AS I SEE IT: Nicola Sturgeon may have new Green partners but she needs to make friends with the Conservatives, says TERRY MURDEN
Only a week into the SNP-Green partnership and already Scotland’s eco warriors are learning about the price of power. Principles are easy to hold on to when in opposition, but now the Green Party is having to toe the line peddled by their nationalist bosses. Already we have had a u-turn towards vaccine passports, which a week ago were not on the Green Party’s wish list and are now official government policy.
The Greens have also been forced on to the back foot on matters closer to the party’s core ideology after Daily Business revealed that the SNP government had quietly dropped its plans for a state-owned energy company delivering cheap power from renewable sources.
Aside from the woeful BBC Scotland shamefully crediting a number of other media for the story (a frustration for another day), the Greens have been silent on this reversal of a plan which, just a few weeks ago, they were demanding the government was giving greater attention.
The SNP has thus found that its new partners are filling the role they were asked to perform: providing blank cheques so that the government could more easily buy votes to get its legislation through parliament.
No wonder independence was quickly on the agenda papers. The Greens are already signed up, so now it’s just a matter of how far Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to go before it ends up in the courts in a potential showdown with Boris Johnson’s Tories who will continue to refuse all other means to secure a second referendum.
Cynics, even those with the SNP, will say that the SNP leader is keeping the issue alive to satisfy hardliners who do not accept that Westminster can stand in the way of their ambitions, while she must privately know that however hard they push the road to separation appears to end in a political cul-de-sac.
Is it a waste of parliamentary time as Tory MSP Murdo Fraser claims? Quite probably if all we get is more months of bluster and division.
A frustration for the SNP government is the extent to which they are forced to do the Westminster Tories’ bidding, offering only the opportunity to amend (tinker?) with policies – and money – passed on from London. None more so than the big picture stuff that is still reserved to Westminster.
Ms Sturgeon may have won the public relations prize for delivering Covid rescue plans, but they were essentially funded and developed by Westminster. Scotland has got in first with vaccine certification, but Westminster is developing its own scheme and will fund Holyrood’s initiative. SNP MPs opposed Mr Johnson’s hike in national insurance contributions but SNP MSPs will not be returning the £1.1 billion cheque that will be sent to Holyrood to help fund Ms Sturgeon’s new National Care Service.
Westminster continues to dictate the framing and delivery of major policy issues, bizarrely providing the case for both the union and independence. No wonder the vote for separation so evenly divides the nation.
But as we have seen with the Green party’s flip-flop on vaccine passports, politics is not just a game of attrition, it is also about expediency. The SNP’s goal to go-it-alone will ultimately rest on Westminster largesse. Nicola Sturgeon will find out, if she hasn’t already, that continually demonising the Tories will not deliver her party’s ambitions.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business