Today the SNP received the backing of more Scottish newspapers: the Scottish Sunday Express, the Sunday Herald, and the Scottish News of the World. This is in addition to the Sun who declared for the SNP a couple of weeks ago.
The Express and the Murdoch titles came with little surprise. As Tory supporting papers in England it was never likely that they would actively support Labour in Scotland, however, few could have expected them to actually come out in support of Alex Salmond’s team.
But the huge surprise is that The Herald, which has fairly consistently been a pro Labour paper has written the following editorial.
I thought it was worth a repeat here.
FOUR years ago, when for the first time in Scotland’s history the Scottish National Party won by a whisker the right to govern, it was rightly regarded as a watershed moment.
Eight years of devolution had done two apparently contradictory things, remarked Alex Salmond, soon to be installed as First Minister. On the one hand there was a sense of general relief; the grass was still getting cut, the sky was still blue ... the land had not been visited by plague. On the other, a sense of impatience had grown. Not enough was being done fast enough. Such change as there was, the improvement in people’s lives that many anticipated had not materialised.
The SNP’s victory signalled that Scotland had changed irrevocably. The public put their faith in the hands of untried politicians in the hope they would not let them down.
In large measure their hope has not been misplaced. Forced to govern as a minority administration the SNP demonstrated pragmatism and maturity. To pass legislation, they had no option but to negotiate with other parties. In the main this has worked to the nation’s advantage. The books have balanced and real progress has been made.
Moreover, in certain areas Scotland has shown the rest of the UK that a little can go a long way. Thus the freezing of the council tax and determination not to introduce tuition fees. Similarly, the removal of charges for prescriptions demonstrates a commitment to a health service that is free at the point of entry for all.
The Government’s most controversial action was the decision to free convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. Regardless of whether you agree with that decision or not, the SNP have faced down their critics and emerged from the whirlwind with two strong moral arguments: first that this was a decision for the Scottish Government to take without outside interference; second, that the moral grounds for the release chime with Scottish values and indeed that those valued are enshrined in our laws. In contrast, other parties were left looking hypocritical, feigning public outrage at a decision they had previously signalled in private was in the national interest.
Inevitably, the SNP did not get everything right and did not win every argument. They did not, for example, convince the Parliament that its policy on minimum pricing of alcohol could be effective in combating Scotland’s drink problem. And it has yet to convince the Parliament, and the public at large, of the need for a referendum on independence. For the moment, they are more important to concentrate on re-energising the economy and creating jobs than on redrawing the constitution.
Despite all of the above the SNP apparently started the election campaign behind Labour in the opinion polls. With four days to go they appear now to be destined for victory. How has this transformation come about? The first thing to say, perhaps, is that polls are not infallible and that elections are not won until every vote is counted.
Having said that, it is obvious that Labour’s campaign has been uninspired and negative. Whoever decided that attacking the Conservative-LibDem Coalition should be the party’s top priority was wrong. If devolution’s brief history tells us anything it is that the Scots know the difference between Holyrood and Westminster and vote accordingly.
Indeed, there is something distasteful about political parties wheeling in the so-called big guns from Westminster for the Holyrood campaign, as if Scottish politicians need help from those who bestride a bigger stage.
The divisions between Holyrood and Westminster are underlined by the more recent Labour attacks on independence. It is one thing to argue against the principle of separation but quite another to suggest Scotland and the Scottish people are incapable of managing their own affairs. Those tactics rebounded badly on Labour at the last Holyrood election and it looks likely that history will be repeated on Thursday.
In an interview with this newspaper before campaigning got underway, Salmond said that he intended to fight the election on two fronts: the “business of vision” and the “quality of his team”. The ensuing weeks have vindicated this strategy. On top of this it has Salmond, who has grown in stature as First Minister. The SNP deserve another term in office, not because the alternative is so poor but because their vision and talent genuinely represent the best hope for our country’s future.