Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond recently explained the SNP’s ruling mantra, says Chris Deerin in The New Statesman. Every policy should be designed, he wrote, “to do no damage to the independence cause”, – the party’s “raison d’être”. His admission helps explain why Scotland’s devolved government has spent 16 years dodging essential reforms. Our schools have been abandoned to the “cosy consensus of left-wing educationists” and the health service left to run itself into the ground. The tanking economy has taken second place to “social justice stunts” designed to show Scots they are “more progressive than, and therefore different to, the English”.
But Nicola Sturgeon’s “headlong pursuit” of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill has blown apart this “first, do no harm to indy” stricture. The controversial measures – allowing anyone to change gender legally without a medical diagnosis – have “raised howls of anger” over their impact on women’s safety. And the fallout has “undeniably set back the independence cause”. Disgruntled swing voters who agree with Westminster’s decision to block the bill may turn their back on SNP MPs, and even drop their support for another referendum. It has also sparked an internal power struggle, with MPs like Stephen Flynn openly challenging Sturgeon’s leadership credentials – not the ideal backdrop for that second referendum they’ve been fighting so hard to secure. “This stuff cannot be put back in the bottle.” Like so many who stay in office too long and begin to believe in their own “invincibility”, Sturgeon has become “the author of her own misfortune”.