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Is SNP the Nokia of politics?

The iPhone came out just after the SNP first gained control of the Scottish Parliament but Alex argues one has dated far better than the other.
The iPhone came out just after the SNP first gained control of the Scottish Parliament but Alex argues one has dated far better than the other.

Ten years ago the SNP was elected into Government and, eight weeks later, the iPhone was released to the world.

A decade since, the technological change has proved to be far more significant and radical than the democratic one.

It was June 29 when the world’s first touchscreen smartphone arrived.

Advertisements emphasised it had a compass built in – a feature which amazed but proved less important than so much else about the mini-computers with GPS technology.

Until the iPhone, Nokia had been king of the mobile market and the Finnish company was an inspiration to Scots politicians seeking an example of a north European country undergoing an economic miracle.

Ten years on, Nokia is dead – in the time the SNP has been in office, Finland’s tech-king crown has fallen off. We all used to look to the Finnish miracle; now we look elsewhere.

As for the smartphone, that has gone through multiple upgrades, spawned many rivals and is the revolutionary tech of the 21st Century to date.

The combination of location services, powerful computation and easy use has led to changes in banking, media, government services and connectivity.

It has arguably had more effect on global behaviour than any political decision over the last 10 years.

It is the technological leap forward which has contributed to the age of political disruption and may yet provide the solutions too.

By allowing people to get so much information outwith the familiar contexts of authority, it has made the world both more informed and less so – we know so much and hear so many lies. This became an important factor in democratic countries – propaganda is everybody’s to play with, as was evident in the Scottish referendum, the Brexit vote and Trump’s election.

The iPhone is also the perfect symbol of the modern economy, invented in America by clever people from all over the world and made in China.

It is notable that the Beijing government has responded to president-elect Donald Trump’s provocative talk over Taiwan with the threat not to export any more iPhones.

Scotland is notable for its high number of world-changing inventions.

The bicycle, the TV and the ATM have contributed more than any Scots politician to the good of the human kind. Many of us hoped that if we could just get to hold a referendum, Scots might think more inventively about their future.

From 2007 to 2014 that was a legitimate and intriguing project but it transpired nationalists were simply unprepared and the vote was lost.

Independence would have been as disruptive and radical as the iPhone but unlike the white device, the model suggested was a bit old-fashioned – a political Nokia if you like.

In 2017 the smartphone will continue to change how we do things, a stage before the artificial intelligence devices which will trigger a new revolution.

These changes are not subject to votes or debates but influence our lives more than elections.

Since 2014, the SNP hasn’t set us on a path of economic miracles or intellectual revolutions.

Reluctant to let go of the old idea, they appear narrow-minded in a world of ever changing possibilities.

Whether desirable or not, we are in the UK and the UK is heading for a Brexit over which we have little control.

That suggests the way to a distinctive Scotland, suited to its people’s needs and able to thrive in the future, may not be rooted in political procedures but radical thinking which rides technological change.

Next year, many of our cabinet ministers will have been in charge for a decade – their big idea has been rejected and they have yet to articulate a new one.

They have the political authority to initiate a transformation of the nation and way more powers to do so than when they first came to office. If they aren’t going to use their strength or the powers, then 2017 will become the year they fall apart, overtaken by a world which will not stop changing.

Maybe that’s what the compass app on the iPhone is for – open it up and it might show a way through the 21st Century.

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