Scottish schools have become places of indoctrination

Nicola Sturgeon may be on her way out – but after 16 years of SNP rule, Scottish schools are still places of indoctrination. This may sound like a hyperbolic thing to say, but that’s the only conclusion you can draw when you look at what Scottish educators and the Scottish government are saying themselves.   Take the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Standard for Headship, which sets out the professional framework for what a headteacher, teachers and schools should be all about.    You would expect such a document to be all about imparting knowledge and aspiring to teach every child as much as possible. Instead, it is a horrifying mix of

The SNP-Green coalition is unlikely to last the week

Scottish nationalists are shell-shocked after their leader did a bunk on Wednesday. And with good reason. Nicola Sturgeon left the SNP leaderless, directionless, failing on almost every policy front – from the NHS to bottle recycling – and with a legislative time bomb in the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which is due to go off just as their new leader is installed at the end of March. It will probably destroy the Scottish coalition well before then. Indeed, the 18-month-old union with the Scottish Greens, another of Sturgeon’s personal initiatives, is unlikely to last the week.  Attempts by pro-GRR Bill loyalists to keep the finance secretary, Kate Forbes, out of the leadership

James Heale

Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan launch SNP leadership bids

The first two candidates have declared in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon: Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf. The pair announced their intent in a front-page story for the Sunday Mail titled ‘Battle of the Bill: FM hopefuls go head-to-head on gender reform’. That focus reflects Regan’s major claim to fame as the only minister to resign over Sturgeon’s trans reforms back in October. In so doing, she became the first minister within the SNP to resign over government policy in 15 years. That is a testament to how united the party has been on most policy planks and suggests that the Gender Recognition Reform Bill will probably be one of the

Time is running out for Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has led a charmed life. Even her sternest critics agree that she is immensely talented, one of the UK’s most successful politicians, a master of detail and an effective communicator. She has been at the pinnacle of public life for two decades. But all things must pass. Nearly ten years after she took over as leader from Alex Salmond just about everything is going wrong at once. Hospital waiting lists lengthen, teacher strikes roll on, council service cuts deepen, the ambitious plan for a Social Care Commission has stalled. Across the board the SNP government appears to have made a right royal mess of just about every policy for which

What Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Act could mean for England

One of the fundamental flaws in the Scottish devolution settlement set up by Labour and radically expanded by the Tories is the ability for policy divergence in Scotland to impact on the rest of the UK. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill, on the cusp of being passed by the Scottish parliament, might prove an object lesson. The Bill overhauls the process by which a person obtains a gender recognition certificate (GRC). This is the document which recognises an applicant’s gender identity in place of their biological sex. For example, a male who identifies as female and acquires a GRC becomes female in the eyes of the law.  The Bill being

The gender debate is getting nastier

Elaine Miller is one of the grown-ups. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, with a specialism in pelvic health. She also jokes about it. Her comedy show, Viva Your Vulva: The Hole Story is currently playing at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a good one: the production has won awards and a five-star review. Miller is forthright – her audiences are warned about ‘strong language and swearing’ – but her performance is more than mere entertainment. In Miller’s words, The aim of the show is that the audience leave knowing what a pelvic floor is, what it does and where to take theirs if they think it

Another Scottish independence referendum is coming

Despite what the SNP and its supporters insist, Nicola Sturgeon did not ‘announce’ a second referendum on independence today. Far from it. Her statement to the Scottish parliament quietly accepted that a referendum is highly unlikely to take place on 19 October next year. The 2014 referendum – an act of self-determination that inconveniently produced the wrong outcome for the SNP – was an agreed plebiscite. All parties and Scotland’s government agreed it should take place and that its outcome would be politically, if not legally, binding. This is still the path Sturgeon would prefer. Holding such a referendum, however, requires a section 30 order by the British government, which

A glimmer of hope for the blue planet

You might think – with its feeding frenzies, vertiginous seamounts, perilous weather and deep history of the monstrous – that the ocean was a wild enough place as it is; but according to the environmentalist Charles Clover it has systematically been ‘de-wilded’ by decades of commercial overfishing, and our seas are now in urgent need of healing. I believe him. When it comes to conservation, fish hold less appeal than terrestrial fauna: they are perceived as cold-blooded, mostly invisible, lacking in charisma, and often delicious – plus, for centuries, there existed the comfortable delusion that their stocks were inexhaustible (even a proof positive of divine benevolence). Now, thanks to ruinously

Why Scotland’s census blunder matters

Around 700,000 Scottish households – a quarter of the country – are facing £1,000 fines for failing to complete the census. Eleven years ago, the last time the census was run, it took 10 days to reach the current response rate of 74 per cent. This time it’s taken over a month. There’s not much hope in getting the rate up either. Studies from the US show census return rates don’t improve after the first few weeks.  If 700,000 households are to be fined this would be the largest prosecution in Scottish legal history, probably British too. In 2011 – where the final response rate was 94 per cent and over 90

Nicola Sturgeon’s Potemkin parliament

Is the word of a Scottish government minister worth anything? The question arises in the wake of the SNP’s Hate Crime Act which, among much else, creates the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ against ‘transgender identity’. Feminist groups warned early on that the Bill’s language could see people who don’t believe that men can become women (or vice versa) prosecuted for what had hitherto been treated in law as legitimate expression. Prominent among these groups was MurrayBlackburnMackenzie (MBM), a policy analysis outfit whose principals boast extensive scholarship and years of experience inside the civil service. One of MBM’s principals, Lucy Hunter Blackburn, gave evidence to the Holyrood justice committee in

