The SNP won: get over it

Six months after the election, it seems the Opposition parties are struggling to come to terms with reality.  Immediately after the election, Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott fell on his sword and with somewhat indecent haste, Willie Rennie MSP assumed the mantle of leading a much reduced parliamentary group.  The Lib Dems had got theirs, wiped out in all but two constituencies, punished by the Scottish electorate not only for imposing savage economic cuts on Scotland through the coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster, but the burd surmised – and still does – for their failure to support the minority SNP government in 2007.

At times, Willie Rennie has shown promising signs of getting it, of offering constructive opposition, of carving out a distinctive niche for his group, and of supporting the Scottish Government where appropriate to do so.  But with his first conference speech as leader, it would appear that revisionism and recidivism has crept into his thinking.

How else to describe extraordinary claims like: “Who would have imagined that it would be an SNP Government that exerts such domination, control and manipulation?” or that there is “creeping, political control over our independent civil service” or that “government agencies are being used to make a party political case for the ruling party“.  Worst of all, he suggests that there is “intimidation of business and charities to adopt their view of the world“.  Apart from citing the lone case of Scotland’s Permanent Secretary Peter Housden supposedly making politically overt remarks – something he has been cleared of, but which were pretty ill-advised all the same – Rennie provides no evidence for his scurrilous claims.

He also betrays a huge naiveté about the purpose of government and of its agencies.  Worst of all, he is guilty of ignoring the fact that his own party spent eight years in administration at Holyrood, and through successive partnership agreements ensured that the Liberal Democrat “view of the world” – proportional representation being one such policy – was adopted, promoted and enacted by government officials.  Though perhaps we can forgive Mr Rennie this last slip, given that he wasn’t actually around at the time.  That’s what happens when parties and parliamentary groups promote newly elected politicians to leadership roles.

Unlike Mr Rennie, the burd has spent much of the last decade rubbing alongside civil servants, government agencies and departments.  Have I noticed an increased politicisation of individuals and teams since May this year?  No.  But I do recall sharing in the excitement of many officials in 2007 that a new team on the block might mean a very different way of doing things.  Officials then and now were up to the task and challenge that successive SNP administrations are setting them.

Oh, there are still the defenders of the status quo, those who work hard to make nothing happen fast, and those who will go out of their way to try to jam the spokes of progress and change, but that is less to do with any political adherence or reluctance, and more to do with a mindset much cultivated by sections of officialdom.  But by and large, just as the code of impartiality requires of them, civil servants and government agencies have been willing and able to implement the business programme the democratically elected government of the land has set for the country.

As for the assertion of mind-bending of charities, this is nonsense.  Again, there are those who like to impress upon organisations that are invited to the table to help shape policy and legislation, that what is freely given can just as easily be withdrawn if participants awkwardly refuse to accept the will of officials.  But largely, these are tacit threats and part of the game.  Most charities get involved, indeed are invited to get involved, in contributing to the development of policy and practice because they have skills, knowledge and expertise to offer.

Who indeed would have imagined that an SNP Government might exert such domination, a domination gifted to the party by the electorate, no less?  Or is Willie Rennie and his rump suggesting that we ignore the democratic will of the people and turn back the clocks?  How illiberal a notion is that?

It would seem that in six short months, the Liberal Democrats’ leader  – and indeed, candidates for the vacancies in the other opposition groups – have forgotten the lessons harshly delivered on 6 May.  Voters voted in their droves for the SNP to govern this land.  When faced with the choice between the SNP and the others, the electorate punted overwhelmingly for the former.  And by giving the party an overall majority, people wanted the Nationalists to have a decent shout at getting their programme, their manifesto commitments and ideas implemented.   To start, so soon, to rewrite history is foolish, if not foolhardy.

The Liberal Democrats were punished once – viciously – by Scottish voters:  they won’t hesitate to issue a second beating if it seems that the party is thumbing the nose – again – at its wishes.   In May this year, the SNP won.  It’s time the defeated parties got over it and moved on.

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “The SNP won: get over it

  1. Caron – I used to have some respoect for the Lib Dems albeit I have never voted for them, but I lost that even before the coalition mostly because of their joining the Calman Commission, (or Ommission as it has been better described).
    The Lib Dems claim to support federalism, but any actual support is like a unicorn, – we’ve all heard of them, but who’s actually seen one?
    Whatever you think of the SNP, the Libs were given two choices to further constitutional reform in Scotland when the SNP initiated the National Conversation.
    They could have lent their support to something which promised to provide a platform to all mainstream options for Scotlands future, including federalism. But what did they do instead? – Joined in the “unionist-only” anti-independence AND anti-federalist cabal that was the Calman Commission. A commission, whose driving force was, as we now know Jim Murphy, and whose obvious purpose was to put a barrier against the independence tide. Murphy and the Tories were/are almost as implacably opposed to federalism as they were to independence.
    So why join Calman, Caron? Why join a commission which would ensure you NOT getting federalism as opposed to one which gave you a great chance of achieving it?
    If you want my take, the decision was made on British, not Scottish, grounds, federalism was deemed beyond the British pale by your London bosses. In other words, once again, Scotlands good sacrificed to Britains.
    As I said earlier, we’ve had enough of that. No more!

