The SNP Are Not Pro-Freedom – Conservative Article
The SNP continuously presents itself as a pro-freedom party, as if suggesting that independence would make the country any more free. It wouldn’t. Not only has the SNP’s governance become increasingly authoritarian over their almost 14 years in power, but now even on the issue of independence, freedom has taken a backseat.
The main problem with an SNP independence is that it would involve Scotland rejoining the EU – subjecting it to EU rule. The SNP claimed that agriculture and fishing powers being kept in Westminster temporarily (to allow a smooth transition) would be a power grab. Why then are they happy to place such powers in the hands of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels?
Even on issues such as immigration, which Scotland could only gain if it became fully independent, Scotland has far more say within the UK than it did/would in the EU. The elected Scottish MPs in Westminster can propose laws on such matters. A Scottish MEP would have no such powers and far less representation than would have been enjoyed otherwise.
When using the powers they do have, the SNP are once again acting against the interests of freedom. Beyond being the highest taxed place in the UK, Scotland is also home to several misguided sin taxes. Taxes on sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco have been used alongside new measures ranging from minimum alcohol pricing, multipack bans and increasingly misguided licensing hours to regulate Scottish lifestyles. They fail to realise the damage this does to the pockets of the poor. It also rejects the idea that it is none of the government’s business what people eat, drink or smoke.
The craziest nanny state policies can be found in The SNPs obesity action plans. They have put forward suggestions including healthy eating propaganda vans, a national chef, calorie taxes and the banning of condiments and meal deals. This patronising, fun stifling, elitist micromanagement is reflected across the board in the SNP’s Scotland. There is also no sign it will end any time soon.
I once went to a cigar lounge and was informed that I was unable to drink the accompanying whiskey on the smoking terrace by decree of the Shortbread Senate (Scottish Parliament). MSPs had voted to ban drinking in beer gardens after 10 pm, presumably for public health. This isn’t freedom or independence. The SNP and its policies are the embodiment of the big state mentality which has gripped the country. Perhaps if they took injecting heroin as seriously as they did an evening whiskey, Scotland wouldn’t be the drug death capital of Europe.
The SNP has also taken its brand of creeping authoritarianism and applied it to the Scottish legal system. The SNP has long been in favour of ridding the Scottish legal system of corroboration. This ancient legal protection of defendants’ rights and individuals’ civil liberties is seen by the SNP as a barrier to conviction. This is because it requires evidence to be corroborated to be admissible. The principle that no one should be convicted on the mere word of another is still relevant today, even if the SNP find it to be an inconvenience.
During the coronavirus response, the Scottish Government even proposed temporarily ending jury trial; another of our remaining ancient liberties. As was done in England, Scotland no longer has unanimous juries. This, in many ways, undermines a crucial and aspect of this right. Corroboration has long been considered a way to make such majority juries acceptable but now the SNP appears hellbent on destroying this hallowed legal principle as well.
The undermining of the legal system is even more concerning when we consider the new offences being introduced. The SNP are attempting to further criminalise speech deemed offensive or hateful (without providing solid legal definitions). Humza Yousaf‘s hate speech bill will likely be passed in the near future.
The parliament has voted in favour of the broad principles of the bill. These include the criminalisation of speech, even if it is a private conversation in the confines of our homes. It has the accompanying suggestion that children will be encouraged to report on their own parents. The police federation has come out and suggested that this bill will force them to act in a way that would amount to policing thought. Moreover, legal experts are claiming the law will set poor definitions and boundaries which will inevitably result in stifling mission creep.
If people cannot be certain of what would constitute a crime, then how can they reasonably be expected to follow such rules. Furthermore, how can it be enforced?
Earlier attempts to curb free speech banned offensive songs being sung at football games through the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 were unsuccessful. It was ultimately repealed after having been heavily criticised by both the courts and political opponents of the SNP.
Once again snobbery is involved. Football is the realm of the working class; political correctness and its associated draconian legislation are designed to coach the perceived underclass to speak (and think) appropriately.
The SNP also wants to regulate parenting and family life. Its attempt to circumvent the ECHR and the right to privacy and family life through the named person scheme was stopped by the courts. This would have assigned every Scottish child a person who would monitor their welfare and development. State-mandated social workers, as this policy would have achieved in all but name, was an unprecedented interference into family life.
Despite this, the recent smacking ban has been successful. It makes criminals out of parents engaging in innocuous disciplining that has safely been regarded by the courts for many years and regulated within limits. While the pros and cons are debatable, this represents the latest intervention into the realm of the family. It has furthered the progress towards an effective ban on parenting.
If a child’s welfare is already being monitored (most from poorer families) or all children’s welfare were to be monitored – as would have been the case under the named person scheme – then the use of reasonable chastisement (which according to statistics is commonly used by parents) could now result in the state getting further involved in family life. It could even remove the child from the home and prosecute those involved.
There is little opposition to any of this. The SNP is now running an effective one-party state where even the opposition, who seldom get media coverage, acquiesce on almost every issue (some like Labour even appearing wavy on the union).
The list system packs the parliament with party stooges who are not directly accountable to the electorate; such people will almost never break from the party line. There is also no second chamber. Therefore there are usually poor legislative reviews, handled by committees often featuring the same lacklustre MSPs. It is no wonder so many harebrained policies straight out of 1984 are conceived.
