Swinney promised change but his fingerprints are on all SNP's failures (2024)

Pay attention, everyone. This is a classic of the form. We are witnessing, in all its grotesque and cynical glory, a masterclass in SNP hypocrisy.

Conclusive proof that the party wouldn’t dream of living up to the lofty standards it demands of its opponents. It’s almost a work of art.

The Nationalists’ decision to install John Swinney as leader, setting him up to be Scotland’s seventh First Minister, displays the sort of contempt for the electorate they continually detect and dramatically deplore in others.

Down the years, TV studios have echoed with the exhausting sounds of outraged SNP politicians accusing their opponents of attacking the foundations of democracy.

When David Cameron stepped down as Prime Minister following defeat in 2016’s EU referendum, Nicola Sturgeon insisted the country have a general election.

Scotland is crying out for change – but is John Swinney really the man to deliver it?

The Conservatives didn’t really think they could get away with imposing a new leader on the country, did they?

This demand for an election was repeated by Ms Sturgeon and other senior Nationalists when Mr Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, quit in 2019.

And, you’ve guessed it, when Boris Johnson was replaced by Liz Truss, the Nationalists declared an election absolutely necessary.

On that occasion, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: ‘This can’t go on. General Election now.’

And when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, she said: ‘He should call an early general election.

‘He’s the second person in a row to be appointed as Prime Minister by Tories – not elected by the population.

‘The idea that he can go two years before seeking or winning a democratic mandate I think is just unthinkable.’

But what’s sauce for the Tory goose is not sauce for the SNP gander. Yesterday, in a desperate bid to stop his party falling apart, former leader John Swinney – the very definition of ‘yesterday’s man’ – announced his candidacy to succeed Humza Yousaf.

By 2pm, former finance secretary Kate Forbes had ruled herself out of the running.

Under pressure from colleagues not to spark a potentially bloody leadership contest while the SNP is in crisis, Ms Forbes caved.

She is expected to be handed a senior Cabinet role by Mr Swinney – who, when he takes office, will be the second person in a row appointed as First Minister by the SNP rather than the electorate.

If it was an undemocratic outrage for the Tories to impose leaders on the country without an election, why then do the Scot Nats think they can do exactly the same?

The reason, I’m afraid, is that the Nationalists’ moral code runs no further than: ‘If we do it, it is a fine and moral act.’

Mr Swinney told supporters at his, it turns out, entirely unnecessary campaign launch that only the SNP stands where the majority of people want their government to be, ‘in the moderate centre-Left of Scottish politics,’ adding, ‘That is where I stand.’

You may be forgiven for finding this confusing.

This is, after all, the politician who – as Deputy First Minister to Nicola Sturgeon for nine years – helped drive a bitter wedge through Scotland, participating in a strategy of demonising opponents and angrily attacking anyone who dared speak out again the SNP government’s failures.

This is the politician who was second in command in a government that repeatedly ignored the priorities of Scots, a government that obsessed over gender ideology and displayed a worrying contempt for freedom of speech.

This is the man who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ms Sturgeon when, her brain addled by a co*cktail of ‘queer theory’ and the desire to be loved by a generation of hipsters, refused to say rapist Adam Graham, who declared before his trial that he had changed gender, was a man.

Mr Swinney presents himself as an affable fellow, with a calm and reassuring tone.

But we should not be lulled. The First Minister-in-waiting’s fingerprints are smudged on every appalling failure of the SNP Government.

His signature is on every broken, unnecessary or illiberal piece of legislation imposed on Scots by the SNP while it neglected the NHS, schools and the economy.

Mr Swinney promised change yesterday and, heaven knows, Scotland is crying out for that. But the returning SNP leader’s ideas of change may, I think, differ.

The Scottish people’s idea of necessary change is a government that stops promising a divisive referendum which they do not want.

And one that frees itself from the grip of gender ideologues, who’ve driven such unsuccessful Swinney-backed legislation as the plan to reform the Gender Recognition Act, allowing men to self-ID as women and then gain access to single sex spaces.

Mr Swinney could not have made it clearer, yesterday, that he doesn’t get it.

Just seconds into his speech he was declaring his intention to ‘unite Scotland for independence’ when what Scotland wants is for him to fix its failing services.

Asked by a female political journalist what, given the recent fierce debates over identity politics, his view was on whether a trans woman is a woman, Mr Swinney offered the most dismissive answer.

‘If,’ said Mr Swinney, ‘our politics is defined purely and simply by these questions, I think we’re not addressing the core issues and challenges that people face in our society.

‘So, today, I am going to address the core challenges and priorities that face people in our society.’

Could it be the countless women who believe gender ideology to be dangerous, don’t count as ‘people’ with ‘priorities’ to Mr Swinney? Surely not?

If he really doesn’t realise how important this issue is, he had better think again, and quickly.

Among the factors that ended Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office was the huge public backlash to her gender recognition reforms. And this ideology played its part in Mr Yousaf’s downfall, too.

The refusal of senior Greens, including Patrick Harvie, to accept the findings of Dr Hilary Cass’s report into the treatment of gender-confused children infuriated a number of SNP backbenchers and played a part in Mr Yousaf’s decision to end their power-sharing deal, a move that saw the Greens line up behind a planned vote of no confidence in his First Ministership.

Mr Swinney is not going to persuade moderate, middle Scotland his party is changed if he cannot state that sex is a matter of biology and not a fluid concept, dictated by post-modernist narcissists.

I wonder whether Mr Swinney felt he could not answer that question clearly because of the danger it might upset the Greens.

Green co-leaders Mr Harvie and Lorna Slater hold fringe views on the matter of sex and gender. If Mr Swinney cannot differentiate himself from them on this issue then he will pay a price.

John Swinney may feel he needs to keep the Scottish Greens onside to help preserve the position he is about to inherit but, surely, he’s not prepared to indulge their extremist views and to let them dictate the direction his government takes?

Judging by what he said yesterday, I fear he might be.

Swinney promised change but his fingerprints are on all SNP's failures (2024)


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