  2. @The burd The link below gives the text of the motion – it says “supports further measures including proposals for a minimum unit price for alcohol”. I think that’s pretty clear. We actually passed comprehensive policy on alcohol a couple of conferences ago.

    http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/files/AutumnConference2011Agenda.pdf

    @Dave – our problem is that we have too much policy and not enough narrative. I think most people understand the position we were in as regards the coalition and they certainly understand we’d be dealing with a Tory majority government which would have been elected around a year ago if we hadn’t gone into coalition with them. I think people can clearly see that we’re not and never will be Tories given that some of the worst Tory policies have been kicked into the long grass because we won’t have them – and that 75% of our manifesto has been implemented.

    • You’re fooling yourself if you think people can “clearly” see all that. Whether you really have had 75% of your manifesto implemented is one thing (although Nick Clegg took the Lib Dems comfortably into centre-right ground, it’s no surprise the Tories are happy to help implement so much of these policies), but all the public sees is a party facilitating the Tories and their right-wing-ideological cuts. When it comes to getting voters onside, perception is more important than facts; and the perception amongst the electorate, as displayed in May, is that your party are Tories in disguise.

  3. Caron’s response has surely indicated the accuracy of my original post. There is no way back for them particularly as they don’t appear to undestand what happened to them in May.
    They were found out to be a bunch of Tories masquerading as something else with a line in policy free politics based on the premise that if you have nothing much to say you are not likely to annoy of lot of folk. They came fourth in my constituency which they held comfortably at Westminster and Holyrood contests a few years ago.

    • I think you are right that they don’t understand what has happened to them and like others, have returned to business as usual. That approach will not serve them well in the long run.

  4. I agree completely that we Scots punished the LibDems in May primarily for going into coalition with the Tories. But, I would add that it was not just because they had decided to “dine with the devil”.
    I would suggest that it was obvious to anyone that the Scottish LibDems knew what this would mean, that it was against what the majority (possibly all) of their own Scottish members and politicians wanted or believed in and nevertheless they carried on and did it.
    Why they did it is the real, underlying reason we gave them such a caning. The Scottish LibDems sold out Scotland, on the instruction of their bosses in London. We Scots are heartily sick of being sacrificed – from all the unionist parties. We can now “put Scotland first”, and that’s precisely what we’re doing.
    Any party which will also put Scotland first can do well in Scotland, but those who put others first must know their time has gone.

  5. First of all, it’s only 5 months since the election – and in that time Willie Rennie has had praise heaped upon him from the media for the effectiveness of his opposition to an SNP government that I think does get a bit big for its boots at times. The Supreme Court stuff was a case in point – rather than being horrified at being found not to comply with ECHR, Salmond turned his fire on a Supreme Court that, when it’s discussing Scottish cases under ECHR uses ECHR jurisprudence.

    When you say that the Willie shows promising signs of getting it, it’s clear you mean that’s when he agrees with the SNP. Of course he’s not going to agree with them all the time – but when he does, he does so with passion. You are basing your comments on one section of his speech. That speech was 18 pages long and was marked by there being not one personal attack on anybody and only one cheap gag at the opposition – but I’ll let him off with that because it was on the single police force and he was 100% right.

    You didn’t see the passion of his speech on minimum alcohol pricing. He’s had to persuade the party to change its mind. I’ve always thought it was worth a try, but there are lots of people within the Lib Dems who really don’t like the idea. Willie took the unusual step of deciding to summate the debate right from the start – that was in the agenda published months ago. It’s a brave thing for a leader to do – he took a risk because the party could have voted the other way. In the end, there were a fair few who voted against the motion, although the result was clear. His leadership is about persuasion and inspiration and I was really proud of him for that.

    And it’s not just the SNP who got it for overstepping the limits of their power – the Catholic Church got it too for the threats its given out over equal marriage.

    The SNP won a majority after a cracking campaign which left the other parties in its wake. That doesn’t give them the right to show the arrogance they have displayed in the last few months.

    I also don’t think the electorate were punishing the Lib Dems for not going into coalition in 2007. I, frankly, would have preferred it if we had, but I don’t think the majority of people out there were bothered one way or the other. In fact, the minority government was of a much better quality than what we’ve seen since May – it did have to work together and listen just to survive.

