Scottish independence: SNP's hopeful rhetoric about future land of milk and honey will not mask their multiple failings forever – Christine Jardine MP

I love being Scottish. Everything about our history and culture fills me with an enormous sense of who I am.

I could bore for hours on Mary Queen of Scots' political importance, the outstanding achievements of shipbuilding on the Clyde, or our glorious sporting and cultural successes. We do have so much to be proud of.

And all of it relevant to our present circumstances. This week especially.

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I so longed to be able to cheer a new Scottish success in European football last Wednesday, partly as a welcome relief from the modern malaise in our politics and our shipbuilding. The once glorious reputation of the latter, the soul of our industry, now in tatters as a result of the obsession and incompetence of the pre-eminent members of the former.

And sadly it is not the only victim of their single-minded, myopic focus on the separatist agenda. A complete desolation of respect for an industry so worthy of our appreciation.

I have tried very hard not to get involved in the ferries argument. Largely because it hurts too much to see what the SNP has done to the remains of an industry which was part of my upbringing.

Conversations about the launch of the great queens have now been replaced by arguments about those ferries.

Revelations by the First Minister that the Deputy First Minister was involved in the contract. Ministers ignored legal warnings. Multi-million-pound contracts were signed off by one-line emails showing a casual disregard for the public purse. The jobs and livelihoods of thousands of people. And at the centre of it all? “Lost” paperwork.

Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and their Cabinet colleagues seem only to offer ineptitude and empty promises (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

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Everyone remembers the painted-on windows the day one ferry was launched. A trope for the government’s report card perhaps. Sometimes cries for a public inquiry seem too easy, but not this time.

And now we have to add the disgrace engulfing our newly nationalised Scottish railways. It is beginning to look as if that April Fool’s Day development is a joke on all of us. I want to have faith that it will be a success, I really do.

As surprising as it may sound, I actually don’t want governments made up of parties different to mine to fail, because that means we all lose. The people that we represent, who need the most, lose the most.

At the moment, my biggest frustration is a UK Government seemingly unaware of the seriousness of the situation facing some of its own citizens.

At a local surgery on Friday, the staff at the community centre told me the demand for their food bank is huge, and that many of the people now coming to them for support are the same ones who used to donate in the past.

But in Scotland, our other government at Holyrood is turning debacle into an art form.

This SNP and Green administration is engulfed by its own incompetence – or do we finally have to admit it – indifference.

After this past week, it is tempting to believe that they just don’t care. The only other option, and maybe I’m not giving them enough credit, is that it might, only might, be part of some master plan.

A Baldrick-like cunning plan which envisages that the worse things are, the more people will blame the Tories, and the closer we will be drawn to that separatist land of milk and honey that Nicola and Patrick are so sure exists.

I doubt we will be getting there by train, however.

Because this is an administration that presided over cuts in services by a third, almost in the same metaphorical breath as fare prices were reduced in attempt to attract more passengers back on board.

There will be no more late trains between our two largest cities and, if you live north of Inverness you had better be finished work and at the station by 5.15pm if you want to get a train home.

My inbox is now teeming with angry constituents, curious to know how they are going to get to work on time? How to get their kids to where they need to be?

We all know that running railways is hard. The main east coast route from Edinburgh to London is littered with the broken dreams of rail franchises.

But the SNP makes it difficult to have sympathy for them when one of their Westminster representatives taunts the Tories by describing his own party’s management of railways in Scotland as an ‘exemplar’.

Perhaps he knows a different definition of the word because it’s certainly not a description I could apply to what we are experiencing.

But actions do have consequences. I can’t imagine the potential implications of their recent ineptitudes were far from the mind of the First Minister as her independence-touting trip to the US was planned.

It’s clear the SNP is running on empty, coming up with desperate claim after desperate claim to support their cause.

High rhetoric, low substance will sustain you for a while, because it gives you hope. Words are powerful, words from leaders in the midst of crisis after crisis even more so.

And there can be no doubt that the First Minister’s words did help through the darkest of pandemic days.

But gradually that has become inadequate as the political Punch and Judy show rolls on while bills rise and savings fall and those with power to do something seem only to offer ineptitude and empty promises.

The ferries, the trains, the NHS and our schools have all become symbols of a government which is listless, off the rails.

At the height of the news coverage this past week, Green MSP Gillian Mackay, when challenged on the reduction of train services, turned to her press officer and asked “Do I have to?”.

Yes, was the answer. Inevitably there will also be an electoral answer.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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