We need a Government committed to making improvements to our lives. The SNP have had 14 years to do so; and to me, they have failed.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this year’s Holyrood election is simply about referendums and the pandemic, but truthfully; Scotland has a choice to make that is far more multifaceted than it may appear on the surface.
The debate surrounding Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom is certainly a dominant factor, with Covid-19 recovery closely alongside it. But what many should seek to remember is the track record of Scotland’s existing SNP Government.
I believe that the individual’s best weapon to bolster economic recovery in the short-term is by using their vote to support the Scottish Conservatives. This would halt the SNP’s plans for a second independence referendum by keeping the pro-Union vote together, and put in place a Scottish Conservative Government, who could focus 100% on rebuilding the country after the crisis we have all been through.
I would urge everyone to look closely at the SNP’s record to understand why we need to rid Scotland of its current Government. Look in depth at the pressures that we face, in our schools, in the Scottish NHS, and the poverty that children live in across the UK. These are not political footballs, but real problems that affect our people. We need a Government committed to making improvements to our lives. The SNP have had 14 years to do so; and to me, they have failed.
The SNP have made a wide variety of manifesto pledges, that are understandably attractive to those who vote for them, but the record shows them to be false promises. For instance, the SNP pledged to introduce an Education Bill that would give more powers to head teachers, more support to teachers and strengthen the role of parents. Despite it being a flagship promise, the bill was shelved, supposedly in favour of some sort of ‘collaborative approach’. They also promised to establish a £500million Scottish Growth Scheme in 2016, designed over three years to help businesses, but £0 of loans and guarantees were delivered to businesses after 18 months and after two years, only £25million from the Government went to the scheme. In 2007, they pledged to scrap Council Tax altogether but then U-turned in favour of minor adjustments, so here I am, still paying it. How can we trust them to deliver on their promises now?
Nicola Sturgeon once told us to judge her on education, so let’s do just that. In 2007, the SNP pledged to reduce class sizes in Primary 1 (P1), 2 and 3 to 18 pupils or less and in 2011 almost 32,000 primary pupils were in classes of 31 and larger. The current average class size is 23.1. In my home constituency of Moray, where our MSP is an SNP Education Minister, over 90% of P1, 2 and 3 pupils were in classes with over 18 pupils (as of 2020). In 2019 – again, in Moray – 35% of P1, 4 and 7 pupils could not read or write to the expected standard. Teacher numbers have taken such a hit that some schools can’t even teach all three sciences. In 2019, the attainment gap between 18-year-olds going to university increased to the highest level since 2010. Exams cancelled due to Covid saw grades worsen for those in deprived areas, laptops were purchased for children’s home learning but never delivered due to shortages and to top it all off; the Scottish Government refuses to publish the latest OECD report until after the election.
As much as the SNP believe that Westminster is the root of problems with the Scottish NHS, health is entirely devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The SNP have made swinging cuts, especially in rural Scotland. In 2018, my local hospital saw its maternity unit downgraded, with promises of a plan to restore it made. Three years later we still have no concrete idea as to what is going to happen. Mothers are forced to travel two hours to give birth, often in the back of taxis or in terrible weather conditions. Elective admissions to the hospital more generally have decreased by nearly 40%. When my mum received a breast cancer diagnosis at the end of 2017, she had to do a two-hour round trip every day for weeks to receive radiotherapy because no such treatment was available more locally. Sturgeon keeps committing to improving cancer care, but I see no evidence of it where I live. These examples are at just one rural hospital, imagine what it is like across the country. The people of Scotland deserve so much better.
Drug-related deaths in Scotland are three and a half times higher than the rest of the United Kingdom and higher than any other EU country.
Additionally, Scotland has been facing a major drugs crisis. Drug-related deaths in Scotland are three and a half times higher than the rest of the United Kingdom and higher than any other EU country. This is not a statistic to be taken lightly, it is an epidemic in itself and a problem that arises from deprivation, so tackling the root causes of poverty is the answer.
Reducing poverty, however, is not something the SNP can claim victory on. The Scottish Government’s own figures show that there has been a general increase in child poverty over the last decade. Almost a quarter of children in Scotland are living in poverty and one in five working age adults are too. According to Poverty Inequality Scotland, without further action to address it, poverty rates will continue to rise.
Many in Scotland pay higher taxes than those with the same gross pay in the rest of the UK, to the point that the UK Government had to mitigate the taxes of Armed Forces personnel who were posted to Scotland. It seems strange to be paying higher taxes when, despite the Scottish Budget going up, councils are facing huge budget cuts due to funding black holes.
Years before Covid hit, Moray Council faced huge budget pressures - public toilets were closed, disabled people who needed specialist toilets in their homes were suddenly faced with significant bills, Women’s Aid funding was reduced, and funding to the local NHS mental health support team was cut all together.
So where are our taxes going? Well, a portion of them go into apparently unwinnable legal cases. This is well known at the moment in Scottish politics – the SNP Government wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds on a legal case that their own lawyers allegedly advised against, then hid it for as long as possible. Hundreds of millions have been spent on building ferries that have never left the dock and £37million was spent on a failed BiFab bailout. This money could have been used more wisely.
The Scottish Conservatives could deliver real, positive change. They have pledged to deliver 3,000 new teachers to Scotland, with a focus on rural teacher recruitment through an incentives programme. They will offer unlimited apprenticeship places,
invest in nursery education to close the pre-school attainment gap, and establish a national tutoring programme. Scotland’s students have huge potential, we must give them the opportunities to succeed.
Fortunately, the Scottish Conservatives have made the restoration of Dr Gray’s Maternity Unit in Moray a manifesto pledge. They have also committed to boosting the annual health budget by £2bn over the next Parliament. They have already pledged to ring-fence more mental health funding, tackle the Covid-caused treatment backlog and protect and improve local services. We could see properly funded healthcare in our rural communities.
Furthermore, the Scottish Conservatives want to enshrine in law legislation that would see council funding delivered fairly in a style similar to the Barnett Formula. It would allow councils to deliver adequate services without increasing charges on the public. Councils could deliver communities more of the services they need: more bin collections, school crossing patrollers and grass cutting. Parents can have the confidence that their children will be safe crossing roads. Those who don’t drive won’t need to worry about overflowing bins because they can’t get to the recycling centre. These things make a huge difference to our society on an individual level. Politics, ultimately, is about helping people.
The bottom line is this: Scotland’s current government have had their chance to deliver for the people, and to me it is clear they haven’t. They can blame Westminster all they like, but on the devolved matters they have control over, the buck stops with them. It is time to rebuild our country through innovative policies that benefit us all. I advise Scotland’s voters to oust the SNP on 6th May because we can’t recover from this pandemic and improve Scotland if we are facing years of their drive for independence at the cost of everything else. If we can barely survive, how can we expect to thrive?
After growing up in rural Scotland and moving back home after attending university in London, Amber got involved in local politics whilst job hunting. Through this, she rediscovered her love for her community and years later continues to campaign for better services locally. She is now the campaign manager for Moray Conservatives.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of The Demographica Network as a company.