Nicola Sturgeon is spurning investment in Scotland's infrastructure simply because it comes from Boris Johnson – Murdo Fraser MSP
Nicola Sturgeon is an unlikely defender of Scotland’s Parliament. She rarely turns up and prefers to make announcements which should be made to Holyrood instead to TV cameras or Zoom calls, where she can limit any questions.
And we should not forget that her stated aim is also the abolition of our devolved Parliament.
The latest pose the First Minister has struck, this time presumably aiming for her picture to be splashed on the front page of Transport Monthly rather than Vanity Fair, is to claim that Holyrood is being undermined by road-building. So, she will defend democracy by opposing new investment in Scotland.
The context for this is that the UK government is seeking to strengthen transport links across the United Kingdom. Their Union Connectivity Review recommends, indeed offers, to upgrade the A75 from Gretna to Stranraer to improve trade links between Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. The UK government also wants to talk to the Scottish government about upgrading the A1, and improving the east coast and west coast rail lines.
In response, Scottish ministers instructed Scottish civil servants not to talk to their UK colleagues. The message is clear. Our First Minister sees improving Scotland’s roads as Boris Johnson driving his tanks onto her lawn. So, she will wheel her prams onto his allotment, rattles poised ready to be thrown.
Even for Machiavelli, seeing road-building and shortening train journey times as a threat to democracy would be a bit of a stretch. Russian President Vladimir Putin has done much to threaten Ukraine’s democracy, but so far he hasn’t hit upon the idea of improving their infrastructure as the killer blow. Bombing it would be more his style.
Where Monty Python posed the question, “What have the Romans ever done for us – apart from the roads,” Nicola Sturgeon has taken their absurdity one stage further to “What is Boris Johnson doing to us – building the roads.”
But this gag isn’t funny. Scotland’s First Minister would rather Scotland’s infrastructure was not re-built, our public services not improved, if it is not done in her name.
This is the same First Minister who rebuffed offers of help from the UK with Scotland’s drugs problem. Her pride may have survived, but Scots with addiction continue to die at a higher rate than anywhere else in Europe.
She will not accept billions of pounds of investment from the UK government when Scotland is in the Union, but claims that the UK government would continue to invest billions of pounds into Scottish shipbuilding even if we left it.
The world must be perplexed by Scotland’s once revered ship-building industry.
When the UK government invests billions in the Clyde and Rosyth, those shipyards produce some of the finest, most complex naval vessels on the planet. When the Scottish government spends hundreds of millions of pounds on the Clyde, they cannot even get a ferry built.
This is not the First Minister cutting off her nose to spite her face. This is Nicola Sturgeon spiting Scots to save her face.
Across the spectrum, politicians of different stripes may have different visions of the state they want to create in Scotland, but they all tend to be positive. Apart from our own First Minister, whose ideal state of Scotland is not to be prosperous or just, but to be offended.
Even colleagues in her own party have apparently started to question whether the First Minister’s approach is in Scotland’s best interests. That old warhorse of the separatist cause, Alex Neil, has criticised her for not planning enough for what an independent Scotland would look like.
He has a point. On Monday, in her party conference address, Nicola Sturgeon said an independent Scotland would be in partnership with the rest of the UK in the same breath as she condemned it as corrupt and undemocratic.
Perhaps the First Minister lost her place or is unwell. If she sincerely believes her own description of the UK, it makes you wonder who else she would like a separate Scotland to be in ‘partnership’ with around the globe now that Robert Mugabe is dead.
This week the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, Kirsten Oswald, was asked on BBC Radio what she thought the UK government had done well during the Covid crisis. There was an awkward, shuffling silence. She was invited to praise the vaccine roll-out – the best in Europe – but could not bring herself to.
When she was offered the chance to be positive about the billions of pounds invested in the furlough scheme which saved hundreds of thousands of Scots jobs, she merely spat out: “We’d have extended it.”
The SNP offers Scots no real vision of an independent Scotland but instead tries to shift opinion with a bad-trip hallucination of the rest of the UK. Being asked to prove your love of your country by hating another one is no test of patriotism, but it seems to be the test you have to pass to get onto the front bench of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.
Faux outrage will not build one road or upgrade one railway line in Scotland. It will not improve the quality of one life or create one job. And whatever is being defended here, it is not Scottish democracy. This is the Orwellian world that is Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy.
It used to be argued that one of the differences between Scotland and England was that Scots had less of a sense of a class system. That, for us, it mattered not where you came from, but where you were going.
For Nicola Sturgeon, things can only come from one politician to be acceptable – her. As a result, Scotland is on the road to nowhere.
Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife
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