By Pamela Nash, Chief executive of Scotland in Union. This article appeared in The Scotsman online, on 30/01/2020.
Yesterday, a film of a rat-infested pile of stinking rubbish in Govanhill was shared on social media by the GMB trade union.
This is what street cleaners in the area are faced with as they try to do their job, and it’s the kind of disgusting problem that local residents are forced to deal with.
Govanhill is one of the country’s most deprived neighbourhoods. It desperately needs more investment in public services to deliver more opportunities for people.
It should be a top priority for the local MSP. Her name is Nicola Sturgeon.
But this week she’s far too busy for trivial issues such as poverty and inequality.
Instead, she’s focused on how to divide communities with a second independence referendum that people don’t want, and how to break up the UK, which people don’t want either.
Her MSPs have even been taking up parliamentary time to debate which flags should fly in front of the Scottish Parliament.
The SNP’s priorities have been laid bare this week.
Nationalists are grandstanding by demanding a referendum they know isn’t going to happen this year in the hope that the public is distracted from their dismal record in government.
Here are just some recent lowlights:
The target for 95 per cent of A&E patients to either be seen, transferred or discharged within four hours has not been met for over two years.
The gap in premature mortality rates between deprived areas and affluent areas has increased to its highest point since 2008.
Scotland has the highest drug death rate in the EU.
Students from down south have a better chance of being offered a university place in Scotland than those based in Scotland.
Police stations are leaking and crumbling across the country.
The number of children in homeless households has risen by 6 per cent, leaving 7,252 children living in temporary accommodation.
The gap between the Scottish employment rate and that of the UK, which is performing better, has reached two percentage points for the first time in nearly two decades.
The SNP has cut council budgets by 7 per cent in real terms between 2013/2014 and 2019/2020, yet there has only been a 2 per cent cut in Scottish Government funding over the same period.
And only yesterday it emerged the SNP is likely to fall dramatically short of its target to improve education in the country’s deprived schools.
It’s no wonder the SNP wants to talk about flags and referendums which aren’t going to happen.
Astoundingly, there has not been a government-led debate on education standards, Nicola Sturgeon’s self-proclaimed priority, in the Scottish Parliament for more than two years.
Barely a quarter of people in Scotland want a divisive second independence referendum this year.
The Nationalists are also desperate to talk about process – the possibility of another contest – rather than the reality of breaking up the UK.
There are many positive reasons for remaining in the UK, but this week’s official export statistics provide just one of the economic arguments.
The new figures for 2018 revealed an increase in exports to the rest of the UK by £1.2billion to £51.2billion, or 60 per cent of the entire total - driven largely by the financial sector.
EU exports grew by £695million to £16.1billion, or 19 per cent. Non-EU exports account for 21 per cent of exports.
That means trade with the rest of the UK is over three times more important for Scotland’s economy than the EU. Whatever your views on Brexit, it’s clear that Scexit is not the answer.
Keeping the pound is beneficial for our trade in goods and services, particularly in financial services which is one of Scotland’s main exports. The SNP’s plans to scrap the pound would have significant negative implications for trade, our wider economy and the cash we each have to live on.
Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal for a separate Scotland in the EU would also risk a hard border with England, jeopardising the frictionless movement of goods and threatening jobs – as well as putting barriers between friends and families.
Harming Scotland’s economy ultimately means there is less money to spend on public services in Scotland.
That is what leaving the UK would do, and it would hit the poorest communities hardest: places such as Govanhill.
The Scottish Parliament has the powers necessary to improve the lives of Scots right now.
Nicola Sturgeon should get back to the job she has been elected to do.
Scotland deserves better.