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The Government’s Record

Video by Dr Alan Convery (The University of Edinburgh) and Prof Nicola McEwen (The University of Edinburgh) on the record in government of the SNP.
So, in this election, Nicola, we’ll talk quite a lot about the SNP’s record in government. Have they had a successful record in government in Scotland? I think they have had a reasonably successful record, but there are interesting findings emerging from some recent opinion polls, which suggest that there is something of a disjuncture between the SNP’s popularity as a political party, Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity as a First Minister, and then judgements about the record of the Scottish Government.
So, if you look to some polling evidence around how well people think the government has performed in relation to the economy or to crime and justice, education and health, opinion seems to be fairly evenly split between those who think they are doing well, those who think they are doing poorly, and those who think they’re neither one nor the other. But with regard to the party and the Office of First Minister and the personality of First Minister, then the ratings are so much higher. So, it isn’t just about the record of the government. It’s also about the parties, perhaps even the identities and the interests that they represent.
And can we explain some of this support for the SNP in terms or people’s increased support for independence? It may be the case. We will have to wait and see what the survey evidence tells us too. I don’t want to pre-empt that. But, certainly if we look to previous elections, in the 2007 election when the SNP was first elected to government and the 2011 election when it secured its majority, much of the explanations for the party’s success, then, revolved around explanations of what we call valence politics, so people, voters making judgements about the SNP’s competence to govern.
And I’m not convinced that what we are seeing now can be wholly explained by those sorts of valence measures, those sorts of judgements and evaluations. I think it is more than that. It may be about support for independence. It may be about judgements of the other political parties. And it may be about the politics of territorial identity. And we’ve talked a bit about the SNP’s record in government, but the new Scottish Government elected in May will have new challenges to deal with that haven’t faced Scottish governments before. What are the new challenges that these new powers bring, do you think? Well, there will be financial challenges anyway purely by virtue of the austerity agenda.
So irrespective of the new powers, there will be financial challenges for whoever is in office. The new powers bring an added difficulty in that there is an awful lot more responsibility in raising income tax, so it will be the responsibility of the Scottish Government to do what it can to ensure that the economy is healthy, that there is a good solid tax base. And they will have to then be more directly accountable for the money that they are spending. If they want to do more, if they want to provide more by way of public services, they may have to look at raising more revenue through income tax.
If they want to combat further cuts from Westminster, it may be that that’s a debate that has to take place within Scotland as to how much tax people are willing to pay. And we’ve already seen that the issue of income tax and tax rates and who pays what and how redistributive it should be has featured much more prominently in this election campaign than has ever been the case before in a Holyrood campaign.
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