SNP civil war is damaging Scotland's ability to deal with the Covid crisis – Christine Jardine MP

I should be sitting on a train this morning, heading to Westminster with nothing political on my mind but how to persuade the Chancellor to put recovery first.

The then First Minister Alex Salmond and then Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are pictured in the Scottish Parliament in 2010 (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
The then First Minister Alex Salmond and then Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are pictured in the Scottish Parliament in 2010 (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

But in Scotland at the moment it seems that repairing the damage done to our jobs, education and economy is not top of the Holyrood ruling elite’s agenda.

In-fighting, allegations and counter allegations about the internal management of the Scottish National Party, you could even say the Scottish government, are beginning to trump all other issues.

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Just when we need stability and confidence in both our governments more than at any time in our recent history, what we are seeing instead is the spectacle of the governing party creating a downward spiral of self-destruction and sucking in everyone and everything around them.

It feels as if it is trapped in a vehicle hurtling downhill with nobody in control and no brakes. And it could be pulling its administration behind it.

Even our legal system is being dragged in to as yet undefined, and unsubstantiated claims of a conspiracy.

The media, which had been assiduous in its reporting of the First Minister’s daily press conference and focused on informing us of the latest developments, is now increasingly fascinated by the internal row.

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And politicians from all parties are asking what it tells us about how Scotland has been governed for 14 years and what questions must now be asked about parliament’s future structure.

The spotlight trained on Holyrood must be blinding for those in its beam.

Meanwhile the rest of Scotland is holding its breath to discover just what exactly will be the next step in fighting the battle which, at the moment, should be the only one that really counts.

Covid.

The impact it is having on our communities has made a normally routine event like walking to the post office surprisingly emotional.

Passing shop after shop, my hairdresser and the wine bar we sometimes go to after work all closed, while the cafés are all reduced to take-away, only brings home just how many people’s lives have been disrupted.

It is a situation which is replicated in towns and villages up and down the country as we wait for the end to lockdown. A roadmap to recovery.

What we have instead from the Scottish government is a so-called ‘strategic plan’ which is far from comprehensive, provides few definitive answers for concerned constituents and is most kindly described as ‘vague’.

It is increasingly hard to escape the conclusion that perhaps the First Minister’s, and her government’s, attention is no longer entirely on the task at hand.

I admit that I watched the evidence presented to the committee investigating events surrounding the former First Minister Alex Salmond with fascination on Friday.

But there was also frustration. Not just at the distraction from the main issue of the day but that this is what the world is seeing of Scotland at the moment.

This is the image of our politicians which is being transmitted across the globe.

Our devolved parliament, of which we have been so justifiably proud, and the politicians temporarily invested by the voters with the right to lead it, have become a public soap opera to rival that of the Trump White House.

Those other politicians charged with getting to the bottom of the mess have my sympathy. More so the women whose trauma seems to have been forgotten.

But regardless of the answers they eventually come up with there is a responsibility which we all in politics must embrace.

We must do better than this.

More than that we must stop allowing those who are elected to assert their own value and alleged achievements without proper scrutiny.

Week after week for the past four and a half years I have listened to SNP MPs at Westminster boast about the claimed superiority of every policy, every programme, every aspect of politics and their governance of Scotland.

Whether it is education, health, the reaction to Covid or whatever the issue of the day they do it better. They say.

It is often difficult for those of us who live the reality of life in an SNP-dominated Scotland to contain our incredulity and frustration.

Our education, as we all know only too well, has plummeted down international league tables as if in freefall.

We have a new children’s hospital in Edinburgh which was unable to open as it was unfit for purpose, a billion-pound hospital in Glasgow which faced a litany of problems and now we are to lose the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavillion which is the only facility of its kind in this part of Scotland.

And while there have been aspects of the reaction to Covid-19 which have been well managed, I have to suppress a shudder every time I think about the confusion surrounding the vaccine roll-out.

Then there is the delay in allocating and distributing some of the funds provided by the UK exchequer to support businesses in various sectors.

All of that could be understood, perhaps even forgiven, in light of the unprecedented nature of the crisis we are all facing, if the SNP had not been so determined to paint a rosier picture than we all know to be the case.

Politicians of all parties must put their own agendas aside and get back to that one thing which should be paramount for all of us. Recovery.

The futures of millions of people in this country hang in the balance through absolutely no fault of their own.

They are victims not of conspiracy, not of infighting but of a pandemic beyond anything the world has experienced.

They need action to support them through the crisis.

And they deserve much better than the behaviour they are witnessing from their Scottish government.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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