New research paper: The SNP's broken promises revealed

New research paper: The SNP's broken promises revealed

by Murdo Fraser
article from Wednesday 6, May, 2015

A COMPONENT in the SNP’s electoral success in recent years has been the party's perceived reputation as providing competent government in Scotland, during its period of minority rule in the Scottish Parliament in 2007-2011, and as a majority government from 2011 onwards. And yet, as the research in this ThinkScotland paper makes clear, that reputation is wholly undeserved. 

The list of SNP broken promises is a long one, and grows longer as each year goes by.

It was a short list of flagship policies which saw the SNP gain power from Labour in 2007. These included maximum class sizes of 18 in Primaries 1-3, wiping out student debt, the introduction of local income tax, and a new first-time house buyers’ grant of £2000. Not a single one of these flagship policies has been delivered after 8 years of the SNP in power.

In the field of education, we have seen Scottish schools failing to deliver improvements and making no progress in international league tables. As a consequence of its commitment to fund free tuition for middle class families at universities, the SNP has slashed college places by 140,000. And, despite all the rhetoric, the percentage of students from under-privileged backgrounds attending Scottish universities continues to lag behind every other part of the United Kingdom.

When it comes to Health, the situation is little better. In 2011 the SNP promised to protect the NHS budget, but according to Audit Scotland there has been a real-terms reduction of 0.9% from 2013/14 to 2015/16. Initiatives such as the promised “Life Begins” health checks for over-40s have been abandoned. And even the flagship policy of a minimum unit price of alcohol has still to be introduced, nearly four years after the legislation passed through the Scottish Parliament.

SNP Ministers will claim credit for economic success, while simultaneously complaining that they do not have “the levers of power” to grow the economy. But it remains unclear exactly what the SNP’s economic strategy now is. 

Throughout Alex Salmond’s leadership, the keynote policy was to cut corporation tax in Scotland by 3 per cent below the UK level, but this has been abandoned by Nicola Sturgeon, with nothing substantial to replace it. An important measure which would have incentivised local councils to promote economic growth by allowing them to retain a share of business rates uplift, announced in 2011, has still to be delivered. In fact in other areas such as earnings growth, income poverty and child poverty the situation in Scotland has been patchy at best, with some measurements showing a relative deterioration (such as in earnings), or an improvement followed by a decline (such as in child poverty).

In transport and connectivity, an economic lever that the Scottish government does have responsibility for, improvements promised in journey times on rail routes such as the Inverness–Edinburgh have not materialised while many programmes have been cancelled (Edinburgh Airport Rail Link) or delayed (Borders Railway).

In the very last speech made in the Scottish Parliament before the independence referendum, on Thursday 28th August 2014, the then Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said the referendum was a “once in a life time opportunity”. Yet today that description is long forgotten, with the SNP determined to bring forward another referendum as quickly as the circumstances seem to be in its favour.

What is even more curious than the failure of the SNP to meet its pledges is the supine manner of so many observers who have chosen to ignore the party’s poor performance in government. Consider the treatment of the Liberal Democrats by comparison. It was right that the abandoning of the promise to remove a cap on tuition fees in England (that led to them increasing to £9,000) result in condemnation of their betrayal of students and their parents. And yet the abandoning of the SNP’s policy to write-off student debt has generally been forgotten. That it has been accompanied by a fall in the proportion of students from poorer income families attending university (while the relative share of that same group has increased in England) is all the more damning.

Looking at the SNP’s record, it is clear from this research that they cannot be trusted with the promises that they make. Even now, the party is failing to deliver on commitments recently made, and abandoning long-held policy positions. The message is quite clear: the SNP is not to be trusted.


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