SNP/Green government must focus on Covid recovery, not independence – Ian Murray MP

The SNP and Greens have decided to make their parliamentary relationship formal after five years of working and voting together.

Nicola Sturgeon and the new Green ministers, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, need to focus on helping the country recover from Covid (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Nicola Sturgeon and the new Green ministers, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, need to focus on helping the country recover from Covid (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Their coalition is not about “greening” the Scottish government but obsessing over the constitution. In fact, Nicola Sturgeon immediately said that it would involve a push for another divisive referendum.

The Green leadership joining the government takes the number of ministers to record levels, while the rules have been bent to ensure their colleagues continue to receive public money reserved for opposition parties. How convenient.

To top it all, when Green co-leader Lorna Slater was asked about the controversial new Scottish Cambo oil field and the SNP’s tacit support for it, she said she couldn’t comment because it was a reserved area.

And all this constitutional vanity has come at a time of soaring Covid cases in Scotland.

According to the World Health Organisation, eight of the top 20 Covid hotspots in Europe are currently in Scotland.

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In Edinburgh alone infections are touching 700 per 100,000. All this while the First Minister is trying to pretend she has a flawless record on handling this crisis and delaying attempts to let the public know the truth. The facts, however, always reveal the truth.

For a government enjoying such self-congratulation over its handling of the pandemic, the situation is concerning with record numbers of infections.

By being so complacent, the SNP has failed, yet again, to learn the lessons from previous mistakes, such as fixing the Test and Protect system or meeting its own vaccination targets.

Those record numbers involve Covid ripping through our schools. An Edinburgh school has informed parents that 71 pupils and 13 members of staff tested positive for the virus on one morning alone.

Schools are being asked to send “warn and inform” letters to make pupils, their parents or carers and staff aware of positive cases.

It is leaving pupils, families, guardians and staff scared and uncertain, and further down the line there may be a knock-on impact with further damaging disruption to education.

The lack of resourcing for Test and Protect has put the system on the verge of collapse.

Nicola Sturgeon talks a good game, yet the reality is there are countless parallels between her and Boris Johnson’s disastrous handling of the pandemic. Maybe that’s why she wants him to run Scotland’s Covid inquiry?

Instead of constantly shifting the blame, it would be good, for once, to see some accountability.

Scotland recorded one of the highest Covid mortality rates in the world, and given the current context of rapidly rising cases it’s reasonable to ask if the government is losing control again?

Similarly, the FM likes to remind us that Scotland has some of the most ambitious climate targets in the world, but that is all they are – targets. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported and Greta Thunberg said this week, these targets are not being met.

With such pressing priorities, the new SNP/Green coalition must not be distracted by its obsession with separation but must concentrate solely on getting Scotland past Covid and on the road to recovery.

It’s about time the government embraces some honesty and asks themselves the question “where did it all go wrong?” rather than filling more ministerial cars.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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