    The fact that Willie Rennie is so viscerally hated by the SNP is a sure sign that he’s pressing a few raw nerves. They know that he’s got a point most of the time. It’s a bit of a compliment to his effectiveness that Salmond now goes prepared into FMQs with some barb to throw at him.

    • The most commom reaction of most SNP activists to Willie Rennie is a loud guffaw

    • “The fact that Willie Rennie is so viscerally hated by the SNP is a sure sign that he’s pressing a few raw nerves. They know that he’s got a point most of the time. It’s a bit of a compliment to his effectiveness that Salmond now goes prepared into FMQs with some barb to throw at him.”

      He’s not “viscerally hated”, we just find him tiresome. After Tavish’s extremely reactionary approach to the SNP, we had hoped you guys would elect a leader who had a bit more tact. But no, Willie comes out with the same old rubbish.

      “That doesn’t give them the right to show the arrogance they have displayed in the last few months.”

      What arrogance? You make it sound like the SNP have been waltzing into the chamber whenever they feel like it, putting their feet up on their desks, and giving V-signs to opposition MSPs. Where is this arrogance they’ve supposedly displayed? They’re not the ones who, having been given a resounding beating by the voters in May, continue to act as if nothing has happened, completely ignoring any message the voters were trying to give them.

      “Willie Rennie has had praise heaped upon him from the media for the effectiveness of his opposition to an SNP government that I think does get a bit big for its boots at times.”

      The media love politicians that bash the SNP. I wouldn’t take that as a sign that Rennie has been a revelation. Again, here’s the “too big for its boots” nonsense. Why, because they’ve dared to challenge the UK government on a few things? How DARE they?!?!?

      • “What arrogance? You make it sound like the SNP have been waltzing into the chamber whenever they feel like it, putting their feet up on their desks, and giving V-signs to opposition MSPs. Where is this arrogance they’ve supposedly displayed?”

        Ummm… let me see… Supreme-court-gate anyone? Or how about Salmond’s attempts to re-write Calman despite pointedly ignoring it when it was taking evidence. I would also point to the arguments made last year about Minimum Pricing – that anyone who made valid critisisms (not you then Iain Gray then – ho ho!) of the policy were pointed too the fact that a list of bodies backed the policy – “We’re right because the BMA backs us”.

    • Hi Caron

      Thanks for your comment – a few points in response.
      With regard to Willie Rennie getting it, that is not what I meant at all and I’m not sure it’s helpful to put words or meaning to what I say. What I meant is that he has shown signs of constructive opposition and of the role of a small group Opposition leader. It was a genuine compliment.
      I did find his speech on the Lib Dems website and read it all, which is why I was able to quote accurately from it, unlike the Sunday papers. And I was analysing that one section of his speech, that’s exactly what the post set out to do.
      The point of the post is that he made unevidenced accusations about how the SNP Government is behaving, I picked the points he made in this regard apart and stand by it – for my points in response are evidence based.
      I didn’t mention the switch on alcohol pricing because I will blog on that, at a later point, once I have managed to ascertain if the policy decision also allows for an increase in the minimum unit price – a few tweets suggested otherwise and I think that caveat would be worth adding into the debate. If you can clarify what happened at conference, that would be most helpful.
      You may think the SNP Government has been arrogant, I disagree, and that isn’t what Willie Rennie actually said either. He accused the Government of manipulation something more serious than arrogance.
      And I agree that the FM is taking him seriously at FMQs, which is a good sign.

      • LibDems are masters at constructing ambiguous positions on all issues and accumulating multifarious policies on just about everything which are stored quietly away and them trotted out when politically appropriate.
        The only way they ever exercise any influence or power is as tail gunners in some coalition or other which makes them essentially a bargaining organisation with pliable policy positions and no fixed agenda that any elector can identify them with.
        They have at best a handful of members in most constituencies and bear no resemblence to the previous Liberal party which were a substantial and real presence in huge areas of rurul Scotland, many of whom, like Lord Bannerman for instance, were simultaneously members of the Scottish National Party.
        Wee Willie Rennie is a unionist Tory without the wolf’s costume and I can’t remember the last time I heard a political figure make so many politically
        incoherent statements.
        There is no way back – position I would also suggest is that of the Labour party in Scotland who are completely out of their depth

        They are found out and there is no way back

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  7. I am a wee bit confused by the Willie Rennie and Libdems response, it’s almost like May never happened.

    The stuff about needing the Empire sorry the Union🙂 for Scots to achieve their potential otherwise the good folk of Scotia are daft and will live in the dark ages. Really? Independence will release some mythical angel of death is staggering in it’s numptieheid daftness.

