Thursday 28 April 2022

Making a Nicola's ear of it


It is frequently difficult to measure the extent of SNP failure. Every year figures are released that demonstrate that Scotland is poorer than England and that we depend on a subsidy, but few SNP supporters either pay attention or believe the figures. Economic data is boring and difficult to understand. The SNP succeeds in questioning the truth of its own figures and anyway blames Tories for its own failure.

So too Nicola Sturgeon somehow had a good pandemic despite being responsible for neither of the things that made a difference, furlough and the vaccine. Her daily announcements about how Scotland dealt with Covid better than the wicked Tories saved few if any Scottish lives. Her divergence on masks on lockdown and all the other minutiae that we have since dispensed with made no obvious difference to health outcomes in Scotland, but they did make a political difference. Scotland was different. That was the point.

Health data is complex and hard to understand so Scottish nationalists can safely ignore that we did no better than other parts of the UK and in some respects did worse. They can maintain the illusion that Scotland is run well even when it isn’t.

But a simple figure ably illustrates how Scotland is mismanaged. The census in itself is not something we usually pay much attention to. Every ten years we fill it in and then forget about it. The information is important for running the country. This is why £138 million was spent on collecting the data in Scotland. But unfortunately, the survey has been botched. Whereas in the other parts of the UK 97% of households responded in Scotland that figure is 74%.

The last census was in 2011 and elsewhere in the UK it took place in 2021, but SNP Scotland had to be different. Just as “Test and Trace” had to be pointlessly renamed “Test and Protect” in Scotland, just as every time the UK Government made a TV announcement about Covid policy we were told that it didn’t apply to viewers in Scotland, just as we were supposed to remember what FACTS stood for, but never quite did, so too the SNP’s decision to be different about the census merely led to confusion and fewer households taking part.

We are all obliged to fill in the census form and it is a very good idea to do so, but clearly more people are going to do so if the form is as easy to fill in as possible. But along with lots of sensible and important questions, we were also met with questions that were irrelevant to the vast majority of ordinary Scots. Who knows how many people quit the survey on being asked about their gender? Some questions or the available answers pointed to SNP political goals.

A survey with no obvious political bias asking only the most necessary questions might have had a higher response rate, but the biggest reason for the difference in response rates to the rest of Britain is the SNP’s decision to go it alone in having the survey 11 years after the last one rather than 10.

Why couldn’t we have had the census last year like everyone else. The SNP blamed Covid. But it is hard to think of an activity less likely to spread an infectious disease than sitting at a computer filling in an online form. Filling in the census did not lead to an increase in Covid anywhere else and it wouldn’t have done so here.

The SNP’s reason for delay was completely spurious and it has resulted in a census with such a low response rate that it will turn out to be useless and a waste of the £138 million spent on it. 700,000 Scots have failed to respond. They could all in theory be fined £1000, but almost no one will be fined so there won’t be an awful lot the SNP can do to get those who filed the census letter in the bin to do the form now.

The SNP is quite good at throwing away the odd hundred million quid, whether it is on a shipyard that can’t build ships or a hospital that gets delayed or on some other initiative that fails to improve Scotland. The failure of the census will have lasting consequences for those responsible for determining how many schools we need and how many GPs. It matters. Mistakes will be made in the years ahead that otherwise would not have been made. The result is that Scotland will fall that little bit further behind the other parts of the UK where the task of counting heads was managed in a way that we could not.

But perhaps more importantly the difference in response rates is so obvious that it will be hard for the most determined Scottish nationalist to not realise that the SNP has made a Nicola’s ear of the census. How do you blame Tories for the 700,000 Scots who could not be bothered to fill in the form? If you can’t blame Tories you end up having to blame the SNP. Who else is there? Who else is responsible for running Scotland?

This issue will change few if any votes in Scotland. I have given up writing about SNP scandals, because there are too many, it becomes dull to list them and because SNP voters don’t care. They would vote for the nationalist whether he had parties during lockdown, lied about it, watched porn in Holyrood and was called Prince Andrew.

The SNP will win the council elections. They will certainly win most seats in Scotland at the next General Election. Our time span for getting rid of them is geological. Drip, drip, drip. A droplet of water falls from the roof of the cave we are living in. Shipyards drip. Salmond scandal drip. Census drip. With each droplet the SNP is further away from its goal of independence. One by one the evidence of SNP mismanagement becomes visible like a stalactite that formed from drops that at the time appeared to do nothing.

Support for independence is falling. If it could only fall another few percentage points, then it would no longer be the only issue that defines Scottish politics. At that point we would vote on who runs Scotland best rather than who wants Scotland to leave the UK.  The SNP would lose that contest.

An inability to determine accurately the population of Scotland gives a good explanation of why the SNP wastes so much public money. A failure to learn how to count.