Friday 16 October 2015


The SNP has just released a party political broadcast which may be the ultimate example of its kind. It is entitled "A Tale of Two Cities" -- evidently London and Edinburgh, although the latter isn't mentioned by name. Here are some of the chilling and baffling highlights:

0:02: Ominious electronic music, vaguely resembling Massive Attack. Opening title: "A Tale of Two Cities". Which two cities could they possibly be?
0:06: Here we are in London at dawn. London has art galleries, the Underground and Chinese supermarkets.
0:17: Now we're in Edinburgh, still at dawn. Edinburgh has the view from Calton Hill and trains arriving at Waverley.
0:22: Narrator, in dark and foreboding tones: "This... is a tale of two cities." Good, we're clear on that now. Are we going to hear about urban planning? We see lots of Edinburgh folk going about their business. The camera lingers on a woman carrying a pair of high-heeled shoes in one hand, because Scots are stylish yet practical.
0:42: Narrator: "A tale of two Parliaments." Hold on. What? So it's not really about the cities at all, that's just an excuse to steal a classic title from Dickens. Fine, whatever.
0:49: Narrator: "One is modern and progressive..." Shots of Holyrood, and a golden retriever running through the ornamental pool in front. I'm in favour of retrievers running through ponds, so this looks promising.
0:57: Narrator: "... committed to serving a nation engaged in the political process." Footage of people hugging in a café. I'm in favour of hugs too. I guess the SNP's politics is all about hugs. And cafés.

(The narrator still speaks in tones of impending doom. If this was a film trailer, a werewolf would jump out and dismember the people in the café about now.)

1:02: Narrator: "A nation full of hope, expectation, and aspiration." A little girl in a yellow raincoat approaches a middle-aged woman sitting on a park bench, takes hold of her hands and pulls her to her feet.

(Is the girl her daughter? Her granddaughter? Just a good friend? A total stranger who goes around accosting women on park benches? I feel there must be some important back story I'm missing about the girl in the yellow raincoat.)

1:06: Narrator: "The other, an antiquated institution." Shot of Big Ben. Boo, hiss.
1:09: Narrator: "Outdated, and out of touch with the people they claim to represent." Cut to some young black men playing basketball on a housing estate. Unlike Westminster, Holyrood is totally in touch with basketball.
1:18: Narrator: "These two places do have at least one thing in common." Very good subsidised bars?
1:19: Narrator: "Strong voices." Right, that would have been my second guess.
1:29: Nicola Sturgeon (voiceover): "I will be First Minister for all of Scotland, regardless of your politics or your point of view." OK, that's a nice sentiment. So is support for cuddly golden retrievers.
1:37: Narrator: "Strong voices for Scotland." Cut to Mhairi Black, the youthful MP for Paisley, walking beneath the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. I'm sure that being an English Conservative aristocrat, Churchill would have been completely on board with today's SNP.
1:40: Mhairi Black (voiceover): "We now have one of the most uncaring, uncompromising, and out-of-touch governments the UK has seen since Thatcher." Boo, hiss.
1:55: Narrator: "Here in Scotland, the SNP is using what powers it has to create jobs and build a more prosperous and fairer country for all who live here." Very nice, I saw what you did there. Only when Nicola Sturgeon is promoted to Emperor of the Universe will her powers be sufficient.

2:06: Narrator: "In London, there's a different job to do." Boo, hiss again.
2:14: Narrator: "For as long as the Tories target the most vulnerable in our society, privatise the NHS by stealth, and force more and more children into poverty..." Wait, what? Health is fully devolved to Holyrood. Never mind, there's more.
2:22: Narrator: "The SNP will stand united against them. No way are they going to sit on the fence." Footage of a child in London, rather aimlessly dragging a stick along a fence. Aha, I see what you did there again. Labour's interim leader Harriet Harman abstained on the government's welfare bill. Boo, hiss. I think Labour might have elected someone else as leader now, but let us not allow such trivialities to detain us.
2:30: Narrator: "So, in this tale of two Parliaments..." Hey, they're building up to a big finish.
2:36: Narrator: "Which party will always be stronger for Scotland?"
2:38: Nicola Sturgeon, speaking to camera: "Well?"

[Slow handclap]

Well, indeed. It's very slick, I'll give it that. Good production values.

I am left in no doubt that the SNP are in favour of being a strong Scottish voice for Scotland. Did I mention they are strong? And Scottish? And most importantly, Not The Tories? (The other three non-Tory parties at Holyrood are almost beneath the SNP's notice.)

For sheer pompous grandiosity, this video takes the cake, the biscuit, the tray of sausage rolls, the entire bakery. It reduces all of Scottish politics down to a Hollywood struggle between the Good Heroic SNP and the Evil Dastardly Tories, with foreboding music, and an ominous narrator who sounds like he is voicing the trailer for a cheesy horror film.

From watching this video, I would have assumed we were gearing up for the fate of Scotland to be settled by a lightsaber duel. I would never have guessed that in less than seven months, there will be an election for the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

Are there any important issues for the upcoming Holyrood election? Anything specific the SNP can boast about from its last eight years in government, or promise to do if it is re-elected? I suppose not. Hey, look over there, some nasty Tories are lurking in the shrubbery.

The SNP is still enjoying the afterglow of its sweeping victory in the general election, in which it won 53 of 56 Scottish seats. It currently has a gargantuan lead in the opinion polls on 51%, 30 points ahead of Labour and 32 ahead of the Scottish Conservatives. Barring an unforeseen and devastating scandal, the chances of the SNP losing power at Holyrood next year are comparable to those of Scotland winning the Rugby World Cup.

(I'm a Scotland supporter, I'm delighted they've reached the quarter-finals, and I'd really love to see them beat Australia on Sunday and go on to win the World Cup, but I'm realistic about these things. )

Hubris has got the better of the SNP. We are the nation, they proclaim. The video has Sturgeon saying in so many words that she is First Minister for all of Scotland, regardless of political beliefs. On the one hand this sounds nice and inclusive, but it's also an assertion of supremacy. We are the representatives of Scotland, and don't you forget it.

I am seriously uncomfortable with the SNP's insinuation it is the only legitimate voice representing Scotland, in opposition to the moustache-twirling, puppy-drowning villainy of Westminster (boo, hiss). It's of a piece with Alex Salmond's claim during the referendum campaign, that the Yes and No sides were "Team Scotland" and "Team Westminster" respectively. By implication, those who disagree with the SNP are not only mistaken, they are traitors and minions of evil.

This kind of talk might win the SNP some votes in the short term, but it will also corrode the democratic process. Of course, the SNP leadership do not care about the long-term health of democracy in the UK. Their dearly held ambition is to parlay the SNP's current popularity into a vote for full independence. Never mind acting like a mature and responsible party of government, there are more important things at stake.

Still, not to worry. I'm sure painting your opponents as traitors to the nation could never result in ugly political conflict that gets out of hand. Just think about golden retrievers and people hugging in cafés, vote SNP and all will be well.

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