Nicola Sturgeon prioritises Covid over Scottish independence, but after the pandemic her renewed campaign must not distract from good governance – Scotsman comment

As leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon will always be under pressure to deliver independence.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media at Whitelee Wind Farm ahead of launch of the SNP's annual conference (Picture: Russell Cheyne/pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media at Whitelee Wind Farm ahead of launch of the SNP's annual conference (Picture: Russell Cheyne/pool/Getty Images)

So while some unionists may groan at her pledge that the Scottish independence campaign will resume “in earnest” next spring, others, on both sides of the debate, will welcome her pragmatic recognition that the Covid pandemic requires the suspension of ‘normal’ politics for some time to come yet.

This is a recognition of the real and serious work that still needs to be done by government to deal with the virus in the best possible way, striking a balance between safeguarding our health and that of the economy.

It may also be a smart political calculation on the First Minister’s part, a recognition that a full-scale resumption of independence campaigning, just as the new Omicron variant raises fresh concerns, would be a vote-loser.

Covid is simply too big a concern in our everyday lives for the Scottish government to take its “eye off the ball”, to quote Sturgeon’s startling admission over drug deaths.

However, there are other pressing problems, such as Scotland's sluggish economic performance, long-term issues facing the health service over and above Covid, and relatively poor standards in some important areas of education, that should also be getting greater attention.

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Nicola Sturgeon pledges Scottish independence campaign will resume 'in earnest' ...

Even with the best of intentions, ministers who see their first duty as being to achieve independence – in the belief it would be something akin to a panacea for other ills – may struggle to have the required focus on such bread-and-butter matters. Opposition parties often suggest Sturgeon should concentrate more on her “day job” in order to highlight such perceived failings.

But, in a way, both the SNP and Scotland have been stuck in a ‘Groundhog Day’ situation that has lasted for years, with the nationalists able to garner enough votes to form a government, but not to fulfil the main ambition of the party and its supporters.

The SNP needs to guard against any complacency – bred by the number of people who back them no matter what – over not just Covid, but also the economy, education and health more generally.

It is the smart thing to do for the sake of their own political ambitions but, more importantly, for the good of the nation, particularly if the current impasse continues.

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