Scottish Election 2021: Labour, not Boris Johnson's sleaze-ridden Tories, will ensure Nicola Sturgeon keeps her eye on the ball – Anas Sarwar

If you listen to some political debates in Scotland, you might believe that Holyrood is powerless.

The failures of Boris Johnson, seen feeding cattle at Moor Farm in Stoney Middleton, England, while campaigning ahead of the English council elections, let the SNP off the hook, says Anas Sarwar (Picture: Rui Vieira/AP)

For the SNP, failure after failure is shrugged off – blamed on Westminster rather than on decisions made in Edinburgh.

And when push comes to shove, the SNP has been gifted an almost perfect ‘get out of jail free’ card.

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If you look at the Scottish Conservatives, you see a toothless opposition obsessed with dividing the country for political gain.

But they are also riven with cronyism and sleaze. And led by a Prime Minister who knows only how to offend.

We can’t continue with Boris Johnson’s Tories holding the balance of power in the Scottish Parliament.

Because their failures make it easy for the SNP to try and shift the focus from its own shameful record.

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Scottish election 2021: SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservatives’ manifes...

Nicola Sturgeon admitted her government had taken the eye off the ball in relation to our nation’s shameful drug deaths record.

We have the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe, but the SNP government spent years cutting funding for drug and alcohol addiction services.

Actions have consequences, and lessons are now finally being learned.

But the drugs crisis is far from the only time the government has taken its eye off the ball.

In our NHS, the legal 12-week waiting time guarantee has not been met since it was introduced in 2012 and has been breached over 380,000 times.

And the 62-day waiting time standard for urgent referrals has not been met for nine years.

When it comes to education, Scotland’s comparative performance internationally has suffered – with every area measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) deteriorating under the SNP.

And 14 years of SNP austerity have left our councils on their knees, resulting in service closures. Once again, actions have consequences – just look at the proposed library closures in Glasgow.

When these failings are raised, the SNP has two stock responses.

Independence is a panacea, Nicola Sturgeon claims, even though she admitted to broadcaster Andrew Marr at the weekend that her government hasn’t costed the impact on family incomes.

The constitution is her blind spot. And if that isn’t her response to tough questions, the other answer is to point the finger at the Tories and their woeful record in government.

Yes, the Conservatives are an abysmal administration, led by a reckless Prime Minister bereft of morals and empathy.

The sleaze engulfing Boris Johnson’s government has echoes of the dying days of the John Major government.

We urgently need an Electoral Commission investigation into the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat.

And Boris Johnson’s reported comments that he would rather see bodies piled “high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown is absolutely repugnant. I hope he reflects and apologises.

So, yes, the Tories are a disgrace.

But it’s not good enough for us to look south and say at least things aren’t as bad as they are under the Tories in England. Scotland deserves better than that. We deserve better government – and we deserve better opposition.

The way to do this is by ensuring we have a parliament which focuses on the priorities of everyone in Scotland.

Too much power in the hands of one party means we risk losing the focus on national recovery and returning to the old arguments.

And if the incompetent and scandal-hit Tories remain the main opposition, the SNP will be able to hide its own failings behind Tory failure.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure the Conservatives aren’t the main opposition after May 6.

Douglas Ross isn’t capable of ensuring that Nicola Sturgeon keeps her eye on the ball.

He also wants to return to the old divisions, and just gives the SNP an excuse to point to the failings of Boris Johnson.

If we are to have a parliament that is properly focused on our national recovery, then we need Scottish Labour as the main opposition.

Our Scottish Parliament was created to work in the national interest, and it can do that again.

So let’s not spend the next five years on re-running old arguments, or the timing of a vote, or battles in the courts.

Let’s spend the next five years on a national recovery.

By using the second vote on the peach ballot paper for Scottish Labour, that is what we can achieve.

We can deliver the better opposition and better government that Scotland deserves, because we will ensure that everyone keeps their eye on the ball.

So that’s a focus on NHS recovery, on protecting and creating jobs, on a comeback plan for our children, on the planet we’re leaving our grandchildren, and on a recovery for every community.

Just imagine what we could achieve if we come together and focus on what unites us, not what divides us?

If we have a politics that speaks to 100 per cent of people in Scotland, not just the 50 per cent the SNP and the Tories want to speak to.

Labour is the only party standing in this election campaign talking to the whole country, and arguing that we can deliver a fair recovery right now. Not sometime in the future.

We need a recovery plan for everyone in Scotland: Yes voters; No voters; Leave voters; Remain voters; and non-voters.

With our struggle against this pandemic far from over, we must now focus on how we get the recovery our nation needs so that we can face the future as a stronger and united country.

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