Thus, next month, in the Scottish local elections, the Scottish National Party want you to vote on Westminster.
There is a man who lives in Westminster, broke the Covid rules, and was investigated and then fined by the Metropolitan Police. So, we should all “send Boris a message”, apparently. That is the sum total of the SNP offer in these elections.
That is the pitch from a woman from Irvine who has repeatedly been seen breaking the Covid rules she set for Scotland – the latest being only last weekend. But in her case de ella Police Scotland decided not to investigate further for some reason, and just told her off on the day the rules ceased to apply.
I wonder what message that sends about Scotland to the rest of the world when our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon breaks the rules she sets, but the police force she is in charge of decides not to investigate. It is an interesting contrast with the approach taken by the Metropolitan Police.
In local elections, we expect parties to identify issues which resonate in the areas they are standing in, and to win votes with their solutions to them. This is, after all, about the control of city chambers and town houses and their budgets.
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Not so in Scotland. Worried about the infestations of rats in Glasgow? “Send a message to Boris” apparently, while the SNP council leader there insists that “all cities have rats”. Troubled by the state of the roads in Edinburgh? Don’t send a message to the SNP council leaders there, once again Boris should be the recipient.
If this was worth taking seriously at all, it would suggest a dependency culture on the part of the SNP – they seem entirely dependent on Boris Johnson to try to win votes.
But it is deeply depressing if you believe, as I do, in local democracy.
One of the arguments put by critics of the Prime Minister is that he cannot use the war in Ukraine as an excuse to stay in office, as that conflict is about the rule of law and democracy.
Nicola Sturgeon would doubtless agree with that, but when she has a system of local democracy in Scotland she does not want to use it to the benefit of local communities. She would rather “send a message to Westminster”, than sort out the refuse and rubbish that festoons the streets of Govanhill within her own constitution.
While she tries to avoid scrutiny by focussing on what she sees as a UK leadership crisis, the Scottish Conservatives are focussing on something closer to home – the cost-of-living crisis. We are proposing a council tax freeze when funds allow, and an increased discount for single-person households – up from 25 to 35 per cent, recognizing the reality that it is single people, often elderly, who will be hardest hit by rising food and heating costs.
On this, the SNP is silent. Well, perhaps they would be. They came to office 15 years ago with a firm pledge to “abolish the hated council tax”. Since then they have clearly learned to love it, and rather than scrapping it have slashed council budgets to such an extent that these local authorities have had no option but to increase it.
Whether you agree with replacing the council tax or not, it is the kind of thing that should be being debated ahead of local elections. Things that make a difference to where people live – locally.
There are other substantial Conservative ideas in this election in a packed manifesto. These include a new focus on schools, with support for additional staff to help those who have fallen behind as a result of Covid restrictions. There are plans for a new initiative on potholes to improve our crumbling roads, and opposition to the SNP’s hated workplace parking levy, or “car park tax”.
You won’t find much in the way of concrete policies to improve our local communities in the SNP campaign. It’s all about “sending a message”. Yet in a twisted piece of logic, that illustrates the corkscrew of SNP thinking perfectly. They claim that to discuss local issues at a local election is to deflect from Boris Johnson, when Boris Johnson is being used to deflect from their own record and lack of ideas.
It could be merely an ironic observation that the Scottish National Party wants to talk about anything but Scotland when it comes to election time. The tragedy for this country is that it is deeply damaging to Scotland. The troubles of urban and rural communities alike are plainly visible, but in an ancient regime parody our First Minister’s orders: “let them talk cake”.
I doubt that Boris Johnson knows much about the state of the streets of Edinburgh. I suspect he has little first-hand knowledge of the over-flowing bins and litter strewn streets of Glasgow and so many of our communities. He probably hasn’t seen himself for the rats that infest too many of our urban environments.
But if he did I suspect he would want to do something about them, even if he saw it just as an opportunity to win votes in a local election.
Nicola Sturgeon knows all about the state of our streets, the refuse, the filth and the vermin. But she either does not care about them, or she does not know what to do about them. She just wants to talk about Boris. Surely Scotland, as it goes to the polls in two weeks’ time, deserves better than this?
Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife
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