Leaders: Now we must focus on how we run our country as it is

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INDEPENDENCE debate must go on the back burner as the vital question of May’s election and its real-life issues top the agenda

Independence was rejected. Get over it. And the decision was “once in a generation”.

These are the retorts of pro-Union elements whenever they feel the matter of Scotland’s constitutional future is dominating political debate, and we have heard them almost daily over the past 18 months.

But the opponents of independence also play their part in keeping independence on the agenda. The falling oil price, and the recent GERS figures, have been used – to good effect – to illustrate why going it alone would have been a grave mistake. And today, two new reports are released which claim that independence would have cost – or lost – Scotland approximately £10 billion in the first year. One report was commissioned by the Conservatives, and the other by the Scotland In Union campaign. The truth is that those who object loudest to independence remaining on the news agenda also put it back there when it suits them.

Today, had the referendum gone the other way, Scotland would mark independence day following the end of the Scottish Parliament term yesterday. Instead of seeking re-election to a chamber with enhanced powers, our MSPs would have become candidates for the first parliament of an independent state.

For better or worse, Scotland chose to stay in the Union, and while the constitutional issue has not been, or refuses to be, put to bed at this stage, it must be put aside as we enter a six-week period of campaigning ahead of the 5 May elections. Independence is not on the table, and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon recognised some time ago that she would have a difficult job managing the expectations of her party’s membership, many of whom remain energised by the referendum campaign. Yesterday, once more, Ms Sturgeon was careful to acknowledge those supporters by making reference to a “political reawakening” in Scotland while stopping short of stating where she hoped that would lead.

With the constitution settled in terms of the next Scottish parliament, the focus must turn to domestic issues over the next six weeks, because there is nothing to be gained from allowing a debate over independence to marginalise key issues such as tax, education and health provision. This is the opportunity to have such debates, and many of them, as we prepare to pass judgment on our elected members and their parties. These are some of the areas where the Scottish Parliament can make a difference, and a mature and responsible campaign on these fronts is essential if the Scottish Parliament is to deliver what it was set up to achieve. The new powers for Parliament are a case in point. Positive engagement is required at a time of significant change to the way Scotland is governed if the powers are to have any benefit.

All parties wasted no time starting their election campaigns yesterday, going straight from Holyrood to the streets. This is a healthy start, but to keep Scotland on track, we must not get sidelined during this crucial period by an issue that is for another day.

Trump’s toxicity a threat to us all

The grotesque sideshow that is Donald Trump increasingly dominates the mainstream of political debate. As the Republican presidential frontrunner closes in on an unlikely nomination for the most powerful job in the world, his every proclamation assumes a significance that would have been unthinkable only a year ago.

His latest outburst, like so many before it, warrants condemnation. During an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme, Mr Trump accused Britain’s Muslim communities of failing to report suspected terrorists, describing it as a “big problem”.

Such provocative barbs are Mr Trump’s stock in trade. Increasingly, it is all he has to rely on, given the absence of any considered policy proposals. But this time he has veered into particularly dangerous territory.

Mr Trump’s comments have been rightly derided by police and community representatives who point out that the tycoon is merely demonising the very people authorities need to help them. It is also worth repeating that those intent on trying to destroy our way of life will lash out when incited; Mr Trump is fanning these flames.

Throughout his unlikely and increasingly toxic charge towards the White House, the New Yorker has turned his controversy into an asset, purportedly shooting from the hip in an attempt to woo the disenfranchised and disillusioned voters of the US.

Regardless of whether he prevails, Mr Trump appears to have no concept of the power he already occupies by virtue of his candidacy. His words risk causing further upheaval and unrest not just in the US, but around the world. The very thought that he might one day utter them from the Oval Office is chilling.