Whether they are regulating our lifestyles, diets, families, the justice system, businesses or speech, the SNP is leading the charge against liberty. This endless assault on freedom in Scotland has gone all but unopposed. Moreover, following the SNPs appalling record, it’s likely they will win once again during the 2021 elections. The decline appears unstoppable. As a result, Scotland, once the home of the entrepreneur and the free thinker, is now the home of the drug addict and the tyrant.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Oliver Pike
Point of Information
An Overarching Anti-independence Rhetoric – A Labour Response
This article is riddled with anti-independence rhetoric. Quite apt, given the discussion of a party seemingly entirely focussed on independence and little else. Now I am not criticising Oliver’s position; supposing my interpretation is correct and he is in fact anti-independence, we share the same view.
However, some of the given examples fail to reflect correlation with the highlighted topic of liberty. For example, the smacking ban seems more to me as a necessary protective policy rather than a politicised attempt to gain further power. While opinions naturally differ on the pros and cons of such a ban, I struggle to see how this decision is creeping into authoritarianism, as Oliver suggests.
If we’re looking at Scottish independence directly, it is obvious that the SNP continue to drive the narrative that this will gain Scotland its respective freedom. When Nicola Sturgeon speaks on this, it is hard, perhaps even impossible, to ignore her passion and evident love for her country. I somewhat admire her ability to speak so fervidly and I understand her obvious favour for Scotland. I, on some level, do the same for Wales – just not so far as to repeatedly demand independence to prove my country is the best.
This is where there are problems. Sturgeon and the SNP have continuously used the controversial fuel of the Brexit campaign and its result to add to their fire of Scottish independence. And they will continue to do so to further their mandate for another referendum. You may be thinking, is there a problem with this? My answer: kind of.
Understandably, Brexit won’t necessarily benefit Scotland so then a referendum would seem the best democratic choice. However, there’s a sound argument that the SNP is continually demanding another referendum purely because they have been doing so for so long. How can they naturally just give up this fight, particularly when Sturgeon, among others, have been so vocal on the issue?
Bringing this full circle, the continuation of the SNP’s fight for independence could likely result in a one-party state. This is by no means desirable and would dramatically change the future political sphere of Scotland. If this were to occur, Oliver’s argument that the SNP is restricting liberty would seem much more valid. For now, I don’t see a large scale restriction of liberty. Rather, I see a plethora of problems with Scottish independence and this isn’t a new discovery.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Imitating Sturgeon’s Misplaced Passion – A Liberal Response
I can strongly sympathize with Oliver’s (I dare say) liberal beliefs regarding freedom of speech and its protection. But this does not mean I agree with him wholeheartedly. Whilst his polemical article highlights some of the SNP’s recent missteps, its invective avoids many of the nuances of the debate. At times, it can even fall into contradiction.
With Oliver, I can agree that the anti-alcohol ban after 10 pm is unnecessary and useless. Yet, the article attacks this ‘big state mentality’ whilst also inadvertently calling for more state action against drug control. If alcohol use should be out of the state’s hands in Oliver’s eyes, shouldn’t drug use be as well? Both can be harmful, with some studies even claiming alcohol use is much more dangerous. Perhaps the SNP’s focus on alcohol is proportional? In any case, talk of the ‘big state’ obscures pragmatic, meaningful policy debate about each separate issue.
For example, the SNP’s taxes on alcohol, consumables, and tobacco should be discussed less as a moral hammer and more as an economic reality. The terms ‘nanny state’ and ‘sin tax’ purposefully paint the SNP as a protrusive monarch as opposed to an elected (and genuinely popular) party in order to enforce Oliver’s argument. Let’s not fall into this trap.
The tax should be seen as a necessary evil in hard times. In fact, the sin tax serves as a way to help a severely underfunded, crippled NHS through cash inflows and by reducing patient numbers. As a result, the working classes, who Oliver claims to be snubbed by the SNP, would be the most visible beneficiaries of this tax. Any moral aims of the SNP likely take a backseat to their socio-democratic impulses.
Ultimately, Oliver’s unabashed attack on the SNP not only misrepresents the party but key policy issues. This was most apparent when talking about corroboration. As Catherine Dyer, a former crown agent has noted, Scotland is the only country in the entire world with this archaic system.
Whilst corroboration can provide a strong case where evidence abounds, it lets many guilty people off of the hook – in particular sex offenders. The SNP will not eliminate using evidence altogether, just the practice of two independent forms. This is not creating a legal system based on just ‘mere word of mouth’, as Oliver suggests. Rather, it is updating Scotland’s judiciary in line with common global legal practice. It seems Oliver’s article has replaced nuance with vitriol.
The passionate rhetoric behind Oliver’s article is strong but blinding. A better approach to this would be to ditch the Orwellian talk and Stalinist equivalences for a more nuanced perspective. The SNP have made many errors, but this is not the way to go about discussing them.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
I’m Abi! I am a liberal, political enthusiast from the Welsh valleys. Since I was young, I have been captivated by politics. I used to spend so much time watching the morning news before school, and have paid close attention to political campaigns for as long as I can remember. It was a lot later that I decided I wanted to pursue politics academically. Now, I have just finished my second year studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter.
Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.