Five more years of Sturgeon’s reshuffled second raters

by Colin Campbell

NICOLA Sturgeon announced “a major Cabinet reshuffle” yesterday but although this was dutifully reported on in the mainstream media I doubt if many people were very much interested. There was emphasis from Sturgeon and co on the fact that it was “gender balanced”. And of course, in terms of priorities, we would expect absolutely nothing less.

Safely back at Holyrood…Nicola Sturgeon and her new ‘top team’.

I follow SNP shennanigans avidly but in terms of who’s doing what in the Scottish Government my knowledge and awareness is distinctly limited.

I know that – up to now at any rate – John Swinney has been Education Secretary (school exams fiasco), Kate Forbes has been Finance Secretary (three years as a novice MSP and always whingeing that the Westminster she wants to break free from isn’t shovelling enough billions across the border), and Hate Crimes Humza is Justice Secretary (last week backed a threatening mob in Glasgow who forced police to release illegal immigrants).

And Jeanette Freeman (record hospital waiting lists and hospital construction foul-ups) has been Health Secretary.

How many people outside their relatives, a few media pundits and those they deal with directly know who’s doing what, or much care?

If Sturgeon got rid of that lot it might help. But they’d only be replaced by other second or third-raters, gender balanced of course, who’d probably be even worse.

She could appoint newly-elected Inverness MSP Emma Roddick, flat broke and relying on loans from pals till she gets her first month’s salary, as the new Finance Secretary, and you’d almost have to stifle a yawn.

This lack of general knowledge isn’t, I believe, down to careless negligence on my part.

The SNP themselves are to blame for it.

And that’s because the SNP Scottish Government rarely seems to have any compelling interest in actually governing.

The only reason Swinney, Forbes and the mobster for Justice are in their jobs, and the only reason they’re even MSPs, is because they are in the vanguard of the so-called drive for independence.

Remove that factor and they’d be working 9 to 5 in offices somewhere and barely be household names in their own households.

The same applies at local level to Hendry, Ewing and Blackford – first names Drew, Fergus and Ian.

Take away independence and Hendry would be banging on in the local papers about parcel delivery charges or whatever else caught his attention on any particular day. The same applies to the other two. They’d be about as relevant on a daily basis to most people as the elected representatives of south-west Cornwall.

It’s the “I” factor that has put them where they are and gives them some semblance of importance.

And, following the election, the “I” factor has quietened down to a very considerable degree.

With hindsight, the past six months and more were something of a frenzy when it came to another referendum and independence. Tempers were raised across Scotland and feelings were running very high.

That’s because the SNP nationalists were obsessed with building up the May 6 vote to be “a turning point in Scotland’s history”.

Well, if there’s been any turn it’s been in only one direction – downward, for them.

Not only did the SNP fail to get their much-touted “supermajority”, they didn’t even get a majority in the Scottish Parliament, and are dependent on the Greens led by little Patrick Harvie for getting anything done.

We don’t need to go over it all again. Suffice to say the nats on a triumphalist high when a freak opinion poll in February peaked at 58 per cent support for independence really did believe they were going to carry everything before them in the May election, and not just win a super-majority, but a mega-majority.

The front page of the National on April 28, just over a week before the election, summed it up with the headline: “Huge indy majority is predicted”.

The mood was indeed frenzied, with most of the frenzy coming from the SNP nationalists. After sweeping the boards and winning close to every seat in Scotland on May 6, Boris Johnson would find it impossible to resist their demands for another referendum, with many of them insisting that it must take place this year.

SNP politicians and the SNP supporting media branded it “the most important election in Scotland’s history”.

Less than two weeks later, it seems a lot less important now.

Not only did the SNP fail to win a majority, but they gained the backing of only 31 per cent of the overall electorate. And virtually every opinion poll over the past month has shown support for Scotland remaining in the UK is greater than for breaking it up.

The indyref2 rumblings on social media inevitably continue, albeit in a markedly less vitriolic tone. The National still tries to grow its tiny readership base by scraping around for headlines to stir things up. And SNP politicians like Hendry and Blackford still go through the indyref2 motions.

But what was supposed to be the momentous May 6 has come and gone and now there is no date marked anywhere in the calendar ahead for them to focus on. And without that, what do they do next?

Sturgeon at some stage will ask Boris Johnson for a section 30 order granting permission to hold another referendum, and he will refuse it. But there’s no indication as to when that will happen. Now that she’s safely back as First Minister, she’ll be in no rush.

It was beneficial and significant that Alex Salmond’s extremist Alba Party – who wanted negotiations on independence to begin with Westminster on the Monday after the election and who would have pressurised Sturgeon – got absolutely nowhere in the polls.

So the SNP nationalists have gone from frenzy to limbo. The independence debate will continue indefinitely but there will be no nationalist insurrection or disorder on the streets as a result of anything that happens for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime the more sensible among them say the best way forward is to finally get down to the hard work of coming up with all the glaringly missing answers on what an independent Scotland would look like. What currency would be used, the effect on pensions and mortgages, the consequences of a hard border with the rest of the UK, the credible prospects for joining the EU, the massive deficit, and the loss of the extra £2,000 per head in public spending we get compared with people in England.

Not a single one of the leading lights or low lights mentioned above – from Sturgeon to Hendry and Ewing – would right now be able to give a convincing answer to a single one of these questions.

There’ll be a ripple of interest in Sturgeon’s “major Cabinet reshuffle” but not very much.

There is no prospect of another referendum, far less for independence, for several years ahead, at the very least.

As that reality sinks in among those on both sides of the divide, everything has now calmed down. And long may it stay that way.

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