The SNP cannot be trusted with trains let alone independence - Euan McColm

What’s the bare minimum we require from a functioning Scottish government?

There’s the NHS, of course. We demand whoever holds power at Holyrood ensures, at the very least, the health service is fit for purpose and that it evolves in step with scientific progress. And then there’s education. Aren’t we entitled to expect our political leaders to oversee a system that arms our young people with basic skills in literacy and numeracy?

Just as fundamental as both of those crucial things is the need for a government to keep the country moving. We require a transport infrastructure that supports the needs of both the public and business. A healthy economy depends on people being able to travel from A to B.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media on April 1, 2022 in Glasgow. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty ImagesFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media on April 1, 2022 in Glasgow. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media on April 1, 2022 in Glasgow. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images
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Fifteen years after the SNP came to power at Holyrood, it’s now abundantly, disturbingly clear the party is unable to carry out even the most basic tasks of a functioning government.

Ministers, first under the leadership of Alex Salmond then - since 2014 - Nicola Sturgeon have made no progress in raising standards in schools. Any closure in the “attainment gap” has come about not by improving outcomes for those pupils at the bottom of the heap but by diminishing them for those at the top.

The Scottish NHS - desperately in need of reform - continues to underperform, with ongoing staffing shortages and waiting time guarantees routinely missed.

Seven weeks ago - in a move that stoked the myth of the SNP as a radical political force - the Scottish Government took the national rail operator into pubic ownership. This move, we were told, would mean huge improvements to a service that had not always lived up to expectations.

Tomorrow, under the management of the SNP, ScotRail will cut almost a third of its timetable. Around 700 fewer train services will run each day with many finishing as much as four hours earlier than had been the case. In 21st century Scotland, it will not be possible to get a train from Edinburgh to Fife after eight at night.

Key workers - those men and women upon whom we so often depended during the worst months of the coronavirus pandemic - stand to be most seriously affected by this appalling state of affairs. Woe betide anyone who dares to work any kind of unusual shift pattern while having the audacity to live outside a city.

There's no sign of an end to an ongoing pay dispute with train drivers and so we face the humiliating prospect of tourists arriving for summer in Scotland to find that Sturgeon’s government can’t provide a rail service that’s fit for purpose.

Chaos on the railways comes as the scandal over the Scottish Government’s handling of a contract to build two new ferries rumbles on. Five years after the new vessels were due to be delivered, they are still not in service and costs have spiralled more than £150million over budget.

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An inhabitant of the Western Isles would not be blamed for looking at the state of public transport under Sturgeon's SNP and concluding that the best chance of getting to Edinburgh might be by dinghy.

And still, the SNP rides high in the polls. Its supporters seem positively enthusiastic about ignoring the inescapable fact Sturgeon and her ministers are failing the country.

A recent report by the Scottish Election Study, run by academics including Ailsa Henderson, a professor of politics at Edinburgh University, suggests the SNP can continue to enjoy the indulgence of its supporters, regardless of its performance in office. The vast majority of Scots now vote on the basis of their constitutional preference. While this state of affairs endures, the SNP can bank on winning elections, regardless of its competence in government.

For a long time, the SNP has devoted considerable energy to pushing the story its nationalism is different to the other nationalisms. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how this is so. Sturgeon and her colleagues enjoy the support of voters who either do not believe or do not care that the SNP is so badly failing the nation.

What, other than blind faith, could convince a voter that the Scottish nationalists, unable to run a train service, has the skills required to establish a new independent state.

Some years ago, to undermine legitimate criticism of their record in power, nat spinners came up with the hashtag #SNPBad, the implication being that the “mainstream media” was programmed to criticise the party, no matter what. If this or that report suggested the SNP had underperformed then, well, that was to be expected from the sort of people who think Scotland “too wee and too poor” (another SNP-created slogan) to succeed.

Well, #SNPBad seems a pretty apt verdict on Sturgeon’s party which, after 15 years in office, looks - at best - incompetent and - at worst, such as in the case of the ferries debacle - corrupt.

No serious participant in the constitutional debate has ever suggested that Scotland could not survive as an independent nation. Rather, those opposed to the break-up of the UK have questioned whether the cost - including a long period of austerity - is worth it.

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It is now legitimate to question whether the party committed to independence has anything like the ability and vision to deliver it. The SNP under Nicola Sturgeon has failed to make a success of devolved government. Why on Earth, then, should we believe this second-rate party would make a success of independence?

It may be enough for the most committed nationalist - in common with his Brexiteer cousin in England - to believe that achieving his political objective is worth it, regardless of its consequences.

Others, observing the latest SNP failure in the shape of a rail system in chaos, may take a different view.



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