Helen Martin: Wave goodbye to our freedom

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AFTER the referendum, I joined the SNP. I am still in favour of independence. I have nothing 
 but admiration for both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. I broadly agree with their principles and I do despise the dirty tactics of Westminster which apparently know no bounds when it comes to keeping their “beloved” Union together, while at the same time disregarding the majority views of the people of Scotland and ignoring the crucial differences which mean we require a completely different policy approach.

But the Scottish Government, led by the SNP, is taking such an authoritarian attitude over life in Scotland that it doesn’t just irritate or anger me, it terrifies the wits out of me. When in doubt, it legislates.

Minimum pricing on alcohol might have some merits in theory. But mere money won’t solve the problem. How many Xboxes, smartphones, TV packages, season tickets and other unnecessary “luxuries” are bought by people who can’t afford them? Is upping the price of alcohol really going to make a difference to people who already pay over a tenner for one cocktail or whose lives revolve around drink? And what is this long, protracted, legal battle with Europe and the other EU countries who object to the threat of minimum pricing actually costing the public purse?

Then there’s the State Guardian policy for children, giving comparative strangers from health visitors to nurses or teachers the power to routinely muscle in on parenting and sit in judgement of mothers and fathers. They will no longer have to prove their right to interfere in court – it will be enshrined in law.

Currently the new changes to the laws on private tenancy are deeply concerning for landlords who fear they will be unable to get rid of bad tenants without resorting to prosecution as well as losing tax concessions for the wear and tear on their property inflicted by some tenants who don’t even attempt to look after it. Extra security of tenancy also affects other tenants and neighbours nearby who are disturbed by noisy, irresponsible or bad behaviour.

The government hasn’t built enough houses? So blame the landlords who are filling the gap and punish them, making no distinction between the good ones and the exploiters.

Now we are presented with the Scottish Government’s “green” action plan. After years of deterioration to roadways, a proliferation of potholes, incorrect government advice over fuel pollution, increases in the costs of parking and fuel, we are now facing an extra tax on office parking and fines and charges for not meeting emission targets. And that in a relatively small country with many rural areas and in which people often have to commute between cities to earn a living.

Braveheart’s cry for “freedom” has become hugely relevant again; not just freedom from the Auld Enemy but freedom from a government that believes random punishment and legislation is the way to make the country better.

To give the party its due, it has achieved some good things – no tuition fees, free prescriptions and leading the anti-Trident calls to name just a few. And inflicted some bad things, including Police Scotland.

But hasty, unpopular legislation with punitive consequences is a fast route to losing the mass support so recently won.