An independence referendum should be the last thing on Sturgeon’s mind

The writer is the leader of the Scottish Labor party

As Scotland’s first minister walked into the chambers of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, announcing her plans to hold an independence referendum on 19 October 2023 was not her primary aim. .

Keen observers of Scottish politics will know that last week’s statement was really about one thing: positioning the Scottish National party for the next UK general election.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister and Nicola Sturgeon are not polar opposites – in fact, they are in a symbiotic relationship, relying on each other to maintain the political status quo that keeps them in power.

Scots are facing a cost of living crisis unlike any we’ve seen in recent years and our economy, is still reeling from the damage of pandemic, is lagging behind other parts of the UK.

The challenges facing the Scottish government could not be greater – nor could they create the opportunity to tackle poverty, support businesses and jumpstart our economy.

But instead of standing up to these challenges, the SNPs are returning to the arguments of the past and sowing division to distract from the chaos and failure of their government.

Instead of dealing with the thorny issues of the day, we have two governments supporting each other and trying to divide communities for political gain – but you can’t play politics while lives and livelihoods of people is in equilibrium.

Since the last election to the Scottish parliament in May 2021, nearly 5,000 people have died from Covid – the 51-year-old in the past week. There are more than 700,000 Scots on the NHS waiting list, with more than 10,000 children and young people lining up for mental health appointments. And, as of last week, there are almost 20,000 fewer businesses in Scotland than there were when the pandemic began.

Last month, the Bank of England warned that inflation could reach 11% – meaning higher bills and a worsening cost of living.

But rather than focusing on recovering and rebuilding our economy and public services, Sturgeon is more interested in making the SNP relevant in a general election.

By pledging to make the next general election a “de facto” referendum on Scottish independence, Sturgeon is sending a clear message to Scots: if you care about the NHS, your child’s education or supporting businesses – don’t vote SNP.

Scottish politicians should aspire to be a little better than Johnson and the Tories. But for that to happen, we need a political leadership focused on the priorities of the people and on recovering our country from the pandemic.

Incidentally, this is what the SNP promised to deliver during last year’s Scottish election. At that time, we were still living under the restrictions of Covid. More than 10,000 of our compatriots have lost their lives.

Sturgeon said during her campaign that those who do not support a referendum or independence through reinstatement should vote for her, safe in the knowledge that a referendum would not be a priority. hers.

Fast forward to now and our post-pandemic recovery hasn’t even begun. But Sturgeon who said she wanted to pull us through is gone and Sturgeon wants to divide our country is back – pursuing a referendum that more than half of Scots don’t want at the moment. this.

The first minister is using his election victory last year to pursue a divisive politics. But the people of Scotland deserve much better.

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