Battle lines drawn as SNP urge voters to ‘send a message’ to Boris Johnson

The First Minister said the election had taken on “added importance” following the ends dished out to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak for breaking lockdown rules.

She launched the SNP’s campaign bus in Dundee, with text on the side of the vehicle asking voters to “send Boris a message, ease the squeeze”.

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Ms Sturgeon said: “If anything, this election has taken on added importance in recent days because of what we’ve seen develop around the Prime Minister.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with candidates and party supporters at Dundee Law in Dundee at the launch for the SNP’s campaign bus

“The Prime Minister has been found to be a serial breacher of Covid rules and has also repeatedly misled the House of Commons, and yet is refusing to accept any consequences for that.

“So this election is an opportunity for people to send a message to Boris Johnson that they find his behavior and response completely unacceptable.

“And of course it is an opportunity to put the cost of living center stage.”

Mr Ross said he was “very optimistic” going into the May 5 vote.

His party’s campaign launch was overshadowed by news of the Downing Street ends, with the Scottish Tory leader insisting it would be wrong to remove the Prime Minister from office during the war in Ukraine.

He previously led calls for Mr Johnson to resign, but U-turned following Russia’s invasion.

Mr Ross said: “I think voters can make the difference between national issues which are rightly angering people. And I’m angry.

“I think the Prime Minister’s actions were completely unacceptable. I said that back in January and had it not been for a war in Ukraine, my position would be the same.

“But I also have to look at the situation where we have atrocities happening in Europe and innocent men, women and children being murdered on a daily basis by war criminal Vladimir Putin and his troops.

“These national issues are clearly dominating much of the national coverage, but people also know that they’re electing local councilors for the next five years.”

I added: “I’m very optimistic. We have great candidates right across the country. We’re the only party standing a candidate in every ward in mainland Scotland.

“I’ve been getting around all the council areas, knocking on doors and listening to concerns.”

Mr Ross said there is “no doubt that national issues do come up” with voters, but claimed they are more concerned with local priorities such as potholes and education standards.

He added: “That’s why we’re saying it should be about local priorities, not the nationalist priority – because we know Nicola Sturgeon will use every vote for the SNP as another proxy vote for her to hold another referendum to divide the country all over again and split us up from the rest of the UK.”

Launching his party’s manifesto on Thursday, Mr Ross said Tory councilors would be “totally focused” on helping pupils, fixing local roads and protecting services, while keeping council tax rises low.

The manifesto included a pledge to pressure the Scottish Government to “fund a pilot extension to the school day, to further help pupils to catch up on missed learning”.

Mr Ross said teachers would be given extra pay to compensate for additional hours worked.

Speaking at a campaign event in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, he said: “I absolutely know the huge workload that teachers have gone through over the last two years.

“The work that teachers have done throughout the pandemic and continued to do has been absolutely immense.”

I have added: “[Teachers] won’t be asked to work for longer in this pilot without any remuneration. They would be paid for the extra hours they do.

“In some cases, it may be helpful that they can extend their day to support more pupils throughout the day because they are being asked to do an awful lot in a constrained amount of time when young people are preparing for exams and need as much help as possible.”

Ms Sturgeon met SNP candidates on top of Dundee Law on Friday morning as she launched the party’s campaign bus, which will tour Scotland in the 21 days ahead of May 5.

It is due to stop in nine council areas including Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Angus and Edinburgh over the bank holiday weekend.

Speaking to The Scotsman, she rejected suggestions her administration had underfunded councils.

Local government funding reduced by 4.2 per cent in real terms between 2013/14 and 2020/21, once Covid cash was excluded, according to the Accounts Commission.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think if you look at the total local government financial settlement, we have, within the budgets we have got, prioritized local services to the best of our ability.”

She added: “This is a difficult financial climate for the Scottish Government, a difficult financial climate for councils, I don’t deny that.

“But we continue to make decisions that seek to maximize the resources going to councils, and therefore their ability to prioritize local services.”

Earlier, she said the Scottish Government had offered councils an extra £120 million before the recent budget, ahead of their ask of £100 million.

The First Minister said her administration had “already taken a number of steps” to combat the cost of living crisis, including doubling the Scottish Child Payment benefit.

She said: “We’ll do everything we can, but most of the powers, most of the resources to help here, do lie at Westminster, and we need to see the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, who are showing themselves to be woefully out of touch here, step up and do much more.

“And this election is an opportunity for people to send a message that’s what they want to see.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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