By LIAM LARGE
The SNP-Green Government have been warned to focus solely on the huge challenges facing Scotland over the next 12 months, rather than be distracted by ‘self-serving’ constitutional wrangling.
The call came from the Scottish Conservatives as they outlined the key priorities they want addressed in today’s (Tuesday) Programme for Government statement, in which Nicola Sturgeon revealed her administration’s plans for the new parliamentary session.
Leader Douglas Ross, left, believes both of Scotland’s governments must work together to help people navigate the cost-of-living crisis in the months ahead, and insisted the Nationalist coalition’s bid to hold a referendum next year is ‘the wrong priority at the worst possible time’.
Instead, he wants their Programme for Government to focus on the following five areas:
- An extensive support package to help Scots deal with soaring prices, including reallocating the £20m earmarked for Indyref2 to those receiving the Scottish Child Payment.
- Growing the Scottish economy by measures such as reinstating business rates relief, freezing the rates poundage for the current financial year and pausing introduction of the workplace parking levy.
- Rebuilding public services, including measures to tackle NHS treatment delays and court backlogs, and dropping plans to set up a £1.3 billion National Care Service and using the money to improve local social care provision.
- Empowering our communities to recover by giving greater funding and powers to councils, improving transport links and introducing initiatives to help those in rural areas and the islands.
- Building for the next generation with a focus on improving education – including establishing a national tutoring programme and replacing Curriculum for Excellence – and a raft of environmental measures.
Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “No one should be under any illusions about how tough the coming winter will be for people across the country, primarily because of soaring global energy costs.
“It’s essential that both the UK and Scottish governments work together to help ease the unprecedented burden on household budgets.
“I know it will be the top priority of the new Prime Minister to add to the £37 billion in support already provided by the UK Government. But the Scottish Government must do its bit to help too and have a laser-like focus on the cost-of-living crisis.
“The last thing Scotland needs right now is for the SNP-Green government to waste time and money on a self-serving push for another divisive independence referendum next year. It is entirely the wrong priority at the worst possible time.
“Nicola Sturgeon should drop this reckless plan and reallocate the £20 million earmarked for it in the form of an extra £200 payment to families receiving for the Scottish Child Payment. That’s just one of several measures I’d like to see her government introduce to help vulnerable families and individuals.
“Businesses will also suffer from the financial squeeze, so Nicola Sturgeon should be reinstating business rates relief and freezing the rates poundage to provide pandemic-level assistance.
“Scotland’s public services are toiling too, so it’s time to rewrite Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid Recovery Plan and drop plans for a costly, centralising National Care Service and redirect that £1.3 billion to improve local social care.
“If the Scottish Conservatives were delivering this Programme for Government, we would also empower local communities, by properly funding councils, and help the next generation by reversing the decline in education standards and protecting the environment.
“At this enormously challenging time, the Scottish Parliament must focus on the right priorities – not the Nationalists’ skewed ones.”