Scottish Government can’t ignore its ‘day job’ – leader comment

The SNP administration cannot simply blame Westminster for problems affecting Scotland’s public services.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Picture: Getty)

Only a fool would deny the importance of ‘constitutional’ politics. We are about to find out just how seriously Brexit will affect the economy and life in general in the UK, something that will no doubt play a significant part in the ongoing Scottish independence debate.

For some, independence and the hope of returning to the European Union represent a sensible response to Brexit; for others, it is simply a repeat of the same mistake, perhaps a worse one.

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Whatever the truth of these great, fundamental questions – based on emotion and competing senses of identity as much as anything else – it remains the case that any democratically elected government must still get on with what is sometimes called their “day job” – ensuring that hospitals, schools, the emergency services and so on function effectively.

The clash between Nicola Sturgeon and interim Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw at First Minister’s Questions over police funding was a case in point.

It came after complaints from a senior Scottish Police Federation official about leaking roofs in stations and the Scottish Police Authority’s vice-chair about a “structural deficit” in the policing budget.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf then complained it was “unhelpful” to talk about police stations “falling apart”, describing the suggestion as “hyperbole”. A few hours later, the ceiling of a police station in Broughty Ferry collapsed. The timing may have been almost comic, but such issues are no laughing matter.

The First Minister’s response was predictable – Carlaw had “a nerve” to even raise the issue, given the reduction in the Scottish Government’s budget from Westminster.

That may serve as a political rejoinder in the heat of the moment, but it only has a degree of power when used against a Conservative politician. It would not work against the police officers on duty in Broughty Ferry. It is no answer to them at all.

Similarly, pointing the finger of blame at Westminster over serious problems in the health services does nothing to address the concerns of over-worked medical staff or patients struggling to get an appointment or languishing on waiting lists.

And it also is no comfort to anyone if the situation south of the Border is worse.