Sturgeon’s war on business is strangling Scotland’s economy

There was one minor and one big surprise in the Scottish government’s latest budget, which was set out by Kate Forbes, the finance secretary, last week. The minor surprise was the Sturgeon administration’s decision to provide less business rates relief, in comparison with England, to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors during the next financial year. Businesses in Scotland will be eligible for 50 per cent relief, capped at £27,500 per rate payer, but only for the first three months of the 2022-23 financial year. In England, the same businesses will be eligible for 50 per cent relief for the whole financial year. A winding down of rates relief was

Sturgeon: all cases will be Omicron by Christmas

Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland should expect a ‘tsunami’ of Covid cases, so has said Christmas parties should be cancelled and household contacts of any positive case — Omicron or not — should isolate for ten days regardless of vaccination status. Given that Scotland and England have very similar Covid profiles (both in waves and vaccination) this is relevant to the whole of the UK. But what especially jumps out is the prediction from Scottish government modelling that Omicron will account for all Covid cases by Christmas. Her document: Omicron in Scotland — evidence paper released during Sturgeon’s TV appearance pointed to modelling to suggest that half of new cases could be

Sturgeon’s 70-page dossier finds no evidence for vaccine passports

Nicola Sturgeon wants to extend vaccine passports in Scotland, and today her government released a 70-page document purporting to show evidence. The snag? There’s not a shred of evidence to show that her vaccine passports are having any effect. The document, entitled Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine certificationww: evidence paper update makes a very bold claim: that Scotland’s choice is more vaccine passports or restrictions. To suppress the virus further we are now faced with a choice. This is to limit social contacts and the risk of infection by limiting social contacts by closing venues, limiting group sizes and advising people not to meet each other. Alternatively we can enable people to meet

Sturgeon is playing politics in her fight with the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court judgment striking down a couple of Acts of the Scottish parliament has been greeted with typical outrage from the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon has been busy fulminating that she is now ‘unable to fully protect children’s rights’. But the First Minister shouldn’t be surprised by this legal defeat: there was little chance of it going any other way. In spite of Sturgeon’s fury, the two Acts in question were not actually very significant. The more high-profile one sought with much fanfare to incorporate into Scots law a treaty little-known to most of us outside the progressive establishment, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The other was aimed at incorporating

Why Boris is losing his fight against Sturgeon

Gavin Barwell has made a good point, albeit inadvertently. Theresa May’s former chief of staff has a book out, imaginatively titled Chief of Staff, and in it he touches upon the question of Brexit and Scottish independence. Noting that Boris Johnson is unpopular north of the border, the now Baron Barwell of Croydon says: ‘The UK government is on strong ground arguing that it is not the right time for a second independence referendum — polls show Scottish voters want the immediate focus to be on recovery from the pandemic — but the democratic mandate for the question to be asked again at some point is clear.’ No. It. Is.

Does Nicola Sturgeon care more about oil revenue or climate change?

‘Now, as I’ve hopefully made clear throughout all of my remarks, the North Sea will continue to produce oil for decades to come. It still contains up to 20 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. Our primary aim – and I want to underline and emphasis this – our primary aim is to maximise economic recovery of those reserves.’ The words are from a speech made in June 2017, a few months after the Paris Agreement that aimed to limit climate change came into effect. A speech by a pro-oil Conservative, or perhaps the head of an industry group working on behalf of the oil sector? No. They are, in fact,

Scotland’s next constitutional fight won’t be over a referendum

Get ready for a constitutional rammy during the first half of this, the sixth session of the Scottish parliament. Just don’t expect it to be over a second independence referendum. Recent polling shows momentum has moved back in favour of those wishing to remain in the UK, while signals from the public also consistently suggest a lack of appetite for another referendum anytime soon. Nicola Sturgeon knows this, which means the phoney war over a repeat plebiscite will likely trundle on without bringing any great change to the country. The real action is elsewhere. Specifically, the upcoming review of the Fiscal Framework Agreement, which is set to be fraught and,

Sturgeon can’t hide the economic costs of Scexit

Might the 2020s be the seismic decade in which the post-war consensus, that liberal democracies do not and should not break apart, is broken? Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon certainly thinks so. Her lifelong quest to break up Britain must feel closer than ever after winning last week’s Holyrood elections. But there are hurdles yet to be cleared. Sturgeon insists on an exact repeat of the process that took place after Alex Salmond won an SNP majority in 2011 – even though she did not manage to replicate his success, achieving instead another minority administration. As in the 2011 to 2014 period, she wants the referendum booked and in the

The latest Scotland poll spells trouble for the Tories

Bad news for unionists in Westminster. A new Opinium poll on the Scottish parliament elections projects that the SNP are on course for a majority come 6 May. The party is polling at 53 per cent (44 per cent on the list vote) and on this would get a majority of around 13 seats. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are on 21 per cent and Labour on 18 per cent.  The poll makes for disappointing reading for government ministers who had begun to hope that their Scotland problem might disappear of its own accord. After Nicola Sturgeon came under fire in the Salmond inquiry, support for the SNP fell, while several polls suggested support for independence was on

Salmond will help the Nationalists, but Galloway’s party is bad news for Unionists

Two decades after devolution, the Scottish Parliament’s election system still confuses ordinary voters and seasoned political observers alike. Politicians on both the Unionist and Nationalist sides have capitalised on this complexity, putting forward new parties – most prominently George Galloway’s Alliance for Unity (A4U) and Alex Salmond’s Alba – that aim to game the system and maximise their side’s (on the matter of the constitution) number of MSPs by pulling regional list votes away from the major parties. But in fact, beneath its byzantine name and workings, Scotland’s modified d’Hondt Additional Member Electoral System translates to straightforward arithmetic, with a clear and inescapable conclusion: Galloway’s A4U gambit is likely to