Forget the bias – Andrew Neil’s rant is just spectacularly WRONG on every count

A lot of people have pointed out that Andrew Neil’s lunatic rant in the Mail about the SNP-Green deal has shamed the BBC, who forever more will be known to have tried to pass off a right-wing nutter as an “objective, forensic interviewer” for the last couple of decades.  But even more than the bias of the article, what strikes me is just how poor it is as a piece of punditry.  It’s full of factual inaccuracies, and analysis that is embarrassingly wide of the mark.  Why was this guy ever so highly regarded?

“After all, they [the Greens] failed to win a single constituency, and only ended up with seven seats thanks to Scotland’s absurd voting system”


What Andrew appears to be talking about here is simply proportional representation – and if that’s “absurd” then clearly the entire continent of Europe has lost its marbles. The UK is practically the only European country that doesn’t use a proportional voting system for national elections.

“Sturgeon failed to win an overall majority in the May elections, which undermined her promise that she would have a ‘mandate’ to demand a second independence referendum.”

Interesting use of inverted commas around the word “mandate” there, given that Nicola Sturgeon stood on a manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum and won a landslide victory on the back of it.  She’ll be claiming to have been “elected” as “First Minister” next.  Maybe she’ll even call Andrew a “journalist”.
“But the Scottish Greens are also big fans of separation. By merging their seven seats with the SNP’s 64, hey presto, you get what Sturgeon would consider a rock-solid majority for Indyref2 in the Scottish parliament”

And in what sense is that unreasonable?  Seven plus sixty-four equals seventy-one, which amounts to 55.5% of the seats in the parliament (excluding the non-voting Presiding Officer).  Someone who regards that as a rock-solid majority is known variously as “a democrat” or “someone who can count”.
“Whatever the majority in Holyrood for another referendum, it comes up against the cold, hard fact that only Westminster can sanction a second vote.”

That may have been the fiction that the BBC gave Andrew licence to peddle, but in the real world it’s a dubious claim that is contested by legal experts and has yet to be tested in court.  The Scottish Parliament may well have the legal power to call a referendum without external ‘permission’.

“It’s clear Sturgeon will accommodate just about anybody if it furthers independence, which is all the SNP really cares about.”

If only that were true, but the evidence suggests otherwise.  Was Andrew snoozing when Nicola Sturgeon made abundantly clear that she would refuse to work with the Alba party to bring about independence?  And if independence is the current SNP leadership’s first and only love, why does the SNP-Green deal specify a one-year deadline for introducing self-ID for trans people, while the timetable for an independence referendum is rather more elastic, to say the least?
“The Scottish Greens are led by inexperienced chancers Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater”
Hmmm.  Patrick Harvie can be legitimately accused of many things (most obviously intolerance and extremism on identity politics), but I’m not sure “inexperience” is one of them, given that he’s been a parliamentarian since 2003 and co-leader of his party since 2008.  Did Andrew even bother to check Wikipedia before penning his piece?
“There is no word, of course, about where the money will come from to pay for all this [the Green policy programme], though no doubt the much-derided UK will be expected to stump up most of it.”

Expected to? You mean the Scottish Government sets policies and the UK Government adjusts its block grant to Scotland accordingly?  As opposed to the actual system whereby the Scottish Government has to set policy within the confines of a fixed block grant, and the only wiggle-room comes from the ability to adjust income tax rates for residents of Scotland?

“It certainly won’t be from oil revenues — the Greens in government will likely mark a moratorium on any further exploitation of oil reserves.  The great SNP rallying cry — ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’ — is now consigned to the history books.”


As Andrew has been telling us, practically since the day I was born, that the oil is just about to run out, there’s more than a whiff of pro-cakeism and pro-eatism about this line of argument.  “You’re turning your back on all that OIL you don’t have!”

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