Scottish Election 2021: SNP election bribe to taxi drivers with money they should have got months ago is a new low – Christine Jardine MP

Public service should be exactly that. Doing whatever you can, as soon as you can, for those whom you are privileged to represent.

But during these past few weeks of the election in Scotland, I have become increasingly frustrated at the level of hypocrisy, sleaze and cynical manipulation of power with which the electorate has to put up.

And I am not just referring to Boris’s decorator’s bill. What topped it all off for me was what can, sadly, only be described as an offensive attempt at an electoral bribe by the SNP

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I found myself at once both relieved that the SNP has finally woken up to the plight of so many people, and angry that it has taken until there was an election only a week away for the crisis facing taxi drivers to be recognised.

These are people who, like so many small businesses, have suffered more than a year of almost unbearable financial stress.

Many have faced losing their homes and businesses or turned to their families to help them put food on the table as the Scottish government turned a deaf ear to their pleas for help.

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Now with a week until polling day, the SNP says vote for us and we’ll make grants available to taxi firms.

Taxi for Nicola Sturgeon? The tide is turning against the SNP after 14 years in government, says Christine Jardine (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

Well many of these people did vote for the SNP five years ago, so where was this money when MSPs and MPs like myself were writing to them in government pleading for help for cabbies and others?

They were, I was told dismissively, entitled to the lockdown support provided by the UK government. And what support was made available in December from Holyrood was minimal.

I know there will be people who will say that all parties make election promises. Yes we do.

But when you have been in government through a pandemic that has torn through lives and left thousands of families grieving, promising to change things after an election has a hollow, to some offensive, ring.

But it is the same with so much that we hear from the SNP in this. It is as if they hope we have forgotten that they have been in power for 14 years.

When they say how they are going to fix education, does it not occur to them how many of us hold them responsible for its problems?

Does talking about closing the attainment gap or tackling poverty not embarrass them, knowing these problems have worsened in Scotland?

And when we are promised changes to help those with mental health issues, did the SNP not hear the pleas from families whose children were waiting up to two years to see a specialist?

On their watch. All of it.

But then of course I am forgetting that they claim everything is the fault of the constitution.

There is no doubt that the UK government has its problems at the moment when it comes to sleaze allegations.

Greensill, the PM/James Dyson texts and Boris’s decorator bills to name but three.

And there is still huge unease amongst opposition parties like mine about the way that this Tory government behaves, from its awarding of contracts to allegations about the behaviour of the Home Secretary.

But to listen, as I often have to at Westminster, to the holier than thou pronouncements by the SNP it is as if they have never erred.

That there were no meetings between a Scottish government minister and Heathrow airport that went un-minuted.

That Scotland’s taxpayers have not been landed with a bill for around one million pounds for legal proceedings that the SNP government was advised not to pursue.

And that we have not endured more than a year of bitter infighting and allegations involving two SNP First Ministers, which threatened to drag in all arms of government and undermine the very fabric of democracy in Scotland.

Yes the Hamilton inquiry backed the present First Minister but the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry did not give her, or her government, a completely clean bill of health. And serious questions were raised about the culture which pervades the corridors of power at Holyrood.

I believe that the electorate of Scotland deserves something much better for the next five years. One of the most precious principles of our democracy is that nobody has the right to govern.

We all have to earn it, and then prove that we have used it in a way of which the people approve.

All British parties understand that there is, to misquote Shakespeare, a tide in the affairs of politics.

Parties are swept into power by it and then just as quickly carried back out when it turns against them. It happened to the Conservatives in 1997, Labour in 2010 and Liberal Democrats in 2015. It will happen to the Tories again and to the SNP.

Of course the idiosyncrasies of the Scottish electoral system may mean that they are able to hold on through a coalition, or with the support of another party.

But surely there can be no doubt that what we most crave after this election is a government that puts the recovery first.

That every aspect of Scottish policy is not seen through the prism of how it can promote independence.

That our schools, hospitals, police and care services will be prioritised for their own sake and that our young people will get the financial and training support they need to recover from a crisis that has hit them hard.

And that when our small businesses, including taxi drivers, go to their government for help it will not be determined by the timing of the next election.

The priority must be, as Bill Clinton’s campaign might have said, the recovery, stupid.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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