Brian Monteith: Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘hope’ leaves me without any

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If the First Minister’s hopes are all we have to look forward to then we really are in trouble, says Brian Monteith.

The word “Hope” worked wonders for Barack Obama. Often it was on his campaign poster instead of his name and his book The Audacity of Hope put him on the electoral map and inspired people around the world. What would using the word “Hope” do for our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her closing address to the SNP conference?

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The word “Hope” worked wonders for Barack Obama. Often it was on his campaign poster instead of his name and his book The Audacity of Hope put him on the electoral map and inspired people around the world. What would using the word “Hope” do for our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her closing address to the SNP conference?

Well, choosing that very word showed she was audacious, but then we knew that already, for blaggers usually are, are they not? What “Hope” could Nicola Sturgeon offer me, I wondered?

I could hope the First Minister would take a further independence referendum off the table and get back to doing the day job she is paid more than the Prime Minister for doing. I might hope she would reiterate education is her top priority rather than tell us independence transcends all – but I was disappointed beyond hope.

Nicola Sturgeon managed to mention education only once in her entire speech but could talk of independence 13 times – telling us there is still hope for a second independence referendum and still hope she and her fellow separatists can win it.

I could hope that in trying to convince sceptical unionists who might be persuaded to switch to her cause she would explain how her new business case for independence, produced by her own Growth Commission, would make independence attractive and possible.

Sadly it was not mentioned, indeed it was not debated at the SNP conference at all. Apparently it does not give any cause for hope, unless you hope for its super Scottish austerity recipe that would make anything suffered by Greece look like a Club 18-30 holiday.

Like Nicola Sturgeon I hope for better things. I hope to see our local authorities properly funded rather than starved of cash, but first I’d have to hope the First Minister could explain why she is cutting council funding when her own budget from Westminster has gone up.

I hope to see the falling literacy and numeracy among Scottish children reversed, I hope to see our national performance in maths and science improve to at least where it was before the SNP allowed it to fall, and I hope to see the £400 million cut in education restored.

Unfortunately I have no hope our First Minister will reverse the negative trends in our schools; she talks of priorities but cannot even deliver an Education Bill to parliament and would rather increase budgets to other favoured departments than her claimed first priority of education.

I hope to see the growing shortages of nurses and doctors reversed, but first she would have to explain why she cut back on training places for nurses when health secretary, why doctors should be taxed more in Scotland than England and why Scottish pupils with excellent exam grades are being denied places in our own medical schools. These scandals leave me without hope that she is up to the job required.

Indeed the ambition of my hope has fallen so low I even hope that one day, sometime within my lifetime, the Queensferry Crossing will not have to close lanes so the ever-present “snagging” can be attended to. Is that too much to hope?

I have a long list of improvements to Scottish public services but I no longer hope Nicola Sturgeon has even a scintilla of an idea what to do to improve them for all she appears able to talk about is independence, Brexit and blaming Westminster for her failings.

I’m not alone in hoping the First Minister would recognise Brexit presents opportunities that she should maximise to at least mitigate what she sees as the dangers. I could provide her with a list of positive initiatives to take but I don’t hold out any hope of being asked for it.

I could hope she would promise to fight to keep our fishermen out of the Common Fisheries Policy, but she promises to hand their hard won freedom back over to Brussels. I could hope she would join the campaign for free ports that could bring thousands of jobs to Prestwick and Grangemouth, but she would rather Scotland was inside the EU’s single market and customs union, which would make it impossible.

I often hope that Nicola Sturgeon would stop patronising and disrespecting those who do not share her goals.

We are not idiots, we can see when a grievance is being manufactured, we can recognise when she is saying black is white and we find her easy sacrifice of good relations with the rest of the UK embarrassing. It gives me no hope that she could run an independent Scotland and ensure cordial relationships with our nearest and most important neighbour.

Such is the damage done to Scotland during Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office, from Health Secretary through to First Minister, I hope readers who agree with me about the effrontery of her limited offer of “hope” to only those that follow her – rather than the whole of Scotland – might, when they are given the chance, choose to vote the SNP out of power. More so, I hope the Scottish people will bury their past differences and vote for any party best placed to defeat sitting SNP MSPs or MPs so we may begin to heal the open wounds and deep division that has grown in Scottish society since the SNP took office.

After all the false hopes, all the dashed hopes, I now only hope for one thing and one thing only. I hope the First Minister in all seriousness stands in front of the mirror to consider her litany of bad judgment calls and asks herself why she has failed on so many counts. She has failed on education, she has failed on health, she is failing on the economy – and by ignoring her day job has left us without hope. If she is then honest with herself, she must recognise her audacity has set back her hope of independence – for which I suppose I should be grateful.