It’s well recognised that the SNP don’t like to be compared to nationalist movements elsewhere. But nationalism is nationalism and comparisons with the tactics of international counterparts come easily.
In Edinburgh, council leader Adam McVey – and his colleague, transport convenor Councillor Lesley MacInnes – increasingly seem to invoke the political tactics of President Trump when seeking to trumpet the transport and environmental policy ‘achievements’ of their administration.
Perhaps Trump University offers short courses at Turnberry?
Rule one: hyperbolically champion as hugely successful any policy or service for which you are responsible, regardless of whether the majority of evidence supports your position.
Rule two: swiftly dismiss as scaremongering or lying the view of any politician who dares challenge your policy, immediately pivoting to personal attacks on your opponents.
There are numerous instances of the Edinburgh SNP using this approach. For example, claiming Edinburgh’s bin collection service is “truly excellent”. This despite waste collection satisfaction levels being amongst the lowest in the country.
Or their claims that the Edinburgh Tram extension is essential to the city’s future. This despite over 90 per cent of Leith residents being happy with their public transport.
Or their claims of overwhelming public support for banning cars in central Edinburgh – a claim based on a consultation responded to by less than one per cent of Edinburgh’s population.
Liars who should apologise
The latest example of the Edinburgh SNP’s Trumpism comes in relation to the review of Edinburgh’s 20mph scheme.
Councillor McVey claims the flagship scheme was a huge success and that the Conservatives – the only party to consistently oppose the scheme – were basically just liars who should apologise for daring to challenge the view of his administration.
Cllr MacInnes has been quoted in the press proclaiming a similar level of resounding success. The same transport convenor who in 2018 claimed the traffic scheme would help combat loneliness.
It’s an inconvenient truth for them that the council’s own review of the 20mph scheme shows that spending £3 million of taxpayers cash on signage and media advertising has reduced speeds by an average of just 1.3mph, with four in ten residents saying they hadn’t even seen information regarding the scheme. Just one in five people think traffic speeds have actually fallen in their community.
The introduction of the scheme was a political choice, not one called for by the police, who in the early life of the scheme said enforcing the limit wasn’t a priority. While the police subsequently made efforts to convince the public they were taking the measure seriously, fines issued in the past three years barely make triple figures.
Improving road safety education
Conservatives have consistently opposed the scheme. We have often cited examples from other UK councils like Bath and North East Somerset, Manchester and Hampshire who all basically concluded the impact on speed reduction was minimal. In at least one case, the scheme wasn’t scrapped purely as doing so was deemed a further waste of taxpayer cash.
The most comprehensive analysis of 20mph schemes in the UK, undertaken by the Department for Transport, found such schemes were of minimal effect in reducing speeds. The AA has said that the evidence shows blanket 20mph schemes are a waste of money.
But all these legitimate, evidence-based concerns, as well as Conservative calls that the money would have been better spent addressing accident blackspots and improving road safety education, have been flatly rejected, rather than engaged.
The Trumpian tactics increasingly pedalled by the SNP-led administration in Edinburgh, while perhaps just another symptom of the broader shift toward a post-truth political culture, leads to suboptimal policy outcomes. And it is taxpayers who lose out.
Nick Cook is a Conservative councillor and the principal opposition Transport spokesman on Edinburgh Council.