2014 Referendum, Alcohol, Alex Salmond, Daniel Pelka, Freedom of Speech, Offensive Behaviour (Football) Act, Opinion, Paternalism, Politics, Project Fear, Public Health, Scaremongering, Scottish Independence, Smoking, SNP
It would ruin the referendum and let the whole country down. For politicians on both sides of the Scottish independence debate, nothing could be presently more mortifying or credibility-destroying than to be caught mongering “fear.” In his keynote conference address last month, the SNP leader Alex Salmond peered down his nose at this unwelcome intruder in the sunny world of Scottish politics:
This debate is about whether Scotland should be independent. Those running the official campaign against that proposition call themselves “Project Fear”. For the term “Project Fear” is not some insult dreamed up by the Yes campaign. It is a self-description. That’s right – the No Campaign actually described themselves as Project Fear.
Nonetheless, the No side are usually contrite about their tendency to drift into scaremongering, and scrupulous in acknowledging that an independent Scotland could “go it alone.” The Telegraph’s arch-Unionist Alan Cochrane has grumbled of Project Fear that, “the sobriquet was stupidly coined by Better Together but has been taken up with understandable relish by the SNP who say that anyone who questions their claims about independence is guilty of negativity.”
Negativity? From where do the SNP get the effrontery? Fear is, in fact, the staple ingredient of every SNP policy; so much so that a Scottish government without fear would look like a bakery which was trying to get by without flour. They might as well rename the entire Scottish government “Project Fear.” Let us look back at some of the things which the Holyrood administration – itself supposedly more easy-going and social-democratic than the Westminster one – has required us to be afraid of over the last few years.
Alcohol: You may think that six-pack in the fridge looks pretty friendly. How can you be so naïve? The former SNP Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has contended that “Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death. The problem affects people of all walks of life.” She holds alcohol responsible for thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions, and violent crimes. But if you’re getting feart, don’t worry! Nicola’s paternalistic government and its army of health experts are here to save the day. Sturgeon has previously connived to prevent under-21s from buying alcohol and she has tried to introduce a prohibition on cheap alcohol through minimum pricing.
Cigarettes: A product so frightening that you need to be rescued from even seeing it. In April shops were banned from displaying cigarettes, lest the mere sight of them tempt you into setting a first foot on the road to cancer. The SNP government previously introduced a ban against smoking indoors in public places, just in case you were too feart of second-hand smoke to leave the safety of your own house for the pub.
Food: In June the Public Health Minister Michael Matheson reported a terrifying incident which befell him whilst he was walking around his local supermarket. “Rows and rows” of shelves were stocked with “absolute junk foods.” The poor man related that, “I could have taken my trolley and filled it up over and over again with deal after deal after deal as a result.” Luckily, he escaped without being brainwashed by some breakfast cereal, but if you’re terrified that you might not prove so resilient, Matheson’s paternalistic government is on your side.
Words: Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you? Think again – some football songs and chants contain words which are so innately terrifying that we need to be literally protected from them. Luckily, the paternalistic SNP government are here once again to save us with their Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act. Sing the wrong song and you can now be (at least in theory) jailed.
Our parents: It turns out that getting on with your mum and dad is the most craven type of appeasement. Even if they are not murderously abusive, they have never been trained to provide childcare, and nobody is regulating the quality of the service. Thank heavens that some proper paternalists, the SNP government, are here to guarantee a “named person” for every child, who will ensure that they are being raised in the correct, government-approved manner. In August a government spokeswoman explained that, “Our focus is on the safety and protection of children. The named person, who is likely to be a health visitor, head or deputy head teacher and will usually already know the child, will be a first point of contact if help is needed.” The pro-independence blog Wings Over Scotland juxtaposed a hostile headline about this new policy with an image of Daniel Pelka, a child who was starved to death by his mother and stepfather. If you had not been hitherto emotionally manipulated into fearing your own and everybody else’s parents, this surely nails it.
It seems, therefore, that the whole of Scottish politics is a rollercoaster ride of terror. You can’t leave the house without being menaced by shelves of discount biscuits or having your psyche invaded by the deadly allure of cheap alcohol. But if you stay at home you could end up being murdered by your own parents. In contrast to this, a few awkward questions about the Schengen agreement or shipyards closing scarcely merit a PG rating. I always hide behind the sofa whenever they start talking about university funding, so perhaps that should be a 15. But Nicola Sturgeon on alcohol-related deaths is so frightening that it should be rated strictly over-18.
[Tychy previously reviewed Lesley Riddoch’s Blossom.]