The priorities of SNP delegates gathering at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for their party conference are at odds with the people of Scotland, writes Pamela Nash.
AS senior SNP politicians deliver their conference speeches today, it is increasingly obvious that they are talking only to their party – not to the country.
The same was true with Nicola Sturgeon’s statement to parliament earlier this week, when she set out her latest proposals for breaking up the UK.
She didn’t talk about the crisis in education. Or the crisis in our hospitals. Or the crisis on our railways.
For the SNP, it is independence first, second and always.
No matter how loud the applause in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is this weekend, Nationalist politicians would do well to understand that their own priorities are at odds with the people of Scotland.
We know this from the latest opinion polling published this week.
Voters were asked to rank issues in order of which they thought should be the most important for the Scottish Government to prioritise.
The NHS was ranked in the top three by 71 per cent of respondents, with the cost of living on 38 per cent, the economy on 37 per cent, and education on 35 per cent.
Constitutional affairs and independence scored just nine per cent.
I suspect you would get a very different result if you surveyed SNP delegates at the EICC, which just shows how out of touch with reality the SNP has become.
While they talk among themselves, the message from the public is clear: get on with the day job.
The First Minister could start by fixing the mess her Government has made of our once-envied education system.
It emerged this week that some schools are having to teach pupils studying for National 4, National 5 and Higher qualifications in the same class.
An obsession with the constitution means a generation of children is being let down by this Government.
Amid this crisis, the idea that we should spend the next two years having yet another debate about independence is the height of irresponsibility.
But that is precisely what Nicola Sturgeon wants to do. She wants to divide the country once again and hold an unwanted second independence referendum before 2021.
How do we know it’s unwanted? Because the people of Scotland have said so.
Only one-in-five voters support the SNP’s reckless plan to hold another contest before the next Holyrood election.
People remember the division and the toxic atmosphere from 2014 and they don’t want to go through that again any time soon.
And they certainly don’t want to go through it while the country is still divided over Brexit.
Whatever your views on Brexit, we can all agree that it has revealed just how difficult and complex it is to leave a political union.
The UK has only been in the EU for four decades, and it is a much looser partnership of countries than the United Kingdom is.
Just imagine how difficult it would be to tear Scotland out of a centuries-old union in which we are considerably more entwined.
It’s little wonder that so many people who voted ‘Yes’ in 2014 have changed their minds. According to this week’s poll, a third would now vote to remain in the UK.
Despite campaigning every day since September 2014, the SNP has managed to turn more people off independence. Support for leaving the UK now stands at just 39 per cent.
Most Scots know that we are stronger together and want to build a successful economic future based on our shared culture, history and institutions. Institutions such as our currency – the pound.
Today, the SNP will vote to scrap the pound and adopt a new currency in an independent Scotland, putting salaries, mortgages and pensions at risk.
According to the polling figures published today, that is supported by just 12 per cent of voters – while 71 per cent want to keep the pound.
By remaining in the UK, we can keep our pound, grow our economy – without extra red tape for businesses – and use a stable currency backed by the strength of the UK’s central bank and its 30 million taxpayers. But, instead, today’s conference debate will focus on when to inflict economic harm on communities: immediately; in the short-term; or after a few years.
And it will be coupled with the SNP’s growth commission blueprint which confirms breaking up the UK would lead to even deeper austerity.
This isn’t the future most people want for Scotland.
It’s not a choice we should have to make.
We don’t want another independence referendum.
We don’t want to create further division and have a debate about whether to erect barriers between our friends, families and neighbours in the rest of the UK.
But I know the SNP will never drop its narrow nationalist agenda. It will never stop campaigning for separation.
So that is why those of us who believe in solidarity must continue to campaign as well. We speak for the majority of Scots who want a Government focused on building a better future for the people of Scotland as part of the UK.
We must continue campaigning so that Nicola Sturgeon stops listening only to Nationalists and starts listening to the nation.
Pamela Nash is chief executive of Scotland in Union