Nul points for oor Nicola

Nul points for oor Nicola

by Jamie Greene
article from Friday 26, May, 2017

I AM PROBABLY not the only person who thinks that the most political event of the year graced our television screens just recently.  No, not the French presidential election, the German regional elections, nor even the British local council elections. Of course, it was the Eurovision Song Contest.

I have actually once played a drinking game where you take a swig every time a European country gives its next door neighbour douze points. It’s a common occurrence between neighbours like Cyprus and Greece or Sweden and Norway.  The eponymous “Eurovision Drinking Game” also requires you to take a shot every time an overtly political message is made during the competition. The world’s largest and most widely viewed televised music festival – once christened the Sodom and Gomorrah of television and at times described as “gay Christmas” – comes around once a year. (I should add that I am a geek in this respect, and a fan.)

Whilst there was a bit of geo-political spatting between the Ukraine and Russia, faux outrage at the flamboyancy of it all by the far right, a Middle Eastern block of the Israeli song, some friendly banter between the Scandinavian countries and a smattering of absurdities in costume, props and key changes – this ever popular contest always seem to strike at the heart of world events.

Undeniably, there is a common comfort in a live televised event. They have become social media frenzies; online parties if you will. It is something we all share at the same time, watching the same thing and commenting on the same people. There is something 21st century about multi-screening, texting your friends with commentary and tweeting about the abstract absurdities of the show. It’s a general feeling of love-hate collectiveness and one that captures the imagination of the world, regardless of culture, religion or language.

The whole thing reminds me of politics to be honest. From the pre-amble to the show there are weeks – nay months – of political wrangling, cries of rule breaking, copyright issues, technical problems, posturing and internal voting – all culminating in one big on-the-night showcase with fireworks followed by hours of tactical voting and “the big reveal” at the end. The results are announced and a winner is crowned. Tears are shed, laughs are shared and we all wake up the next day with a sore head wondering if it all really happened.

Sums up my political campaign, anyway.

But this year after Eurovision, instead of waking up nursing a hangover and covered in glitter, I woke up to another TV spectacle; Nicola Sturgeon on the Andrew Marr Show trying to defend her record in government and describe her own ‘Euro Vision.’ (If there is such a thing.)

In the week where figures showed a reduction in Scottish literacy rates of our young folk, the First Minister of Scotland said to Marr that, “I absolutely accept the areas where we need to do better.” 

Marr proposed that she had put her neck on the line on the issue of education in Scotland, and after ten years in government she was increasingly looking like Mary Queen of Scots. She replied, “I do not wish to be Mary Queen of Scots.”

Of course you don’t Nicola. There’s a General Election in a few weeks’ time and it is the electoral block which you must face.

As Sunday drew on, my Twitter feed filled less with jovial comments about glitter balls and how dull but nice the Portuguese song was, and more with outrage over our First Minister’s failures to improve, or even just maintain, the state of Scottish education.

Sadly, even the joys of Eurovision can’t distract me and others from the state of Scotland’s once world famous education system. We were reminded this week that the SNP has taken its eyes off the ball. As literacy and numeracy standards are slipping north of the border, The Scottish Government is, as always, more focussed on indyref and the EU than tackling problems in our schools.

But the interview got worse.  On the issue of Europe, she and her party are weak and messy, and that also showed. I don’t know about you but I haven’t a clue what their position is on Europe right now, and I work in Scottish Parliament, day in and day out. Moldova has more chance of winning Eurovision than we have of hearing a coherent view on Europe from the SNP.

She quipped over Scotland having a “choice” over Brexit but was unable to string a collective thought together on what exactly that choice would look like. The new “phased approach to Europe” is an easy and flippant half-way-house between full immediate membership, EFTA, the “Norway model” or just trading access to the Single Market.

In one hand, Sturgeon is belatedly slating the Common Fisheries Policy in a last ditch attempt to woo Leave voters and in the other dangling a perfectly well-formed and EU certified carrot to the Remainers.  She is straddling the awkward line of trying to appeal to fishermen in the North East (where the SNP knows it will take a pounding in a few weeks’ time) and trying not to get caught down a one-way lane on Europe. There has been a vague reference to being outside of the CFP, in EFTA, but not a full member.

So make your mind up Nicola. Are you desperate for Scotland to fully re-join the EU in a post-independence vote, or desperate to blame Westminster for the failings of your government after ten years in post?

The reality is that a third of SNP voters who voted to Leave the EU might not forgive the SNP if they relentlessly call for Scotland’s continued membership of the same. The reality is that Scotland rejected independence a few years ago in order to remain in the UK and the UK rejected the European project in another referendum last year. I am committed to respecting the results of both referenda. 

The eyes of the world will soon be tuned back in to the UK in a few weeks’ time. I have no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon will use the results of the General Election, even results that will likely set her party back, as a claim to victory, a so-called “mandate” to have a voice at the table and a “mandate” for a second independence referendum.

Let’s embrace the facts; the opposition to Sturgeon is growing strong under Ruth Davidson’s leadership and the abysmal track record of the Scottish Government rather speaks for itself. At the end of the show on June 8th Nicola Sturgeon can sing her “shoulda, coulda, wouldas,” but I am afraid she deserves nul points from the Scottish jury.

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