Time for the SNP to knuckle down now

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We’re told by voting Tory, we vote with our heads and if we vote Labour, we vote with our hearts. So what made just over a third of the Scottish electorate back the SNP in the general election – and, more crucially, what will determine how they vote next May?

Nicola Sturgeon is a star TV performer and that we shall see her frequently in action in the run-up to the Holyrood election is beyond doubt.

Her stated position against austerity is not unattractive and she appears genuine. After all, none of us likes austerity, do we? Plus we’re all bored by dreary constitutional talk so Ms Sturgeon was wise to avoid it.

And avoid it she did – until the day after we’d voted in the general election, when she returned to familiar territory of demanding more devolution, threatening another referendum – we’re all too familiar with SNP games.

But regrettably, Ms Sturgeon’s relentless obsession with constitutional reform isn’t a game. It means the SNP has taken its eye off the ball – and the needy and vulnerable in Scotland are paying the price.

Under the SNP’s watch, we learn the failure to meet A&E waiting times throughout the winter persists. Literacy levels have dropped significantly in both primary and secondary schools between 2012 and 2014, and Scottish colleges suffer from under-funding.

And Scottish unemployment rates at 6 per cent continue to be stubbornly higher than the rest of the UK.

Of course, there’s always someone else to blame – Westminster is the usual target. Education secretary, Angela Constance, is certainly taking no responsibility, instead blaming under-resourced teachers for falling standards.

When we vote next May, we must ensure we hold the telegenic Ms Sturgeon to account for her party’s failings. Let us hope many of us will scrutinise carefully the SNP’s lacklustre performance as managers of Scotland.

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus

Edinburgh