Neil Oliver: Scotland's government lacks ability to manage its own business - it should keep out of ours

'Our governments are overreaching themselves – more and more every day'

Published Last updated

Our governments are overreaching themselves – more and more every day. I had always understood that a good, a benevolent government would protect the rights and property of free, law abiding and taxpaying citizens and otherwise leave them to get on with their lives, unmolested.

How naïve I have been. I don’t think that about our governments anymore. Now it seems to me that they feel entitled to tell us HOW to live, what sort of homes and where, what to eat, what words to use, what thoughts to think.

They want to tell us how to heat our homes. Already they have taken it upon themselves to tell us when to leave our houses, whether or not to hug loved ones … if we can travel and where to. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this has all gone FAR TOO FAR.

Mostly it feels like we’re aboard a runaway train and the driver and guards, having lost control, are expending all their effort trying to stop us looking out of the windows and seeing just how fast we’re moving now, and where to. It seems to me that it is, more and more, about distraction. The powers that be are making an unholy mess of things and they would rather we looked the other way while they seek to do whatever it is they want to do. American writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer said – as long ago as the 1950s, mind you – that a man was likely to mind his own business when it was worth minding.

“When it is not,” he wrote, “He takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business. This minding of other people’s business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and also in feverish interest in communal, national and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbour’s shoulder or fly at his throat.”

We are seeing more and more of an appetite, among our fellow citizen, for flying at the neighbours’ throats. Civil society is being eroded, washed away by a rising tide of fear, anxiety, intolerance and anger. We are being driven apart and atomised. And while Rome catches fire, the powers that be are fiddling. Already we have seen the clunking segue from Corona to climate. In the old days we stayed on the ground and in our homes to save granny … soon we will be staying locked away in homes without central heating or hot showers, to save the planet. China and India will, regardless of anything we do, continue to forge ahead with heat made of coal.

Good luck, everyone. In Scotland, where I live, the government overreach goes from strength to strength – as does their appetite for minding other people’s business. A few years ago the Supreme Court saw off the Named Persons Bill – a piece of legislation put forward by Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

That government wanted to appoint a ‘Named Person” for every single child. Those named persons – not members of the families, mind you, but state appointees – would have kept an eye on every child in the land, whether their parents wanted them to or not. Opponents said it undermined parents and permitted the state unlimited access to pry into the privacy of families in their homes.

Named persons would have had the power to access confidential data about the family, and to talk to the child without the parents’ consent. The many ways in which a child might have been used as a window into the family are obvious.

Finally, and after years of opposition, the supreme court ruled the Named Person’s Bill breached rights to privacy and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. Opponents had described it as a snooper’s charter and said it would have constituted an intrusion into family life in Scotland. The Named Persons Bill was thwarted then, but it has not gone away and could come back at any time. We wait and watch.

Now that same Scottish government has decided, in its apparently infinite wisdom, that children as young as four should be free to choose their gender in school. Little boys may identify as little girls; little girls may identify as little boys. They can choose their names and, heaven help us all, their pronouns … they can choose which toilets to use. Parents need not be consulted on any of this, or even informed. Just as with the Named Persons Bill, the government has taken for granted that it might insert itself into family life – slip-sliding between parent and child.

At the very least, this is meddling in other people’s private business. But to seek to know more about a child than does that child’s parent, and on matters so very personal, so private and intimate, is strange business indeed. When I was a child, any adult taking the line, “There’s no need to tell mummy. This can be our secret,” was to be avoided like the plague – run from, in fact. The family is the oldest institution of the human species – older than any religion, older than any state. It has lasted longer than either because it is right, it works, and it is the best way to be. Ideally, every child is born into and looked after by his or her family until such times as they make families of their own.

That is the best way of things and always has been. Some families fail and some children need help. That sad fact however, should not be a licence for a state to award itself the right to meddle in EVERY family. There have always been ideologues that have noted the power of the family and that when it comes to getting their way, re-organising society at the foundational level – it is the good family that is the most stubborn obstacle. The Scottish government has - in my opinion - a dismal record across the board.

A pandemic as disastrous as anyone else’s. Drugs deaths by far the highest in Europe. The attainment gap between rich and poor widening all the time. It's my opinion - maybe not everybody's - the Scottish government demonstrably lacks the abilities required to run their own business, and so they would prefer to distract from their inability by meddling in the private business of others.

In 2018, Nicola Sturgeon described herself as the chief corporate parent in Scotland. Actually, she preferred to style herself, Chief Mammy, if you can believe it. Nicola Sturgeon is not my Mammy. I say - She would do better to bow and to defer to the seniority and natural born authority of mothers and fathers all over Scotland, and to understand, once and for all, that other people’s families are their own business and no one else’s.