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Given power over a bit of the benefits system—the welfare fund, crisis loans and community care grants—the SNP has managed to create something that looks more like the parish and the poor law than a modern welfare system.
Families are being sent to food banks because the SNP Government has failed to get support out to them, not through malice but through sheer incompetence and inattention to detail. That is what happens when we have a cabinet secretary who is more interested in the priorities of her party than the obligations of her office and the people whom she is supposed to serve. That is what happens when we have a Government that puts Scotland on pause.
In this Parliament, there is only one story for the SNP, and only one bill in the programme that its members care about: the referendum. There are 384 long days to go, and it will seem like 380 years.
With every day, Scotland wants separation a little less—perhaps one in four people at present, we see today—but incredibly, with every day, the SNP also seems to want independence a little less. It now proposes that we keep the British monarch and the British pound, that we let the UK run our fiscal policy, and that we keep our UK passports, the UK energy network and UK research funding. We will be in Europe, but we will be out of the euro, Schengen and the common fisheries policy, and we will ignore European pension law.
Some SNP members even try to say that we can leave the United Kingdom but still be in the United Kingdom. It is, as one of the SNP’s cheerleaders in the press said today, independence
“diluted to the point of meaninglessness”.
The Government’s legislative programme accurately reflects the character and circumstances of this SNP Government. This SNP Government is trapped in a devolved Parliament that it has never believed in and never will believe in. It is constrained by a desire to show the Parliament’s limitations, rather than push its boundaries to help the people of Scotland. It is blinded by the pursuit of an independence cause that it no longer even believes in itself.
The programme is the measure of the limitations of that Government; it is not a measure of the limitations of this Parliament. This is the dynamic, developing, devolved Parliament that the Scottish people believed in 16 years ago and still believe in. It gives us powerful, wide-ranging and growing choices over health, education, justice, jobs and, increasingly, taxation—let us use those powers—while giving us the opportunities that are provided by shared risk and rewards in the bigger social and economic union that our forefathers in the Labour movement built, supported, created and argued for.
Let us make the most of that opportunity. What Scotland needs is a Government and a programme that believe in this Parliament, as we do. This programme is not that programme, and the SNP Government is not that Government.