Alastair Cameron: Why are the SNP so bad at running the country?

Why are the SNP so bad at running the country?

By Alastair Cameron, Scotland in Union

Nicola Sturgeon asked us to judge her on her education record. The verdict arrived this week from independent assessors, PISA (The Programme for International Student Assessment) and it wasn’t good.

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On almost every significant measure, we seem to be tumbling down the international order. Education, something Scots regard as key to our identity, in a country which brought the enlightenment and some of the world’s greatest ideas and inventions, is no longer something to shout about.

Of course, there could be good reasons for this. The squeeze in public finances, a blip as we move to the Curriculum for Excellence, or even a blip in the methodology in an area that has always been difficult to measure.

But it fits a wider pattern about Scotland and the way our country is being run. Our economy is underperforming the rest of the UK. A recent report into our NHS revealed that performance had declined in six out the eight key targets and nearly a quarter of vulnerable children aren’t getting treatment quickly enough. There is public outrage at the running of our railways. Confidence in our new police force is low after a string of tragedies and controversies. New powers over social security have had to be shelved because the government isn’t ready to take them on.

Let’s be honest: the ‘day job’ of government is difficult. There are good reasons for all of these problems and no one has a magic wand to make them go away. Delivering public services in a time of falling budgets, rising demand and greater expectations is no mean task.

Yet only the most blinded nationalist could argue against the evidence that Scotland’s constitutional debate has at best distracted from these challenges, and at worst provided cover for failure. The current Scottish Government’s failure to tackle vested interests and make tough choices in a bid to keep everyone on side for their constitutional debate is now starting to show. In many ways. It has suited the SNP to let our public services deteriorate when they still believe they can fool people into believing its Westminster’s fault.

I suspect not for much longer though. Just over six months ago, the people of Scotland choose Nicola Sturgeon to be our First Minister and gave her the responsibility of running our economy, our schools and our hospitals.

Even I can see why. She is smart, a good communicator, industrious and, in her own way, principled. And there was no explicit commitment to a referendum in her manifesto.

Our media-savvy First Minister's popularity is no mystery. But can she solve our public services crisis while still trying to resuscitate her independence campaign?

Just about every independent report and expert is telling her she cannot. Every day we are seeing the consequences of putting party interests before the country’s and our children are paying the price.

More and more Scots are opening their eyes to the consequences of a neverendum, in terms of business investment impact and as a distraction from good government. If Nicola Sturgeon won’t use Holyrood's powers to be ‘stronger for Scotland’, then people will eventually give someone else the chance to do it.

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