It’s inevitable, and it’s inevitable that voters bear witness to this and act accordingly in the ballot box. It happened to Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives, it happened with Labour after the Tony Blair years morphed into the Gordon Brown administration. It’s happening in Scotland too.
Professor James Mitchell, the expert on Scottish nationalism who is often described as the SNP’s “favourite academic”, said last week the party would benefit from a period in opposition because it had run out of ideas and sounded “tired”. It was an understatement. The government seems to be suffering the same level of tired experienced by parents of newborns; a kind of somnambulance, where the basics are manageable, but anything more advanced is beyond reach.
Without a doubt much of this is a result of Covid. The new arrival is taking up all the headspace available within government, but not all of the lack of rigour can be put at the door of the attention-seeking virus.
The SNP used to be so sure-footed but fatigue has set in. It’s hard to imagine that a party so politically alive to the electorate that it pledged no tuition fees for students, is the same party which failed to intervene when school kids’ grades were being unfairly marked down; that a party which scrapped prescription charges is the same one which sent elderly hospital patients into care homes without testing them for Covid.
A party which introduced ground-breaking domestic abuse law, is now failing to add misogyny to its Hate Crime Bill – a bill which has been a particular minefield of its own making, including its potential to criminalise people for voicing "insulting opinions" in their own homes.
Similarly the government changed the law on the smacking of kids, but has failed to alert the vast majority of parents to the change through any kind of advertising campaign despite saying it would. It also recently forgot to tell householders they would have to fork out around £200 for smoke alarms under new fire safety laws, and further didn’t think a low income grant for such purchases would help struggling families. It also failed to spot the political pitfalls around changes to the Census questions and is also now facing judicial review on its legislation to boost the numbers of women on public boards because of how it drafted the legislation.
It feels like a roll call of failure, but luckily for the SNP the opposition parties are tired too; tired of wondering what it will take to disrupt the Nationalist’s lead. For despite its many mis-steps it is still currently streets ahead and on course to win next year’s Holyrood elections.
When that happens it will be looking at a period of 18 years of uninterrupted government in Scotland. It’s an exhausting thought, perhaps even more so for those currently sitting in government offices.