Scottish election 2021: Tories claim SNP 'wasted' 1,488 minutes debating independence referendum in last parliament term

Douglas Ross said the Scottish Government had “squandered” time on independence in Holyrood’s last term rather than debating how to stop the rise in drug deaths and the “slide” in education standards.

According to analysis by the Scottish Conservatives, the SNP spent at least 1,488 minutes debating independence – or just over three days of parliamentary time.

The figures show that nearly 17 hours were taken up with passing the Referendum Bill, while another eight hours were spent debating independence between 2016 and 2021 as a result of a number of motions from the SNP.

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Douglas Ross said the SNP had "squandered" parliamentary time on independence. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Ross said he was concerned that if a pro-independence majority was delivered on May 6, more parliamentary time would be spent on the constitution rather than domestic issues.

He said: “The SNP wasted more than 1,400 minutes of Parliament’s time on another referendum that Scotland didn’t want. During that time, drug deaths soared and our schools continued to slide down international league tables. The SNP took their eye off the ball and the damage was disastrous.

“If they win a majority, they’ll squander even more time on their obsession, just when we all need to be 100 per cent focused on tackling the health and economic crisis. Instead of trying to create jobs and improve public services now, they’ll plan for a fantasy future.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said another referendum should be held towards the end of the first half of the next parliamentary term, in 2023, even if Scotland is still recovering from Covid, while her finance minister Kate Forbes has said that indyref2 should happen “before recovery”.

Mr Ross said: “The SNP have no economic case for independence, so they’ll waste time inventing one instead of tackling the economic crisis facing us right now. They will wreck Scotland’s recovery with a reckless referendum. Their plan would cost jobs and risk a prolonged recession.

“They’ve already shown they won’t wait to divide the country – they published an indyref2 bill during the pandemic. The next Scottish Parliament can waste more time on the SNP’s obsession or it can be laser-focused on Scotland’s recovery.”

Responding to the claim, an SNP spokesperson said: "This election requires serious politicians with serious ideas for the leadership and direction of this country.

"Mr Ross is clearly not up to the task. He might be happy wasting his time on stupid claims like this, but we are not going to waste time on responding.

"Instead we will continue our focus on getting Scotland through the pandemic, building a strong recovery and keeping Scotland in safe hands with the experienced leadership of Nicola Sturgeon."

Meanwhile Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has used a campaign visit to Eyemouth to make a direct appeal to SNP supporters concerned about arguments over independence consuming the country for the next five years.

“We have just had five consecutive days of confusing arguments inside the nationalist camp about the border, the currency and whether to join the EU,” he said.

"If the nationalists get a majority, it will be like this for five whole years. This is the box of freaky arguments that the country will be subjected to if the nationalists win a majority of seats in the parliament on May 6.”

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