Douglas Ross is the Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, MP for Moray, and an MSP for the Highlands and Islands region.
The Scottish National Party has an extraordinary, and extraordinarily shameless, ability to deny basic, self-evident facts. Quite often, they say they believe two completely contradictory things at once. And, of course, almost every policy they have ever come up with has, or would, make matters worse for ordinary Scots.
But they have seldom exhibited those traits as blatantly as they did this week.
Scotland’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, launched the SNP’s new energy strategy. It was as much an exercise in fantasy as their independence plans – and just as likely to lead to catastrophe.
It amounted to both a refusal to make any serious assessment of Scotland’s current and future needs and a series of evidence-free claims that – if we just trust them – everything will work out fine.
Almost as an afterthought – since Matheson barely gave it a mention – it reaffirmed and accelerated their complete abandonment and betrayal of North Sea oil and gas, which Nicola Sturgeon first signalled a little over a year ago. Not content with turning her back on one of Scotland’s most important industries – which directly employs around 90,000 people and on which many tens of thousands more jobs depend – the First Minister is eager for the turning off of the taps in the North Sea to be speeded up.
The Prime Minister was quite right to point out that the energy strategy demonstrated the SNP Government’s total lack of concern for the Scottish energy sector, and the absurdity of ruling out domestic sources of supply.
Especially in the midst of a war and the accompanying energy crisis, volatile prices and supply that are the direct cause of much of the cost of living crisis for Scottish households.
When, with no reason given, any use of nuclear was explicitly ruled out.
When the SNP’s track record on creating renewable jobs and replacing other sources of power, despite the priority they have given it, gives absolutely no reason to believe that they can deliver the kind of colossal transformation they claim.
When every expert accepts that the transition to net zero – which we all want to see – will require a detailed approach, and mixed solutions, for years to come.
The chairman of the Scottish Government’s own Just Transition Commission said just a couple of weeks ago that plans, details and expectations would have to be “explicitly set out”.
Instead, we got vague assertions about transformation and new jobs – though not until 2050, when the ministers responsible for this week’s half-baked declarations will be long retired.
And precious little that was clear, except that tens of thousands of livelihoods and the energy security of the country have been imperilled.
Nicola Sturgeon’s government decided that the best time to throw oil and gas workers overboard and risk plunging Scots into fuel poverty and insecurity was in the middle of the most serious energy crisis in decades.
As recently as October, Nicola Sturgeon trumpeted the Scottish Government’s (taxpayer-funded) paper on Building a New Scotland, which claimed to give the economic case for an independent Scotland.
Unsurprisingly, that too was a vague, threadbare and unconvincing case, but one of its few specific proposals was for a fund to provide, well, almost anything.
From the environment to housing, infrastructure investment, transport, resilience, sustainability, driving economic growth and reducing inequality.
It was going to “enable Scotland to get off to as strong a start as possible” and “send a clear signal that Scotland is confident, open and ready to take its place in the world”.
That pie-in-the-sky stuff is the Nationalists’ stock in trade.
The only thing this exercise in wish fulfilment had was a source of funding – the oil and gas industry.
According to Nicola Sturgeon, it would give a newly independent Scotland a £20 billion battle chest – even as activity in the North Sea, and with it revenues, wound down.
But she doesn’t seem to have noticed that, by advocating an even earlier demise for the oil and gas industry, her already threadbare economic case for independence is further undermined.
Readers who can think back a few years will remember that in 2014’s referendum on independence, her predecessor Alex Salmond promised an oil bonanza that would bring in £57bn in tax by 2017-18. Over the decades, he assured us, it would bring in £1.5 trillion.
Fortunately, the Scottish people had the good sense to ignore him and his bid for separatism. If they hadn’t, they would soon have discovered how spectacularly wrong his calculations were, and the country would have been about £8 billion down in its first year out of the UK alone.
But it was a throwback to the first heyday for nationalism, in the 1970s, when the party’s cry was “It’s Scotland’s oil!”
Thanks to her reckless pandering to her extremist Green partners, and, no doubt, embarrassment that her predictions and assurances, as Alex Salmond’s deputy, turned out to be just as mistaken as his, the First Minister has been notably more shifty over the past couple of years.
She tried for a while to avoid the issue before coming out against the Cambo field, safe in the knowledge that it was Westminster’s decision to make.
That was true, just as the current decision, ruling out any further operations, isn’t the SNP Government’s to make. Not that that has ever stopped them.
But while it was amusing to see Nicola Sturgeon briefly coming round to the view that “It’s not Scotland’s oil!”, no one will be laughing at their utterly reckless, irresponsible and naive stance the SNP have now taken.
It will impoverish Scottish households and make the country reliant on more unreliable, more expensive, and more environmentally damaging sources.
It has the potential to destroy hundreds of thousands of livelihoods and damage our economy to an even greater degree than the SNP, which has plenty of form on financial mismanagement, has managed so far.
All in exchange, literally, for a lot of windy assurances spun out of thin air.