Sturgeon’s secret state: SNP torn apart for ‘record of failure’ in furious rant

Nicola Sturgeon brutally skewered over '£250M' blunder

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Nicola Sturgeon’s party has been criticised for hushing up the Government’s shortcomings, with everything from political dissent to the country’s beleaguered health system hidden from public view. Writing in the Spectator, journalists James Heale and Michael Simmons accused Mrs Sturgeon of presiding over a “secret state” in which the SNP spurns opposition and covers up the country’s shortcomings.

They said: “Under first Alex Salmond and now Sturgeon, Holyrood has become one of the most centralised and opaque regimes in the democratic world.

“The power devolved to Edinburgh in 1999 has been hoarded by a party and a government – it’s hard to tell where one stops and the other starts – that specialises in dodging accountability.

“The SNP’s record of failure on public services is matched only by its ability to conceal the extent of that failure.”

The writers accuse the SNP of hiding poor performance in Scottish Schools by “data divergence”, meaning that metrics are changed to make it impossible to compare with England.

Scotland has been withdrawn from numerous educational surveys and international league tables, making it difficult to assess how Scottish pupils are performing.

The SNP has also been accused of trying to conceal problems with Scotland’s health service, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports have emerged recently that ministers attempted to cover up Scotland’s first major Covid outbreak in February 2020.

The Health Secretary said the discovery of cases in an Edinburgh hotel should have been made public, but this was overruled.

It was later discovered that ministers kept second-wave death and case predictions secret in defiance of the law.

Emails exchanged between special advisers about Ms Sturgeon’s Covid briefings have been deleted, the writers claim.

They said: “If Boris Johnson had personally hushed up a Covid outbreak, there would have been a huge scandal and calls for his resignation.

“In Edinburgh, it’s business as usual, all part of Sturgeon’s secret state.”

The Government has also been accused of failing to open itself up to scrutiny.

During the trial of former SNP leader Alex Salmond, where the ex-First Minister’s evidence against Sturgeon was redacted, members of the Scottish parliament were warned that they did not have protected speech as MPs in Westminster do.

This meant that they could be prosecuted by Ms Sturgeon’s lawyers if they spoke out of turn.

The SNP has been accused of rigorously silencing opposition to the party line, with parliamentarians “forbidden from criticising their leadership”. 

This extends to Scotland’s public institutions, with the former principal of St Andrews Univeristy reportedly being subjected to a “loud and heated” phone call for then-leader Mr Salmond when she warned Scottish independence might hurt research funding. 

As the First Minister mulls an idea to dispense with parliamentary approval in the future, which would allow the leader to “modify or amend” any act of parliament without a vote, there are fears that the Scottish legislature could grant itself unprecedented powers. 

Under the plans, ministers would be able to unilaterally amend any act of parliament in a crisis.

Proposed in the wake of the pandemic, the new plans would allow ministers to close schools, enforce stay-at-home restrictions and shut down hospitality venues without having to seek parliamentary approval.

The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill has faced a record public backlash.

The journalists write: “Unusually for a democracy, the legislature and the executive would be merged. In her defence, one can argue that this has, in effect, already been the case for years.”

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