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ThinkScotland’s Assessement of the SNP Record in Government

Robert Tombs Getty

This article is to highly recommend a new report from THINK SCOTLAND. The report concludes that the SNP, despite being in power over the last 14 years, has a record of failure in every policy area.  This article briefly summarises the main points from the report. The report is available at:

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The SNP have been in power in the Scottish Assembly since 2007 either as the largest party in coalition or as majority party. During this period their record in government has been  poor. The ThinkScotland Report examines this record in detail across 15 areas of public administration.  We recommend that you read the full report, but here summarise some of the key points, with a few additional comparisons with the UK average provided by ourselves.


Scotland under the SNP is doing worse in respect of all the main measures of poverty – relative poverty, persistent poverty, child poverty, severe poverty, in- work poverty and pensioner poverty. While poverty rates had been steadily declining in Scotland for many years, once the SNP took over that decline stopped, and poverty began increasing again.

The latest figures published by the Scottish Government show that persistent poverty has risen from 10 per cent in the 2012-16 period to 12 per cent in 2015-19. For children the rise has been from 13% to 16% and for pensioners from 8% to 12%. For relative poverty the situation is worse. Latest figures show that 20 per cent of Scotland’s population (1.03 million people each year) were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2019-20. This is a substantial increase over the 16 per cent recorded in 2010/11.

By contrast the situation in the UK as a whole is more positive. Relative poverty among working age adults without children has fallen since 2011-12, with relative poverty as a whole remaining constant since that time. Absolute poverty fell by 1.4 percentage points between 2010-11 and 2018-19. In 2018-19 only 12 per cent of non-pensioners lived in households where no-one was in paid work, down by a third from a figure of 18 per cent in 94/95.

The SNP has failed to develop a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy, or to put much concentrated effort into addressing any of the underlying causes of poverty in Scotland. The result is a shameful record of rising poverty across all measures

Life expectancy

Scotland has the lowest life expectancy at birth of all UK countries, two years less than the average British citizen. Moreover the recent slowdown in the improving trend for life expectancy has been sharper in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. Scotland has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe. Life expectancy in Scotland is worse than in a number of Eastern European countries. For example, an Albanian man can expect to live longer than a Scottish man. Life expectancy in Scotland overall is also worse than in some developing countries such as Costa Rica and Barbados, where men live longer than those in Scotland.

Even worse, if you live in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland you can expect to live for 13 years less than Scots in the least deprived areas. That’s if you are a man. If you are a woman then on average you will live for 10 years less. Moreover, the latest figures show that life expectancy has FALLEN in 13 of Scotland’s 32 Council Areas and in the rest growth has effectively flat- lined.


Improving education was the SNP’s central commitment but when annual surveys of numeracy and literacy continued to show declining levels of performance, the SNP scrapped them. Sturgeon also withdrew Scotland from two of the three international comparative reviews in which it participated.

Sturgeon is refusing to publish the latest results from the remaining international survey, the OECD Pisa Report. However, the most recent results from the 2018 PISA report showed near-constant decline and a fall in science rankings from 10th to 19th, reading from 11th to 23rd, and maths from 11th to 24th since 2006. By 2019, Scottish pupils now only performed at the OECD average in maths and reading, and below it in science. Scotland was achieving the lowest scores in maths and science since it started participating in the survey 20 years before.

A further nail in the coffin of the SNP’s record in education is seen in literacy and reading comprehension, areas in which Scottish children used to excel. While

Scottish pupils once had the highest level of reading comprehension in the UK and Ireland, they have now slipped below Northern Ireland and fallen roughly in line with England.


In 2014 Nicola Sturgeon pledged to double free early learning childcare places. 7 years later the pledge has not been fulfilled with only 13% of target centres ready. Under the SNP less than 30% of local authorities have enough childcare for parents working full-time, compared to 56% in England.


The SNP has failed to tackle the deprivation that leads to bad health outcomes. Scotland, under the SNP, has become the ‘sick man of Europe’. Mortality statistics of Glaswegians when compared to equally deprived Liverpool and Manchester, provide alarming reading. Deaths caused by lung cancer amongst Glaswegians were 27 per cent higher, by suicide 70 per cent higher, by alcohol-related causes 130 per cent higher, and by drug-related poisonings 250 per cent higher.

The Scottish NHS missed 6 out of 8 national waiting time standards in 2018/19. The missed standards included Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service referrals seen within 18 weeks and patients starting cancer treatment within 62 days. Between 2017/18 and 2018/19 there was an increase of 2.2 per cent in people waiting for outpatient appointments and an increase of 6.1 per cent in people waiting for inpatient appointments.

Healthy Life Expectancy is declining in Scotland. (Healthy life expectancy (HLE) is an estimate of the number of years lived in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ general health, whereas life expectancy is the number of years an individual is expected to live). A Glaswegian man now has a healthy life expectancy of just 54.6 years. There is a huge 25 year gap in healthy life expectancy at birth between the most and least deprived areas.

Healthy life expectancy in Scotland is the lowest in Europe. National Records of Scotland states that “it is estimated that a baby boy expects to live 61.7 years in good health and a baby girl 61.9 years in good health”. By contrast, according to WHO data, the average healthy life expectancy in Europe is 68.3 years with all other European countries having higher HLE than Scotland. At 69.1 years even Albania has considerably higher healthy life expectancy. Scotland fully qualifies for the sad title of ‘Sick Man of Europe.’

Food insecurity has worsened under the SNP. In 2017, 8% experienced food insecurity (defined as being worried during the past 12 months that they would run out of food due to lack of money or resources). This figure rose to 9% in 2018 and has remained at the higher percentage.

