Above: Chris Law: yet another SNP’er under police inverstigation
By Dale Street
Last week saw Chris Law become the third of the SNP’s 2015 intake of MPs – elected on a promise of a “new politics”, free from traditional Westminster sleaze – to be investigated by the police about their financial dealings.
Law, who owns a £140,000 Aston Martin and has just put in a bid for an “offers over £620,000” castle, spent the 2014 referendum campaign touring Scotland in a 1950s Green Goddess fire engine painted in the colours of the saltire.
It was his own personal “Spirit of Independence” campaign. Allegations of embezzlement concerning donations made to the campaign are reported as the reason for Law being questioning by the police.
Last week also saw Natalie McGarry – elected as an SNP MP but no longer holding the SNP whip – charged with embezzlement of funds from Women for Independence and her local SNP Association. A report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.
The third SNP MP under police investigation, Michelle Thomson, who likewise no longer holds the SNP whip, is still awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation into a number of property deals which she and her husband were involved in.
There were plenty of other broken SNP promises in the news last week.
Scottish Government accounts revealed that student loans are the government’s largest financial asset. They had increased by 11% over the past year and now amount to nearly £3 billions.
This was bad news for the SNP because it came to power with a promise to wipe out student debt. So, steady progress backwards on that promise.
A SNP promise of loans to farmers as a way of providing a financial cushion pending the payment of EU financial support collapsed into chaos after the SNP Government admitted that it had miscalculated loans for hundreds of farmers.
This was particularly bad news for the SNP. The loans scheme had been introduced because of an earlier SNP failure to pay out EU support on time – the result of a malfunctioning computer system bought by the SNP Government which has already gone 74% over budget.
So, two broken promises there for the (over-budget) price of one.
Other figures released last week showed an almost ten-fold increase in spending by Scottish MPs on Scotland-to-London business-class flights in 2015/16 compared with the previous year: up from £61,000 to nearly £600,000.
The explanation: Unlike their predecessors, and two of three remaining non-SNP MPs in Scotland, SNP MPs fly business-class. (The one non-SNP MP who keeps the SNP MPs company on their business-class flights is, of course, a Tory.)
In 2015 SNP candidates had promised to “stand up for Scotland” if elected to Westminster. Clearly, what they actually meant was: Sit down for Scotland in the comfiest seats.
The same figures showed that nine of the ten MPs with the highest expenses claims were SNP MPs. Highest claimer of all was Michelle Thomson (£106,000). But SNP MP Steven Paterson, coming in at number five (£99,000), merits particular mention: He claimed £40 to pay for looking after a dog.
Another 2015 election promise from the SNP was: “The SNP will never stop doing our best to make Scotland’s NHS the very best. Under the SNP Scotland’s NHS has been protected and improved.”
Figures released last week revealed: just over 28% of GP posts are currently vacant; the number of posts unfilled for more than six months has nearly doubled over the past year; waiting times for cancer treatment are at their worst level since records began; and over the last five years the number of radiologists has increased by 3% but their workload by 55%.
The SNP had a chance at Holyrood last week to deliver on its promise to “protect and improve the NHS”, by voting for a Labour motion demanding that the Scottish Government “call in” for ministerial decision a series of cuts in services being proposed by local NHS Boards.
Instead, the SNP moved a wrecking amendment to the Labour motion. When that was defeated, the SNP abstained on the final vote.
The SNP, being the SNP, didn’t just make election promises to look after the sick. It also promised “security in retirement” and “better support for the most vulnerable in society and protection of pensioner benefits”.
But figures released last week showed that the SNP Holyrood government has cut £500 millions from the social care budget of Scottish local authorities, resulting in 12% of the elderly suffering a cut in the services they receive.
Sturgeon blamed the social care budget cuts on a Tory cut of 5% in funding to Holyrood. She must have attended the same accountancy course as Chris Law and Natalie McGarry: The SNP government’s cut to social care spending (11%) is more than double that.
Another promise which the SNP may come to regret was one made last week by SNP Glasgow councillor Jahangir Hanif. Speaking at a public meeting in his ward, Hanif promised that he would bring Sturgeon to see the appalling housing conditions in the Govanhill district.
But Hanif was then exposed as the landlord of a flat in one of the worst streets. According to the Daily Record:
“Hanif’s flat is at the top of a dilapidated close. It is infested with flies and has a shooting gallery for heroin addicts on the ground floor. The bannister is broken and on the verge of collapse. There is a strong stench of urine throughout the building. The walls are filthy and the stairs are caked in grime.”
Hanif, who lives in a £700,000 house in Newton Mearns, charges a family of five adults £500 a month for his two-bedroomed flat. And why Sturgeon needs an invite from Hanif is a mystery: Sturgeon is the constituency MSP.