By Douglas Ross
If you look back to 2014 and compare it with Scotland today, it’s remarkable how little has changed.
Nine years ago, we were in the midst of a bitter referendum campaign that divided friends and families from Shetland to the Borders.
Almost a decade on, you might have hoped that those wounds had healed.
But thanks to Nicola Sturgeon’s refusal to accept the “once-in-a-lifetime” decision of the Scottish people to remain in the UK, the same divisions and constitutional paralysis remain.
This will be her legacy as First Minister.
“It’s been a tiresome, self-indulgent pantomime that has dragged Scotland down.”
Barely a week passed during her eight-plus years in Bute House without her pushing for another independence referendum.
For the minority of the population who share Nicola Sturgeon’s view that leaving the UK trumps everything, that’s fine. For the majority of the nation who don’t, it’s been a tiresome, self-indulgent pantomime that has dragged Scotland down.
It would be childish not to acknowledge Nicola Sturgeon’s resilience or the personal dedication she has shown, but Nicola Sturgeon’s relentless focus on the constitution has led to many of her domestic policy failures.
“On education – the policy area she asked to be judged on – Nicola Sturgeon’s record is dismal.”
Politics is a bruising business that takes its toll on everyone, but especially those most in the public eye.
She is rightly regarded as a formidable politician. But, equally, it’s hard to dispute that Nicola Sturgeon has always governed in the Nationalist interest, rather than the national interest.
Any rational analysis of her record as First Minister would have to conclude it’s one of failure.
On education – the policy area she asked to be judged on – it’s dismal.
Scotland tumbled so far down the international league tables that we were withdrawn from them to save face. For a self-avowed “progressive”, Nicola Sturgeon’s abject failure to eradicate the poverty-related attainment gap – as promised – is a damning indictment of her reign. Then, there’s the increased violence in our classrooms and the first teacher strikes in almost 40 years.
On her watch, Scotland’s NHS is on its knees with record waiting times for treatment and burnt-out, exhausted staff. The root cause is dismal workforce planning by successive SNP health secretaries, including Nicola Sturgeon who cut the number of funded places for homegrown medical students at Scottish universities.
“Scotland’s real priorities have been shamefully neglected.”
Similarly, on transport, the ledger is grim.
The ferries scandal is the most egregious case of wasteful public spending in the devolution era – with latest cost estimates (£450million) showing it’s set to overtake the Scottish Parliament building as a money pit.
Meanwhile, the death toll on two of Scotland’s vital trunk roads – the A9 and A96 – continues to rise while the SNP, in thrall to the anti-car Greens, drag their heels on long-standing dualling promises, and our trains remain over-priced and unreliable under nationalised ScotRail.
The First Minister has grown increasingly out of touch with the public mood in recent months, leaving her successor with dilemmas over whether to ditch or amend flawed policies such as the National Care Service, the Deposit Return Scheme and, of course, gender ID reforms.
“Arguably, Nicola Sturgeon’s greatest failing is Scotland’s drug-death epidemic.”
By tying herself in knots over gender self-ID, she was left in the absurd position of being unable to refer to a double rapist as a man.
That, coupled with her arrogant dismissal of those who warned that her GRR Bill threatened women and girls’ safety, once again displayed her “I know best” arrogance.
Arguably however, Nicola Sturgeon’s greatest failing is Scotland’s drug-death epidemic which has mushroomed to such an extent under her leadership that fatality rates are now the worst in Europe by an enormous margin.
“We took our eye off the ball,” was her slip-of-the-tongue mea culpa for those appalling statistics. But it could and should serve as her wider epitaph.
Because while she has focused unrelentingly on independence, Scotland’s real priorities have been shamefully neglected.