As SNP gives up on independence and its day job of running the country, it's time for a new government – Ian Murray
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It seems that May is becoming a month for reflection in politics. We’ve had Nigel Farage admit that Brexit has failed (who knew!?). Jacob-Rees Mogg acknowledged that an attempt to gerrymander the recent English local elections by introducing voter ID backfired.
Pete Wishart accepted that the SNP’s route to independence is “dead”. And Nicola Sturgeon, with no apparent sense of self-awareness, said she underestimated the depth of polarisation in Scottish politics, despite being the primary culprit responsible for the state of today’s divided politics. A cursory glance at the SNP propaganda newspaper, The National, or social media shows how bad it’s become.
Some other politicians could probably do with a period of reflection as well. Lorna Slater on her decision to hire an expensive private charter boat rather than use an “unreliable” public ferry, or Mhairi Black who let slip that she “doesn’t care” if the Tories win the next election.
But perhaps the most telling moment of reflection came from someone not in frontline politics, but who has spent years observing government: the outgoing Scottish Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson. Asked on BBC’s Sunday Show if Nicola Sturgeon had failed to improve the lives of children in Scotland, Mr Adamson said: “Absolutely.”
It was a damning verdict on Sturgeon’s reign, exposing that famous broken promise she made in my old school, Wester Hailes Education Centre, to prioritise the poverty attainment gap in our schools. While she is reflecting on her role in polarising our politics, I hope the former First Minister also takes time to reflect on how she has let down a generation of Scots.
The reasons behind the SNP government’s failings are many and varied, not least an obsession with the constitution instead of tackling poverty. But one specific cause is the failure to properly fund local government, which delivers so many vital public services in our communities.
A new independent Accounts Commission report confirmed that the “funding of local government has not kept pace with other parts of the Scottish budget for many years”. Councils receive over 70 per cent of their income from the Scottish Government, but funding levels are at the same level as 2015/16, despite the cost-of-living crisis. The Accounts Commission warns of significant cuts to come, which will “jeopardise” local services.
The SNP-Green government needs to stop robbing funding from communities and instead prioritise a fairer deal for councils. Our Capital is a great place to live, visit, work and invest in, and the recent ‘Edinburgh by Numbers’ report found that residents are living longer and well, compared to other cities in the UK, with strong economic resilience.
But this has been achieved in the face of record cuts from the SNP/Green government which have left Edinburgh as the lowest funded council in Scotland per head. Imagine what could be accomplished with a fair funding settlement from the Scottish Government?
Sadly, SNP politicians in parliament claimed this week that they can’t do anything about poverty or education or the NHS because they don’t have the powers. The reality is that they don’t use the powers.
It’s time for some reflection: if the SNP is giving up on helping families, pupils, communities, and the NHS, then it’s time to move aside and call an election.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South