Invoking George Orwell has become a bit of a cliché in our era of data privacy and mass surveillance. But the Scottish National Party’s latest party-political broadcast is something straight from the pages of his most famous work.
The two-and-a-half-minute video, shown on Tuesday evening, starred a young woman striding around an eerily dark set telling voters why on 6 May they should put “Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”. Set to a sombre backing track, the video featured a dozen television screens with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon constantly watching you. The Big Brother parallels were obvious. The SNP leadership isn’t even pretending otherwise now.
This from the party that produced the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which MSPs passed last month, curbing the right to free speech even at home, introducing the new, catch-all offence of “stirring up hatred”.
The party’s record in Holyrood has of course been chucked down the memory hole. The actor asks: “When you see your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your grandpa and nan, how can we get governments that care about them?”
A flurry of text is projected on screen, including the word “Austerity”. “Where is the care in that?”, we are asked. There are many barbs that could legitimately be aimed at the Westminster government. But with borrowing reaching a third of a trillion pounds this financial year, and Scotland benefiting from 30 per cent higher spending per head thanks to the UK, allegations of excessive frugality aren’t remotely fair.
If the SNP is worried about austerity cuts and the country’s finances, perhaps it should consider its position on independence. The London School of Economics estimates the impact of independence would be two to three times greater than leaving the European Union, and that rejoining would not make up the difference.
None of this makes any difference, it seems. The SNP leadership knows exactly what it is doing. Non-nationalists may find it sinister, but this is what around half of Scots now want to hear. The message – the UK does nothing for Scotland (not even vaccines?) – is focus-grouped from the punters and transmitted right back.
It works. The latest opinion polling published by STV, conducted by Ipsos-Mori, shows the SNP on track for a comfortable overall majority. The seat projection has the SNP on 70 seats and 53 per cent in the constituency section of the Holyrood election.