SNP is stealing our dreams with its focus on independence and empty words about Scotland’s problems – Christine Jardine MP

Christine Jardine is reminded of Greta Thunberg’s famous condemnation of world leaders as her frustration grows with the Scottish Government.
Greta Thunberg’s condemnation of world leaders could be directed at Scotland’s (Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)Greta Thunberg’s condemnation of world leaders could be directed at Scotland’s (Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg’s condemnation of world leaders could be directed at Scotland’s (Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Quitting is easy isn’t it? This week we saw the announcement of the programme for the SNP, sorry for Government, at Holyrood.

After watching that I would wager that the FM wasn’t a Rick Astley Fan. Giving up, letting down and deserting were things he would never have done.

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But ask our young people and you might be surprised to learn that is exactly what many of them feel is happening.

I am with them 100 per cent. A recent Young Minds survey discovered that 80 per cent of young people who replied agreed that the coronovirus pandemic had had a detrimental affect on their mental health.

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They felt isolated and alone. Given up on. In those circumstances, you might expect that our Governments, both of them, would be throwing all their efforts into tackling that.

Their focus would be trained on helping build a better future for our young people when this unprecedented challenge is behind us.

Giving that generation hope, telling them we have the resources, the tools and determination to beat this virus together. We are all on the same side.

But no. Just think a little more about what that programme for government said to young people in Scotland. What message it sent out.

I don’t know about you but what I heard was that after 13 years in Government and the powers to do just about what ever they want in Scotland, the SNP has its mind on other things.

We are a people in the midst of the challenge of our lifetime. Bracing ourselves for a second and, we are warned, potentially more lethal wave of a pandemic with no modern parallel.

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And yet the FM’s focus is on another independence referendum. Once again her party has deserted the things that impact most on our daily lives.

Instead the SNP wants to plunge us into a bitter, divisive constitutional battle, just when we need to be pulling together like rarely before.

I am astounded at the short-sighted political selfishness of it. I feel let down. It is not as if Scots can relax and bask in the glory of the SNP’s success in the basic, but essential, areas in which they promised progress 13 years ago now.

Our education system – on which Nicola asked us to judge her – had plummeted down international league tables even before last month’s results chaos.

Our National Health Service has performed near miracles to cope with Covid-19 at a time when waiting lists are too long and expensive hospital buildings are behind schedule.

We are all tired and stressed but massively relieved that the UK has coffers weighty enough and with the borrowing power to provide billions of pounds to help our vital industries keep their heads above water.

Yet Scotland’s most senior politician who has clearly demonstrated time and again over the past six months that she has the powers to take Scotland down whatever route she wants while maintaining that support from Westminster... is giving up on it.

She has ploughed her own furrow on lockdown, quarantines, social distancing, you name it. And all with the common proceeds of the UK Treasury.

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But now she is turning around and saying she doesn’t want to do that.

To be fair we did notice that the SNP was having problems with education, health and housing all of which need serious attention.

But deserting the idea of fixing them in favour of an independence campaign? Really? Gamble with our young people’s future? Now?

Just pause for second and think about the most famous uttering of the person from whom many of our young generation take a lead: Greta Thunberg. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

In that phrase she was talking specifically about the current generation’s inability to rein in carbon emissions and simply making empty noises about climate change.

The same accusation could be aimed at us at the moment about so much. Especially in Scotland.

We have problems that need fixing and demand more than empty words. We should be taking responsibility and creating a better platform for their futures.

Instead what this Scottish Government is doing with its programme boils down to little more than pointing at the mess they have made of Scotland and saying: “That big boy Westminster did it and ran away. It’s all Westminster’s fault.” Well. No, it is not.

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As I mentioned earlier, these past six months have amply demonstrated that the Scottish Government has the powers to do what it wants in so many different ways.

It has the right to take the actions it determines.

Now it also has to accept the responsibility for the results of those actions.

I doubt if I like Boris Johnson and his Government any more than the First Minister does.

I have railed recently at their policies towards foreign nationals working in the NHS and organised a meeting with the haulage industry over their concerns at border plans once we end our EU transition period.

I have called out the Trade Secretary over the UK Government’s lack of support for the whisky industry. She blamed the EU. It seems the Tories have that liking for passing the buck in common with the SNP.

But however much I dislike Boris’ Government I know that we will have the chance to be rid of them in 2024 if not before.

Just like we will all have the chance to judge the SNP’s 13 years in government next spring.

And when we do, the message we must send our young people is that we have not deserted them and turned away from the real issue of the day.

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We should deal with that first and foremost. Everything else can wait.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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