SNP focuses on Scottish independence when everyone knows Covid recovery is the real priority – Ian Murray MP

Westminster rules mean that opportunities for opposition parties to lead their own debates are rare and precious.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 7:00 am
Anas Sarwar, a politician who is in tune with the opinion of the Scottish people, is focusing on a national Covid recovery plan (Picture: John Devlin)

They are a chance for parties to focus on what really matters. Yesterday, it was the SNP’s turn.

They could have chosen to debate the First Minister’s so-called “top priority” – closing the widening education attainment gap.

Or why the SNP hasn’t met its own legal NHS waiting times target since 2012 and broken the law over 300,000 times.

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Or how Scottish business recover from Covid and how we can support those sectors in hospitality, tourism, and culture that will take longest to recover.

Or a debate about the UN’s Cop-26 summit and the climate emergency. Or how to eradicate child poverty.

But no. The SNP used its precious parliamentary time to debate another independence referendum.

What a surprise.

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Unfortunately for the SNP, a new opinion poll was published yesterday which revealed just how out of touch the nationalists are.

Asked to choose the most important issues facing the country today, only eight per cent of Scots said independence.

What came top? Covid recovery.

This should be the priority for us all, not a return to the old divisive arguments. Right now, we need to be coming together.

As we come out of this pandemic, we must solely focus on solutions which ensure that Scotland comes back a better, stronger, fairer nation than the one which went into lockdown last year.

There is one politician who is in tune with the opinion of the Scottish people.

Anas Sarwar unveiled his election campaign plan earlier this week. He didn’t choose to focus on division and separation like the SNP did in yesterday’s opposition debate.

He chose to focus on a national Covid recovery plan.

He announced there will be five themes to his election campaign: a jobs recovery; an NHS recovery; an education recovery; a climate recovery; and a communities recovery.

The pandemic has had a devastating knock-on impact on our NHS, yet cancer hasn’t gone away and remains Scotland’s biggest killer. We need to fully restart cancer services in Scotland and begin a catch-up programme in the health service.

Given our economy has suffered a deeper, sharper hit than the banking crisis, we have also got to create the jobs of the future all across Scotland so can build back stronger than ever before.

And when young people have had their learning disrupted by Covid, we can’t simply let a generation of children go forgotten.

This week, Anas unveiled part of his education recovery plan, with a series of policies including a “personal comeback plan” for every pupil.

Now more than ever, Scotland needs politicians who don’t just say education is a priority; it needs politicians who are committed to it.

What a contrast between the optimism and positivity of Anas Sarwar, who is focused on recovery, and the SNP and the Tories who are obsessed with division that is such a low priority for Scots.

Ian Murray MP is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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