The Robert the Bruce syndrome: How the SNP will try, try and try again through our children

The Robert the Bruce syndrome: How the SNP will try, try and try again through our children

by Jill Stephenson
article from Monday 23, July, 2018

IF ONE THING has been clear since 18 September 2014, it is that the SNP has never given up and will never give up trying to win recruits for its mission of breaking up the United Kingdom. Even in 2017, the party saw an imminent opportunity for a bid for separation as a result of Brexit, until the general election of June in that year showed that its perpetual obsession with separatism was not popular with voters. The loss of twenty-one seats at Westminster and of over 400,000 votes led to a retreat from demands for an immediate referendum – among the leadership, at least, although not among the rank and file who had been fired up by the leadership’s rhetoric before the election. 

Even in the election campaign for the depute leadership of the SNP in 2018, there was wild talk from the candidates about holding a referendum as soon as possible, in 2018-19. The report of the Growth Commission, however, helped to damp that down, with its relatively sober warnings about the need for sterlingisation (which rules out applying for EU membership) and for years of austerity in an ‘independent’ Scotland. With the long-heralded Growth Commission report now relegated to the status of an SNP ‘discussion paper’, there are signs that the SNP leadership is thinking about a longer term strategy. This involves the party in launching an offensive to win over young people to its cause. 

Nothing new there, you may say. After all, there was much talk about ‘wee SNP kids’ during the 2014 referendum campaign. I recall an event in Dundee for very small children attended by the then married couple, Stewart Hosie and Shona Robison. Subsequently, Nicola Sturgeon’s tour of schools, as First Minister, included a visit to a primary children’s art class. The kids were painting items of their choice on plates, so what did Ms Sturgeon choose to paint on her plate? The only thing she could, apparently, think of was the SNP’s hangman’s noose emblem. Whether that demonstrates a lack of imagination on her part or an obsessively exclusive allegiance to her cause is a question best left hanging in the air. 

Further, we know that John Swinney has not abandoned his pursuit of the controversial Named Person scheme, which would give a professional individual sweeping rights of intervention in family life – including approving a young child’s desire to ‘transition’ to a different gender without asking or even telling his/her parents. The Named Person scheme is being operated in spite of the Supreme Court judgment which ruled that ‘the information sharing provisions in relation to the Named Person Service in Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (the 2014 Act) are outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament’. There is a way round this: ‘Many local authorities and health boards currently operate a non-statutory Named Person scheme as part of their approach to “Getting it right for every child.” [GIRFEC] The court judgement does not apply to these policy-based schemes.’ (SPICe Briefing: Named Person, p. 3.) That’s one way of circumventing the Supreme Court’s judgment.

One tactic in the new offensive is an initiative from ‘@ScotGovEurope’ to enrol children in a ‘Children & Young People’s Panel on Europe to work with @scotgov’ by giving their views about Brexit. The children who are encouraged to respond to this initiative are to be in the 8-18 age group. Yes, that’s right. The SNP wants children as young as eight-years-old to join its ‘panel’. It’s not quite as ambitious as Aristotle or the Jesuits, who talked of influencing a child for his/her first seven years, but it’s close. This is to be done via the website of ‘Children in Scotland – the official twitter feed of Scotland’s national charity working to improve children’s lives’. Responding on a charity’s website – what could be safer or more respectable? Except that the project to be serviced by this website is a ‘@scotgov’ one, run by the SNP. Do eight-year olds have a view of Brexit? Should they have one?

Hard on the heels of this wooing of young children comes a Scottish government film about ‘looked after children’ and how it is up to ‘corporate parents’, i.e., the state, to ensure that their interests are safeguarded and their wellbeing promoted. The film starts with Nicola Sturgeon embracing a young person. You can view it here: tell us: ‘This could be the first time that they’ve actually had a parent look after them and show them affection’. So there we have it: child welfare is in the hands of the mother of the nation. Yes, there are even people on social media who write reverently about ‘Mother Sturgeon’. 

Just so that we don’t forget that Ms Sturgeon is the leader of the nation in all its activities and the benevolent force guiding us all, she was named honorary grand marshal for the recent Pride event in Glasgow, ‘in recognition of her long-standing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBT)’. In this capacity, she led the march and made a speech. No-one was so impolite as to mention the substantial funds that Ms Sturgeon’s party has received from the arch-opponent of all things gay, Brian Souter. Nor did anyone mention that Ms Sturgeon’s government has, earlier this month, cut the £270,000 core funding for HIV Scotland down to nothing. After all, the £275,000 rise in the ministerial salary bill, occasioned by the recent expansion of the cabinet, has to come from somewhere. 

Still, it was unnerving to see a social event by a campaigning organisation led by a serving party political leader. It seems that no area of public life is a ‘safe space’ from politicians. Or, at least, from SNP politicians. As a footnote, we may mention that the CEO of Pride, Alastair Smith, announced his support for the ‘yes’ side in July 2014. He is now under fire for overselling tickets for Kelvingrove Park for the Pride event, with a large group of young people who had paid for tickets locked out of the park when it reached capacity. 

The SNP is infiltrating – in many ways already has infiltrated – all aspects of public life and many aspects of the life of third sector organisations, who depend at least to some extent on the Scottish government for funding. It is now making a sustained effort to infiltrate private life, especially the life of the family, with Named Person, GIRFEC, SHANARRI, and the My World Triangle. Under these circumstances, it is hard not to share the Supreme Court’s concerns about the information sharing aspects of the Named Person scheme and how this relates to data protection legislation. 

We need to be eternally vigilant – especially of a ruling party that wants eight-year-olds to sign up to a website running a political project. After all,the lowest age at which children can sign up for social media is thirteen. 

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