    Yet Rennie belives this is a winner of a strategy, so the legions of Scots and their families who left home because it was so braw will support you view then Willie.

    Jesus Wept is somebody putting something funny into the tea in Haymarket?

  8. Not quite sure that the Scottish electorate chose to punish the Lib Dems for not going into government with the SNP. I suspect the direction that the Orange Book wing have taken the main UK party, and the Scottish parties reaction to that choice of direction, had more to do with their parlous result.

    Having said that, quite a lot of Rennie’s complaints smack a tad of “shadow-projection” ie, complaints that could be made against the current government. The critique of the SNP administration over the “intimidation of Business & charities” will sound familiar to people who have heard the rumors about the CAB. I do wonder if he feels that he needs to critisise the Westminster government, but can’t quite bring himself to do so.

    Good post Burd, and nice to see me on the “politico’s” list.

  9. “It would seem that in six short months, the Liberal Democrats’ leader – and indeed, candidates for the vacancies in the other opposition groups – have forgotten the lessons harshly delivered on 6 May. Voters voted in their droves for the SNP to govern this land. When faced with the choice between the SNP and the others, the electorate punted overwhelmingly for the former. And by giving the party an overall majority, people wanted the Nationalists to have a decent shout at getting their programme, their manifesto commitments and ideas implemented. To start, so soon, to rewrite history is foolish, if not foolhardy.”

    It’s quite ironic really, considering that, after the election, there were many unionists claiming that SNP supporters were being very ungracious winners and were rubbing people’s noses in it. (I seem to recall a certain commenter on this thread being particularly vocal about this on Better Nation…) Anyway, by the looks of things, noses weren’t rubbed in it hard enough. I think political parties seem to think electing a new leader completely wipes the slate clean. Sorry folks, it doesn’t quite work like that. A bit of humble pie would go a long way in convincing the Scottish voters that the message they sent these parties got through loud and clear. At the moment, we’ve all got scuff marks on our foreheads from continuous brick wall headbutting.

  10. Now, I know I don’t have dealings with all parts of the Scottish Government, but from my position, I have noticed that the civil service has become highly politicised, albeit since 2007 rather than this May. The political views of the Government are paramount, and the views of expert local government officers – representing authorities of all political persuasions and none – are as nought if they conflict with the Government, regardless of the facts or evidence.

    There is a difference between a civil service that implements policy, and one that acts as if it IS the Government.

    • John, with respect, the idea that the civil service are biased in favour of the government of the day is old hat nonsense.

      The accusation that they have become politicised since 2007 is unsubstantiated and is completely unfair to members of the civil service, who due to the very nature of their political impartiality, are easy to attack but don’t answer back.

      I tell you what I’ve noticed since 2007, and by the way I am not an SNP supporter, and that is a wee bit if principle and ideology in Government.

      Under 8 years of Labour and Lib Dem managerialism it was hard to detect any overtly political statements from Ministers, so it’s hardly a surprise that the civil servants working for them sounded bland and neutral too. But if you ever wrote to a civil servant, you’d get the policies of the day advocated back to you, whether that was in favour of retaining PFI because it represented good value for money, or not being in favour of free prescriptions because here were better ways to target scarce financial resources.

      Guess what, it’s a part of the civil servant’s job to tell people what the Government of the day’s policies are and why they have chosen them. That’s not being political, it’s doing their job.

  11. I am puzzled that Mr Rennie with his four companions are being given such a wide press considering they are reduced to fring party status. And, I think, found out. I can see no road back for them. As a party they were always more evident than real and in most areas represented a vote that came out for them for no more reason than they weren’t Tory or Labour. That won’t do anymore. They held my constituency until recently at both Holyrood and Westminster level with less than 3 dozen members.
    I think Labour however are in just as much trouble and I can see them continuing a downward spiral. All the signs are that the Labour hierarchy have abandoned Joanne Lamont in favour of Ken MacKintosh. .
    And my biggest interest now is where will Murdo go if he doesn’t win the position as leader of Scotland’s Tories

  12. Whilst I generally disagree with most of your posts (I find your passive aggressive tone a bit tiring) I find it disappointing that I have to 100% agree with your comments about my own party.

    The comments about the senior civil servant were poorly judged but describing some of the policies of the SNP as sinister is a real let down because it brings us down to the level of all the other parties who use such language about what the Coalition is doing.

    There is plenty to be critical about the SNP. For example there are commitments that Nicola Sturgeon made in the Chamber in 2008 that, shamefully (see I can play that game too), have yet to be even consulted on. It is this type of thing that the Lib Dems should be doing. Proper actual policy work and proper actual hold in the government to account.

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