Nicola Sturgeon needs to use the powers she has as First Minister, not just complain about wanting more – Murdo Fraser MSP

For Nicola Sturgeon, the matter of Scottish Government appears to be akin to a flatpack of Ikea furniture with some of the parts missing.

She is always looking for those ‘key levers’ with which she promises us her loftier ambitions could be fulfilled. If she only had a full toolbox, a top-of-the-range Swiss Army knife of constitutional powers, Scotland would be a different place.

But she does have a full set of levers to fit so many parts of the furniture of government, she really should not blame her tools. She has a cabinet full of spanners, if she would only look.

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The First Minister has a full set of levers in education, yet standards still seem to go down inexorably. A full set in health, but waiting times get longer. And more governmental tools to build a ferry than they appear to have machinery at Ferguson’s to manufacture one.

But when it comes to real issues she could try to solve, the First Minister is silent on her ‘key levers’. We are in the grip of the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory. At Westminster, members on all sides are discussing the possibility of tax cuts and changes to the benefits system.

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Now our First Minister could cut income tax in Scotland if she wished. She could create new benefits if she wanted. But there is not even a debate at Holyrood on what the Scottish Government could do to help Scots through this crisis. The toolbox remains tightly shut, unmentioned even.

The cost-of-living crisis is only to be referred to by Scottish ministers when they are in the business of blaming Westminster for everything. Their own indolence and incompetence is always the fault of the South.

Will Nicola Sturgeon, seen with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, achieve anything tangible on her trip to Washington DC? (Picture: Pedro Ugarte/AFP via Getty Images)

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the First Minister has gone to Washington, plaintively telling us it has been a full three years since she last got to go to the US at the taxpayers’ expense.

There she has reminded Washington of the commitments made at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where from her position outside the conference she underlined her personal commitment to global selfies.

Notwithstanding her administration’s inability to negotiate successfully in Port Glasgow, she says, when stateside, she will negotiate contracts for inward investment in Scotland and bring back jobs.

I hope it is not churlish to point out that when the First Minister’s fashion icon, Margaret Thatcher, went abroad on trade missions she tended to come back with a specific figure on inward investment and on jobs.

A touch of the Thatcher style in winning jobs and investment to revive the Scottish economy would be very welcome in this case. And it would be good if the figures we remember from this trip abroad are not redacted after a Freedom of Information request for the First Minister’s expenses.

While Nicola Sturgeon lectures the think tanks of Washington on the key levers she is missing, we at home can only dream of one day having a First Minister who uses the powers they have, and whose own personal key levers are not a black pen of redaction and their own camera phone.

Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

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