Why is the SNP so scared of scrutiny? - Ian Murray MP

Once upon a time, Nicola Sturgeon promised to lead the most open and transparent government that Scotland had ever seen.

We can file that promise away in the drawer in Bute House marked “abandoned”, along with such pledges as scrapping the council tax, protecting the police budget and closing the education attainment gap.

Under Sturgeon’s leadership, we have seen the emergence of ‘Secret Scotland’.

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A country where transparency is as rare as a new ferry or a late-night train.

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A critical report on the SNP’s school reforms was not published until after an election; we still haven’t got to the bottom of what went so wrong with the ferry procurement process or why the new hospital in Glasgow was allowed to open when there was a water contamination risk; and it took the country’s Information Commissioner to force the publication of government legal advice on whether another referendum would be legal or not - and its still suppressed.

But perhaps where the SNP has been most secretive is in relation to the Covid pandemic.

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That was clear from the start, when Sturgeon chose to keep the public in the dark about the first outbreak in Edinburgh.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon once promised the most open and transparent government Scotland has ever seen - but nothing could be further from the reality, claims Ian Murray MP (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).

It only came to light following forensic investigative work by the media.

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Sturgeon has repeatedly admitted making mistakes, yet conveniently never admits what they were. It’s all about spin and appearing “reasonable”, while continuing to treat the public with contempt.

The Covid public inquiry may get to the bottom of why Scotland recorded such devastatingly high care home deaths, or why patients who tested positive were moved out of hospital into care homes - however we won’t get answers anytime soon.

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And today we learn in a new Audit Scotland report that it is “hard to see how some financial decisions were reached” during the pandemic.

The spending watchdog reveals that £15.5 billion was allocated for Scotland’s Covid-19 response between 2020-2022, of which an estimated £11.8 billion was spent between March 2020 and December 2021.

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So not only do we not know happened to billions of pounds of Covid money, but some agencies are still sitting on millions of pounds of unspent cash.

The First Minister told us that every penny would be spent on recovery from the virus.

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Yet only 59 per cent of the funds received from being part of the UK intended for health and social care has actually been spent on health and social care.

Another broken promise, and another example of the secrecy and mismanagement at the heart of this SNP government.

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We are fortunate to have bodies like Audit Scotland which can independently hold ministers to account.

But rather than address the problems the watchdog has raised, the nationalists are plotting to cut Audit Scotland’s funding.

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It all begs the question – why is the SNP so scared of scrutiny?

Perhaps we saw the answer this week when Nicola Sturgeon published yet another report on independence, which contained no answers or honesty about the reality of leaving the UK.

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She knows there is no positive case for separation that can be backed up in fact. They blindly claim separation will solve all of Scotland’s problems when, in fact, the problem is in Nicola Sturgeon's mirror.

The people of Scotland deserve substance, not the SNP’s spin and secrecy.

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-Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South and the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.