Scott Macnab: FM must focus on burning issues

Nicola Sturgeon's coronation as SNP leader and First Minister will be an important watershed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Nicola Sturgeon's coronation as SNP leader and First Minister will be an important watershed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Was the Alex Salmond effigy episode really a mortal insult to the Scottish nation? Or does it tell us something about the skewed sense of priorities that still pervades in post-referendum Scotland?

Just a few weeks since the outcome of the historic vote, it may be understandable that the pain of defeat still feels raw for many in the Yes camp. But it is unfortunate that many south of the Border will get the unwarranted impression of Scots being a humourless shower of “whiners” as some have commented.

Mr Salmond, in his admittedly jocular reaction, laid the blame at the door of the local Tory-led council in East Sussex.

But is there not a more worrying aspect to the flood of outrage that met the obviously light-hearted event this week?

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This is a week that saw parents’ groups warn MSPs of a bleak picture emerging in schools across Scotland where education is no longer “free at the point of delivery” and they are forced to fork out for classroom essentials. They also expect schools and teachers to be axed in the coming years as councils deal with further swingeing budget cuts.

Meanwhile, GPs delivered an unprecedented warning that patients are being put at risk by the Scottish Government’s failure to adequately fund GP surgeries. One in four Scots are unable to see their doctor within a week of wanting an appointment, the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland warned.

These are the front-line, devolved issues for which Scotland’s political leaders are responsible. The referendum process has been a positive and enlivening process, which allowed Scotland to evaluate its place in the UK and domestic political direction. But there surely now needs to be a greater focus on what can be achieved at Holyrood.

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This is why Nicola Sturgeon’s coronation as SNP leader and First Minister will be an important watershed. She has already signalled that she plans to focus her efforts on securing as much as she can from the Smith Commission process on more powers for Scotland. Could this be the trigger for years more of constitutional wrangling?

A key moment will be when Ms Sturgeon sets out her programme for government later this month. She has already signalled plans to take on the unfinished business of land reform, with fresh legislation which will safeguard and extend the ground-breaking initiative of the inaugural parliament. Perhaps this will signal a shift in focus to the more bread-and-butter issues which impact directly on the lives of Scots.

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