Brian Monteith: Old just the same as the new

Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on the first night of her tour of Scotland. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on the first night of her tour of Scotland. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Nicola Sturgeon has started her tour to tell SNP members what she intends to do as Scotland’s next First Minister – but already she’s going back on her word at every opportunity.

Frankly, it would not really matter if Nicola Surgeon told fibs, she would be found out by the Scottish public and then a day of reckoning would cost her and her party dear at the polls. Tony Blair did it and his name is now mud, even amongst most Labour supporters. Brown did it – remember no more boom and bust? – and such was his damaged reputation that until last month he was hardly seen at political events or in the House of Commons.

Nick Clegg has told some real porkies of course, the plum one being to oppose the increase in tuition fees – only for him to toss that commitment aside in his lust for power. Private memos later revealed that even before the general election he had already calculated he would break his promise.

David Cameron went back on his word about having a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which forced him into offering a referendum on new EU membership terms he thinks he can renegotiate.

And Alex Salmond made being economical with the truth an art form. Some admirers like to call the First Minister (he’s still got a month left) a “class act” but I prefer to suggest that politically he’s a first-class fraud.

Remember how students were going to have their student loan debts written off? Remember how there was going to be a local income tax to replace council tax? Recall how there was legal counsel on Scotland’s right to EU membership? Mind how the referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime chance – not to be repeated for a generation?

All these and more turned out to be duds. He didn’t deliver and he didn’t stick to his word.

But, hey ho, Nicola Sturgeon’s different – so the story goes. She’s her own woman, sharp, sassy and soberingly serious in what she says.

Only she’s not. You see Ms Sturgeon signed up to all of Alex’s bluster and has defended or repeated his arguments herself. Indeed, she’s been Alex Salmond’s stoutest defender and was complicit in his duplicity.

Never mind, she’s starting afresh, she will be in charge and not have to cover her superior’s rear. So maybe we can expect Ms Sturgeon to be all above board – maybe, just maybe, what we see will be what we get?

Well it did not take her long to show she’s no different from other political leaders that have let us down. For if there’s one thing that Nicola Sturgeon is – and I’ve been in public committees with her, debated against her and sat in private meetings with her – and that is, she’s a gratuitously partisan politician. She appears to enjoy slapping her opponents down – and If you turned the other cheek to Ms Sturgeon she would not think twice about slapping you again.

So when the First Minister-in-
waiting says she is going to make the NHS her number one priority you have to reach for the ibuprofen, for you know it’s just a sham. And so it turned out to be, for instead of telling us how she is going to improve our NHS she sought this week to divide us all even more by picking a fight with the rest of the UK about a future EU referendum.

The people of Scotland voted No to independence, but Ms Sturgeon has gone back on her word that the referendum was a one-off by refusing to accept it. Instead, she gives solace to those campaigning for a re-vote. She talks about how another referendum will be possible and insults the democratic outcome of the sovereign will of the Scottish people.

Having first shown her disrespect for the Scottish people, she has repeated her offence by arguing on Wednesday that Scotland should have a right of veto over any decision taken in a UK referendum to leave the EU. The UK is indeed a family of nations but foreign affairs is a matter reserved to Westminster – a position the Scottish people endorsed – and so it is for Westminster to determine our international treaties.

Did Ms Sturgeon ever offer the Scottish people a vote on the membership terms she and Alex Salmond might have negotiated with the EU? No, that decision would have been the SNP’s alone to decide. Did Ms Sturgeon ever say that England, Wales or Northern Ireland should hold a veto on Scotland leaving the family of nations? No, it was for Scots alone to decide.

Did Ms Sturgeon ever suggest that Edinburgh or Aberdeen should have a veto on Scotland leaving the UK if the rest had voted that way? No, it was for all of Scotland as one nation to decide. Likewise, on our membership of the EU it is for all of the United Kingdom as one country to decide.

Nicola Sturgeon has broken her promise to make the NHS her first priority and will continue to do so. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Same old, same old.