​Humza’s unhappy new year message to Scottish people - Sue Webber

New Year is supposed to be a time of optimism, of thinking positively about the opportunities in the year ahead, but on Monday the First Minister delivered one of the most depressing speeches I have heard for years. And for an SNP politician that’s saying something.
First Minister Humza YousafFirst Minister Humza Yousaf
First Minister Humza Yousaf

​In trying to sound hopeful for Scotland’s future he spent the best part of an hour rubbishing the United Kingdom, a dismal, defeatist conclusion that the UK can never grow, never be more prosperous. In Humza’s eyes, Britain is a country on which the sun never rises, and will remain in eternal gloom because it is, well, Britain.

His miserable address contained so many contradictions his neck must have hurt after all the twisting he did to make his arguments, beginning by saying the views of people who don’t back independence shouldn’t be dismissed but then did precisely that.

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He argued it was wrong for the UK to leave the European Single Market, but right to leave a UK equivalent worth much more to Scotland. He argued independence was urgent because of the rising cost of living but admitted improving Scotland’s fortunes “wouldn’t happen overnight” and didn’t explain what impact the instant £13bn deficit on leaving the UK would have.

He claimed people on high incomes paid more to support the needy but illustrated it with free prescriptions and free tuition fees which wealthy people can afford, and funnily enough didn’t mention his council tax freeze, which benefits the wealthiest households the most.

He went on about tackling inequality, yet his budget was condemned by the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation for the “brutal” cuts to the affordable housing budget and called for them to be reversed.

He attacked the UK Government for cancelling HS2, presumably not knowing that his Greens sidekick Patrick Harvie, the net zero and active travel minster, was writing to me to wash his hands of responsibility for delivering a promised new train station at Winchburgh. It’s quite something for the Scottish Government’s net zero, active travel champion to be happy for a new community of 3000 homes to be forced into their cars.

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The daddy of them all was the man who bitterly opposed the Rosebank oilfield claimed a new £20bn capital investment fund would be financed through oil revenues. The poor fellow must struggle to remember what day it is.

But it was Humza’s talk about the NHS which really stuck in my throat. NHS Lothian has been forced to put its capital investment programme on hold ─ all NHS Scotland capital spending is expected to be pulled ─ which means no new Eye Pavilion, no new Western General cancer unit, no new national treatment centre at St John’s, and no new central sterilisation unit at the ERI.

And at no point in his diatribe did he suggest working with the UK Government could deliver all the things he wanted, and with which many of us would agree, because this was not a speech calling for national renaissance but euthanasia.

The SNP has had 19 years to build a better Scotland, and all Humza can offer is even more time wasted on these fantasy speeches in the coming months. It’s two years before the next Scottish elections, but the sooner the SNP is put out of its misery the better.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP

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