by Colin Campbell
DOES anyone “hate” Kate Forbes? I very much doubt it. There may be a tiny handful of deranged people out there who hate all politicians. But it’s difficult to think of anyone less likely to provoke the ugliest of personal emotions than the Highland MSP and SNP Scottish Government Finance Secretary.
She comes across as a pleasant and likeable person. When she got engaged last Christmas wellwishers emerged from all sides to congratulate her. She received acres of friendly and favourable media coverage as she displayed her engagement ring. Social media was awash with smiling emojis.
So it was surprising to hear her assessment of the antipathy levelled against her in a BBC interview this week.
She said: “I think we have lost the ability to debate the issue without hating the person. When I got into politics for the first time I was stunned that people could not disagree or agree with my views at arm’s length but still get on with me as a human being and see me as a human being.
“Now, whatever issue you pick – it might be matters of equality or the constitution or anything in between – we have lost the ability to debate well, to debate in an informed fashion that recognises there is an intelligent human being and their arguments are being backed up by substance.”
I do not think people “hate” Kate Forbes and I’d actually be surprised if anyone does.
But that doesn’t mean many, many people don’t disagree with her and will express very strong opinions over some of the things she says. And these critical opinions are liable to flare up again over what she said in that interview.
“Whatever issue you pick – it might be matters of equality or the constitution or anything in between – we have lost the ability to debate well, to debate in an informed fashion that recognises there is an intelligent human being and their arguments are being backed up by substance.”
Coming from her, quite frankly that’s rich.
We can set aside “matters of equality” or “any other issue in between”. There is no impassioned debate surrounding equality or whatever else she has in mind, without her being able to say what these other issues are.
But debate over “the constitution”, ie independence, is a different matter altogether. There is intense and justifiably vehement and even vitriolic disagreement over that.
And she is in a very, very weak position to bemoan the lack of “informed” debate about independence, or even more so, to imply that her “arguments are backed up by substance”.
She is a fervent supporter of independence and as SNP Finance Secretary is in a job where the requirement to provide information and arguments backed up by substance falls directly on her shoulders. So where is the information and where is the substance from Kate Forbes?
What Kate Forbes and other senior nationalists don’t seem to grasp is that the lack of any economic case for independence is what worries people most. And when she had the chance to present one she bottled it.
Last August the SNP Government ditched plans to publish an “annual economic case for independence”. At the time Kate Forbes said the idea, which was announced earlier last year, had been shelved because of the coronavirus and there were no plans to revive it. Despite citing the pandemic as the reason for not producing a detailed economic case for independence, Ms Forbes also said the pandemic showed why Scotland should be independent to control its own economy.
The U-turn was confirmed as the annual Government Expenditure and Revenue (GERS) report showed Scotland’s deficit was 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2019/20, as public spending north of the border outstripped tax revenues by £15.1billion.
Where was the information or “arguments backed by substance” then? How can there be the intelligent and reasoned debate she calls for over something that doesn’t exist, and something she personally has failed to provide?
And we haven’t moved forward an inch since then.
What currency would an independent Scotland use? Finance secretary and fervent independence advocate Forbes would be unable to tell us.
What would be the impact of independence on mortgages and pensions? Forbes cannot say.
How would an independent Scotland compensate for the extra £2,000 per head in public spending we receive compared with people in England? Ditto.
How would we cope with the massive deficit and that £15.1 billion GERS figure? Forbes has no answers.
How would trade with England be affected by the imposition of a hard border between our two countries, which would be wholly inevitable if we were accepted into the EU, as Forbes, Sturgeon and co want? She has no answers on that either.
There are other questions which remain blatantly unanswered. But moving on to the furlough, how would an independent Scotland have been able to find the billions necessary to prevent people ending up begging on the streets and the collapse of businesses by the thousands? All of that money has come from Westminster, the place Kate Forbes wants to “break free from”. And she has spent the past year complaining that they’re not shovelling up more.
And where would we have been without the foresight and financial muscle of the UK Government which has achieved world-beating success in the vaccination programme, far ahead of any other European country and second only to Israel.
When asked that question, if an independent Scotland would have done as well, her boss had a one word answer. “Yes”, lied Sturgeon, taking us all for fools and treating us with contempt.
So I’d say with some degree of certainty that no-one “hates” Kate Forbes. That is a fallacy and if she has concerns about that it’s unfortunate but she should try and get them out of her head.
But they do have a serious problem with – and are even disgusted by – the constant lying, evasion, trickery, falsehood, deception and delusion peddled by the SNP, of which she is a leading member. And by their complete failure to provide any credible answers – or even any answers at all – on the economic case for independence.
When, or if, they produce their “information” and “arguments of substance” on that maybe everyone can then engage in the reasonable debate that she wants.