a work of complete fiction. It is still being pushed that Scotland will be a member of the EU because it is already and will not be leaving – instead the UK will simply be split and Scotland and the rest will remain as two separate members.
But that’s not how the European Commission sees it and now the Spanish Prime Minister has fired his own broadside, repaying us no doubt for all those Scots that fought at Trafalgar. We will not be automatic members; we will have to negotiate our entry – and while this will be possible it will come with a price, an expensive new membership fee, agreements on open borders and eventually adopting that euro.
The assurance is also given that Scottish students will continue to receive free tuition – which of course means that EU students will too – but it then goes on to say that students from the remainder of the United Kingdom will be made to pay – in complete contradiction to EU law. Not only would this lead to an expensive court case a Scottish government would most certainly lose it would also mean that universities would be impoverished through lack of funds the government had not allowed for.
Then there’s the promise that we will be more welcoming in immigration. Really? What, to help depress local wages? To help put pressure on overstretched local authorities facing funding gaps on childcare, housing and elderly care? Immigration can be a good thing but it has to be planned for and has costs as well as benefits. But costs there were none.
And then there’s the other missing ingredient – just what will our neighbours think? A different policy on immigration – be it more lax or more tight – will require border controls to prevent illegal access to either country.
A pantomime this it certainly was. If those lame gags are the best the scriptwriters can do then the public will be staying away. Give me Grant Stott any time.