Drug deaths

The drug death total in Scotland reached a shameful 1264 deaths in 2019. The death rate from drugs is 15 times worse than Germany and 35 times worse than France. Under the SNP, Scotland is the drug death capital of Europe.

Drug deaths in Scotland are three-and-a-half times the drug deaths in the UK as a whole yet England and Wales operate under the same drug legislation as Scotland. The number of Scottish drug deaths has increased steadily since 2013. When the SNP came to power there were 352 rehab beds and 455 annual drug deaths but – after SNP funding cuts – by 2018 the rehab beds had dropped to 70 and the annual drug deaths had risen to 1187.

Homeless deaths

Scotland’s homeless death rate is currently the worst in Britain, at a rate of 52.2 per million of the population aged 15-74 compared to just 18.0 in England and 14.3 in Wales. That’s a death rate three-times higher than that in England.

This figure includes those found dead in the street and in temporary homeless accommodation, which includes homeless B&Bs and hostels. The average age at death for homeless people was 43-years-old for males and 39-years-old for females.

Covid-19: Vaccination

If the SNP had been able to implement their preferred policy on vaccination procurement – to take part in the EU vaccination scheme – then as of the beginning of April 1.6 million fewer Scots would have been vaccinated. While over 2.5 million Scots have been vaccinated to date, only 877,952 would have been vaccinated at the EU’s average vaccination rate. Scotland, like most EU countries, would be in the grip of a third Covid wave, and many more Scots would have died, likely around two to three thousand.

The SNP had a rocky start to the vaccination drive in Scotland, vaccinating many fewer proportionately than in the rest of the UK. Nicola Surgeon’s vaccination targets for the end of January were missed. However, assistance was provided from the British armed force and after a period the vaccination effort in Scotland caught up with the rest of the UK.

Scotland’s Economy

The Scottish economy has long been lagging behind the UK economy but now the prognosis must be considered as dire. In 2019 Scotland’s per capita GDP was 8% lower that of the UK as a whole (compared with 3% in 2006). While GDP in the UK grew 18% between 2006 and 2018, in Scotland it grew at a much smaller 13%.

Scotland has the smallest number of businesses per head of any part of the UK with the exception of northeast England” Statistical data shows that Scotland has a particularly low rate of business scale-ups and the number actually fell between 2015 and 2018. Since 2006 Scotland has fallen further behind the UK average in the rate of business start-up.

SNP economic management of the Covid pandemic has been poor. Implementing the strictest lockdown the UK while failing to distribute relief funds supplied by the UK Treasury, the effect on Scottish businesses has been dire. In December, the Scottish economy was 7.2% below pre-pandemic levels, a contraction of 6.2% in the UK economy.

While Britain has the longest tax code in the world the Scottish version is even more complex, with a generally higher income tax and an absurdly onerous and expensive Land and Buildings Tax both of which penalise greater productivity and dynamic mobility that drive an economy to expand and grow.


The SNP’s creation of a single state police force has failed. The elimination of regional police forces, done without consulting the police themselves, was essentially a national takeover by Strathclyde Police. A one-size-fits-all Strathclyde approach involves armed police on regular duty all over Scotland and performing 1,000s of stop and searches on children. Local accountability and local flexibility have gone, and studies reveal the merger has failed to increase crime clear-up rates.

Freedom of speech

The SNP’s hate crime legislation has trashed freedom of speech. Private speech has been criminalised in our homes. Allegations made by individuals after an argument at a dinner party, or similar social event, can be investigated by the police. Conversations on contentious issues could be repeated innocently by children at school and lead to intervention by the police, who would have no choice but to investigate and take witness statements from others present at the time of the speech, including someone’s own children.

Over 2,000 organisations protested against the legislation, but to no avail. For example the Network of Sikh Organisations said that the new law “will make Scotland one of the most hostile places for freedom of expression in Europe”.

Local Government

Figures from the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show that between 2013-14 and 2019-20, the Scottish government’s revenue budget was cut by 2 per cent by the UK Government. Over the same period, however, the SNP Government has hit councils with a staggering 7 per cent reduction in funding in real terms. That’s more than three times the fall in funding from Westminster. The SNP is grabbing funds to hoard centrally, for spending on election bribes & independence campaigning. Potholes  get worse and bins are uncollected. Local councils can’t cope and are having to make widespread redundancies.

Unspent and unaccounted for funds

The SNP pursues a policy of announcing big spending projects and support schemes which often fail to materialise. In previous years this was costly, now with the pandemic it’s deadly.

The Scottish Auditor General confirmed in February that the SNP government had received an extra £9.7 billion from the UK government to deal with COVID-19 in the 2020/21 financial year and highlighted that if you check the 170 public spending announcements related to Coronavirus, only £7 billion is accounted for. Somewhere, £2.7 billion is lying both uncommitted and unspent by the SNP.


In 2015 the SNP chose the highest bidder, the shipyard Ferguson Marine, to build two ferries. Construction began before design was completed and six years later the ferries are still not complete and a £97 million contract is now expected to cost at least £230 million. The ferries ordered were three times as large as was necessary for the routes they  are meant to serve.

The £840 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, which eventually opened in 2015, was another SNP procurement disaster, with sewage leaking into operating theatres and a series of other dangerous contamination problems that caused 4 deaths. Other procurement disasters are listed in the report.

Foreign Affairs

The SNP Government is operating its own costly foreign policy and establishing a proto-embassy network, to promote and operate a paradiplomacy, despite foreign affairs being outside its legal competence.


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