SNP and Tories' problems stem from being in power for far too long – Scotsman comment

SNP’s reluctance to do anything that might damage their independence project and Tory infighting are damaging efforts to provide good governance

As Scotland prepares to usher in its third First Minister since the last Holyrood election, a number of Conservative MPs are apparently considering whether to oust Rishi Sunak and replace him with their party’s fourth leader since the last Westminster vote. Clearly, the appetite of some Tories for political chaos is such that they are not to be outdone.

The two parties are, to an extent, victims of their electoral success. The SNP have been in power since 2007 and the Conservatives since 2010, too long for both and it shows in a number of ways, most of them bad.

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One might have thought that staring electoral disaster in the face would rally Tories to their leader. Instead, some have clearly forgotten they are members of the same party with internal feuds now seemingly more important than even attempting to stand up to Labour. With their opponents beset by bickering, Keir Starmer and co appear set to walk into power without actually spelling out much of a compelling vision for their government. Simply ‘not being the Conservatives’ may be enough.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure from the Conservatives' 'Liz Truss wing' and other factions (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Rishi Sunak is under pressure from the Conservatives' 'Liz Truss wing' and other factions (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak is under pressure from the Conservatives' 'Liz Truss wing' and other factions (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

That should worry thoughtful Tories. As Gerald Ratner – whose infamous joke about his jewellery firm’s “total crap” sherry decanters backfired spectacularly – would agree, once the public sees a brand as toxic, its reputation can be hard to recover. With the rise of the Reform party, the Conservatives could be on the cusp of a historic slide akin to the Liberals in the early 20th century unless they get their act together. An election defeat could be the wake-up call they need to switch from immigration-focused politics to core issues like the economy, NHS and education.

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Launching his leadership bid, John Swinney spoke refreshingly of working to create a “vibrant economy” and how he wanted his ministers to be “focused on the delivery of services on which the public depend: on health, on education, on housing, on transport”.

However, 17 long years in power have taught us that the nationalists often talk a good game without actually ‘delivering’. Policies like free tuition and free prescriptions are less about education and health and more about creating a sense of difference with England – essentially, they are about independence.

So measures that benefit the middle classes who could afford to pay continue even as universities face serious and growing funding problems and the NHS teeters ever closer to collapse. The SNP appears powerless to address these problems partly because it dares do nothing to damage the image of Scotland that it has been trying to create.

Scrapping free prescriptions for all – but retaining them for those who can’t afford to pay – would probably be a sensible step as it would provide funds to ease the NHS crisis. But, unfortunately, ‘independence says no’. Other struggling public services are similarly affected by such SNP paralysis. The longer the nationalists remain in power, the worse the situation will become.

The Conservatives and SNP have been in power for far too long. Even their own supporters are starting to see it.



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