Nicola spreads confusion on the nationalist side - Sue Webber

Lothian Tory MSP Sue WebberLothian Tory MSP Sue Webber
Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber
On Tuesday all eyes will be on Scotland as the Queen appoints our new Prime Minster at Balmoral.

But meanwhile in Holyrood the First Minster will present her Programme for Government, no doubt built around her flagging attempt to turn future Prime Ministerial visits into those of a foreign potentate.

Whether Ms Sturgeon relishes the return to her day job after an August spent flitting between cosy Festival chats is a matter of rumour, but fuelled by her eagerness to share thoughts about a future beyond politics with each Edinburgh audience.

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On Tuesday we will see just how much heart she has for the job she’s paid to do, but the evidence of the past few weeks is her mind has been elsewhere, when it should have been focussed on finding the cash from the record budget her administration enjoys ─ her own figures show Scottish public spending is approximately £2000 a head more than the UK average ─ to settle the damaging dispute.

Her introspection has regularly gone further than expected, but masks worn by such a determined politician don’t slip four or five times in a month, and her “confession” about how she felt British ─ without expressing any pride in it ─ looked more like an attempt to dupe voters undecided about independence.

Maybe it was just a big wheeze to wind up the opposition by giving the impression that continued occupancy of Bute House is a matter of personal whim, but while she lapped up the adulation on stage, the decaying detritus from the bin strike mounted ever higher on the streets outside.

And then her Commons leader chipped in with a declaration of love for Westminster and the 2014 Yes strategist Stephen Noon called for an end to the all-or-nothing approach to independence, so something is very definitely afoot.

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I don’t believe for a minute there has been a collective conversion in the SNP leadership to a different path, but whatever doubts we may have on the Conservative benches about the sincerity, there is no doubt it has spread confusion in Nationalist quarters.

They know she has locked herself into losing referendum strategy while public services deteriorate. She spends time talking about the choices for her own future while people in some parts of Scotland have a lower life expectancy than Third World Countries. She schmoozes her way around the Book Festival while Scottish education slips further down the international rankings. And as immigration to the UK continues to grow, the Scottish population is predicted to slump.

There must be a better way forward than simply to reject any responsibility for repeated failures and expect the public to believe it’s all Westminster’s fault, and no matter how much Ms Sturgeon claims Scotland would be better off under independence, there is no doubt it would be a lot better than it is now if its leader concentrated on the powers she has, not those she hasn’t.

Only she knows if her curtain is coming down, but on Monday she told actor Brian Cox she couldn’t wait until she reached the stage of what Cox described as feeling “I just don't give a f*** anymore”.

On Tuesday, that’s one choice not open to her. Or us.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians

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