Iain McGill: SNP must deal with big issues

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They spent two years fighting a referendum on it and are emerging from a general election campaign still obsessing about it.

But sooner rather than later, the SNP is going to have to choose a new subject to talk about other than the constitution.

It may have seen the party through until now, but when I was on the doorsteps in the Edinburgh North and Leith constituency I fought in May, I could sense people’s patience on the topic was wearing thin.

Thankfully, the 2016 Holyrood elections – which I hope to fight for the Scottish Conservatives in the Capital – will not allow for such hiding places.

Issues like education, health and justice are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and by that stage will have been under the complete control of the SNP for nine years.

And I sympathise for those Nationalists who try and defend SNP transport policy on the doorsteps of Edinburgh.

When prospective SNP candidates are hitting the streets, they won’t be able to deflect attention from their party’s woeful record on education.

They won’t be able to blame not getting independence for the fact that both literacy and numeracy rates in our schools are plunging, or that the country’s education attainment gap between richer and poorer pupils is showing no signs of closing. How will they explain the falling number of college places, or reduced courses on offer, or why we are only offering around half the number of apprenticeships for our young people than the UK government is for England?

Why, parents will ask, is the SNP introducing state guardians for every young person in the country, shamefully imposing on family life and starving the resources of those most in need?

Why can’t parents access the free nursery provision pledged to them by the Scottish Government because of a ridiculous lack of flexibility?

If a Nationalist knocks on the door of a nurse, are they going to be swayed by 20 minutes on the constitution? Unlikely. They’ll want to know why the ward they work on is so understaffed, why tens of millions of pounds are being spent on expensive agency and bank workers, and why hospitals across the country are continually failing to meet the reduced targets the SNP sets.

Patients will demand answers on why millionaires receive free prescriptions while the NHS north of the Border scrambles around for resources.

On justice, the list is almost endless. Why has my local police station closed? Why is my local sheriff court not there anymore?

Why did the Scottish Government try to get rid of the centuries-old requirement for corroboration, and why is it insisting on letting dangerous criminals out after only a fraction of their sentence?

Why isn’t Police Scotland more serious about housebreaking, one of Edinburgh’s biggest criminal problems?

The SNP has failed to answer any of these questions, instead attempting to distract voters by telling them it’ll all be solved by separation.

It won’t wash anymore, and as the SNP attempts to defend its record in government next May, it will find the voters of Edinburgh and Scotland extremely keen to hear the answers.

Iain McGill is a Scottish Conservative policy board member and potential 2016 candidate in Edinburgh