We are coming to the end of this parliamentary term and all political parties are slowly gearing up to next year’s elections. The SNP continues to poll miles ahead of its nearest rival and is expected to sweep the board in May, but what are the polemic issues faced by Scots ahead of these elections?
Two such issues – GM crops and shale gas – have hit the headlines in recent weeks that demonstrates on one level that the SNP is wary of taking decisions that could unsettle the foundations of their sustained high popularity.I find this odd, even if decisions such at the ‘moratorium’ on shale gas was implemented to give Scottish Minister’s more time to ensure any future regulatory regime is fit for purpose. On GM crops, it appears the Scottish Government has no scientific evidence to back its decision. The position of Chief Scientific Advisor has been vacant now for some time.
The moratorium on shale gas is clearly designed to give the SNP a holiday on this decision until after the elections. The decision to ban GM foods however, is slightly more confusing and seems to be based on the view that GM crops will somehow undermine Scotland’s reputation for quality produce.
The Independent has reported that Ineos has had private discussion with the First Minister where it is alleged (FOI appeal pending) that the Scottish Government has assured Grangemouth owner Jim Ratcliffe that the Scottish Government is not anti-shale. Assuming UK Government gives Cuadrilla the go-ahead to drill for shale in Lancashire sometime next year, it can surely only be a matter of time before Scotland allows the same. Why does the Scottish Government give the industry assurances in private and not come clean with the electorate?
The Scottish Government also announced this week that it will delay regulating home energy efficiency for private homeowners until after the elections. The cause for the delay is due to the UK Government’s decision to scrap the Green Deal (and any Barnett consequentials coming our way) so we can no longer afford a policy that would put the financial cost on the homeowner to meet minimum EPC ratings before selling their home. Not that such a policy would be viewed as unpopular by homeowners as it would restrict those with low EPC scores to spend thousands before being able to move.
Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservatives responding to the Scottish Government’s decision to ban GM crops said: “It’s vote-chasing, political calculation – it’s not science, not industry and not jobs.” She has a point. This is fairly typical of all governing parties before elections. It’s just surprising given the SNP’s popularity that they can’t be a little braver.