Nicola Sturgeon had a nice soundbite prepared for her TV outing on Sunday morning. When asked about Theresa May’s joking comments last week that there were ‘boy jobs and girl jobs’ around her house, and that her husband Philip always took out the bins, Ms Sturgeon promptly responded by saying that her own husband did the cooking and cleaning while she focused on the ‘girl job of running the country’.
It’s a neat soundbite, and one that will feed into the Scottish First Minister’s admirable desire to be an inspiration to other women and young girls. However, I sincerely doubt the validity of her latest favoured phrase; Mr Sturgeon is the always busy chief executive of the SNP so I doubt he has time for much cooking or cleaning either.
Yet there’s a more important problem with what Nicola Sturgeon said, in her head her job is less about ‘running the country’ and more about gaming it, the purpose of her premiership seems to be little more than cattle-prodding Scotland towards a second independence referendum.
Scotland is a country divided almost equally between the desire to maintain the union, and the desire to forge their own future outside of Westminster. Yet there seems to be a prevailing sentiment that encompasses countless voters on both sides of the political divide. I have a number of Scottish friends and while some prefer to keep the ties with the rest of the UK, others want to see an independent Scotland in the coming years, and yet every time I speak to them about Ms Sturgeon they all seem to give their own frustrated version of the First Minister’s own saying: ‘I wish she’d just get on with running the country.’
You see, no matter how much one of them wants to see an independent Scotland they cannot help but see the cynicism and self-serving motives behind the first minister’s actions and positioning. They may still want to give her the chance to run Scotland as its own nation but they do not believe she has what it takes, she’s struggled to run a devolved Scotland for one thing. Her track record on education for instance is appalling.
For all her bluster at running a country, Ms Sturgeon does not have the record to back up the claim, her focus, her drive, and her passion are focused on one objective, independence.
While the SNP has had some impressive successes recently, and no doubt will do well in the forthcoming general election, the party is not about gaining seats in Westminster, that is a happy by-product for Ms Sturgeon and acts as little more than a two fingered salute to the UK government. As the party’s track record shows, the SNP is not interested in governing, it has one goal, the end of the United Kingdom, and there are signs that that goal is beginning to slip away.
In the Scottish Parliament at present the SNP have a majority for a second independence referendum, yet it’s a tight majority. There are 69 pro-independence MSPs provided by the SNP and the Green party. On the other side are 60 pro-Union members from the Conservatives, Labour, and the Lib Dems. That doesn’t give Ms Sturgeon an awful lot of breathing room.
The first minister hoped that Brexit –opposed by 62% of Scottish voters- would be the ammunition she needed to get another vote on separation. She attempted to strong arm the Prime Minister into giving Scotland another referendum in either the summer of 2018 or the spring of 2019. She did not expect Theresa May to say no, but that’s exactly what the PM did. And when Ms Sturgeon cried foul to the Scottish people she did not get nearly the response she was expected.
Despite how Nicola Sturgeon treats them the Scottish electorate are not fools and many understood that calling for a referendum before the Brexit process is complete will not change the outcome for the Scottish people, and they’d be going into the vote without knowing the final outcome of any deal the UK may be able to make. Scotland will not be able to stay in the EU regardless of when the referendum vote takes place, it will have to go through a long and arduous application process that will most likely be vetoed by the likes of Spain who are fighting similar problems with Catalonia. Allowing Scotland back into the EU would give precedent to a region Spain is vehemently trying to keep under control.
Not to mention many Scots are still tired from the previous referendum campaign, calling another one so soon after the previous attempt not only smacks of desperation but also petulance. Continually demanding something until you get your own way is the act of a child, not the head of a country and by crying foul and playing the victim card Ms Sturgeon showed herself not as the strong leader Scotland needs but as the one track mind separatist she truly is.
With every extra vote gained in Scotland by the Conservatives, and with each new poll showing either indifference or hostility towards indeyref2, the easier it becomes for Mrs May to continue saying no. And there are two clear facts the PM is aware of, Ms Sturgeon is unlikely to go rogue and hold a vote without legal authorisation, and secondly that it’s possible that the next devolved election in 2021 could return a pro-Union majority to Holyrood, ending the pressure for another referendum in its entirety.
The SNP is struggling under the natural attrition of running a government which is having a detrimental effect upon the SNP’s popularity. Ms Sturgeon was faced with a choice, either bet her parties future on a new indyref and put all her political capital into that goal, or develop her nationalist popularity into a governing concept focused on improving the education system, the NHS, and the wealth inequality in Scotland.
Last year the first minister declared the closing of the attainment gap in Scotland’s schools would be her number one priority. She promised radical change in the education system: ‘If anybody decides to be a block to making sure we’ve got the best education system then they should be moved out of the way. I’ll be confrontational with anybody if it’s about improving the educational experience of kids that come from the kinds of communities that I grew up in.’
Yet it’s now a year later and the reality has not lived up to the rhetoric and shows no signs of ever doing so. The SNP has been subject to an embarrassing run of statistics around literacy and numeracy levels. There is now consensus that the policies her administration has implemented, to fight this situation are far from good enough to combat the challenge facing the next generation of Scots.
At the moment sturgeon looks set to leave behind a feeble and weak policy legacy, and a referendum that never quite becomes reality.