Sunday Column: The tide is beginning to turn against the SNP and opposition parties must unite.

By Derek W Gardiner

The May election will not be just a question of whether or not Scotland should be independent but of what kind of country we want to live in. Do we want to live in a country where there are lies and cover-ups at the top of government or where politics is conducted openly and with decency, where the civil service takes its orders from the ruling party or one with an impartial civil service, where those with opposing views are shouted down in a grotesque manner or even lose their jobs or a country where all points of view are tolerated and respected?

If Nicola Sturgeon genuinely forgot all the things she claimed not remember then surely she is too incompetent to lead and if she didn't then she is unfit to lead. Newly released polls show support for independence has sunk to below 50% for the first time in a while and instead of an SNP supermajority, they are now predicted to scrape a majority of one with the Scottish Greens, the so-called gardening section of the SNP, predicted to lose three seats taking their total down to three. The newly-elected Labour leader Anas Sarwar seems to have reversed his parties fortunes with two Labour gains from the SNP in two council by-elections on Thursday and hopefully, he can pull off similar successes in May.

At this point, the main objective of anyone who wants change for Scotland should be to prevent the SNP and the Greens from gaining more than 50% of the vote. Even if you are a supporter of independence, bear in mind that Alex Salmond has said he does not now believe that Scotland should be independent under the current administration. Opposition parties also need to stop fighting amongst each other for second place, there are no prizes for the runner up in these elections, the winner takes it all in the words of ABBA. Alliance for Unity has this week released a tactical guide for voting to stop the SNP and I intend to put aside any party loyalties I may have in order to keep the SNP out.

It does not matter to me if it is Scottish Labour or the Scottish Tories end up as the second-largest party as long as an anti-SNP coalition can be formed and can agree on a candidate for First Minister, an office that unlike the UK Prime Minister is elected directly by the Scottish parliament and can be any MSP. Whether that be Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar or even Wilie Rennie, party loyalties must be put aside to remove a First Minister who is unfit for the job.

No Masks in Class!

School pupils wearing gas masks (Pinterest)

It was heartening to see a campaign launched and petition created in order to stop the utterly inhumane imposition of masks in classrooms by both the UK and Scottish governments. I'm quite pleased that I have managed to complete all of my education, with the exception of the final two weeks, outside of this pandemic, given some of the horror stories I have heard.

Masks create an atmosphere of tension and are not suitable for an open learning environment. Pupils and teachers will have problems communicating through a lack of facial expressions and children as young as 11 will have to spend up to 8 hours per day in discomfort.

There is very little real-world data that shows masks work. Countries that implemented mask mandates indoors and outdoors such as France and Spain faced second waves of the disease, Florida, on the other hand, did not implement a mask mandate and their infection rates are dropping. Studies have shown that masks provide very little protection at stopping the transmission of the disease and we were told in March last year that they could potentially make things worse by trapping infectious droplets in them. Masks seem to be becoming a merely symbolic gesture by people who tend to be on the woke left to further antagonise people they disagree with.

People who have been vaccinated now seem to want their full freedoms back as they were promised last year when the vaccine arrived. 4 in 10 people over 80 have been attending indoor gatherings in the UK and around 27% of people over 50 have met someone else indoors in Scotland according to the latest statistics. Perhaps the only way this will end is with the public unilaterally resuming their lives as normal.

If Harry and Meghan want to quit public life why don't they just do so.

I rarely write anything about this ongoing "megxit" saga but I feel I must protest at the insistence of Harry and Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor on damaging the reputation of the royal family they have said they wanted to leave. This latest interview with Oprah Winfrey seems to be yet another attention-seeking exercise by a couple who've said they want to be out of the limelight. Most would be happy to oblige and leave them to live their life privately if that is their wish but they keep doing things to draw attention to themselves.

Today the Queen will give her address to the commonwealth, an organisation that we should be looking to build relations with post Brexit. Set to be broadcast at 5 pm GMT, a few hours before this interview, the timing seems highly inappropriate and deliberately calculated to distract from the Queen's message. I know which one I will be watching.