LibLink…Christine Jardine: Referendum drowns out more pressing issues

Former Downing Street insider Christine Jardine, now back in Scotland and selected as a Liberal Democrat Euro-candidate, highlights in the Scotsman how more urgent problems are being forgotten as Scotland gears up for the Independence Referendum.

While all the attention is on 18th September 2014, Christine reminds us that there is some serious stuff going on now:

Traditionally, conferences, like the SNP’s recent gathering in Inverness, are where policy announcements are made, government plans set out and ministers take the opportunity to highlight their successes in the full glare of the media spotlight. But not this time. This time I waited in vain.

I had hoped to hear what the SNP government was planning to do about the growing problems in the National Health Service and recent scandal over waiting times.

Perhaps it would tell us how it is going to overcome the chain of command problems that are threatening the launch of its single police force for Scotland.

Or maybe the SNP would reveal plans to relieve financial pressure on our colleges and tackle the issues surrounding the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence that are so worrying for parents.

She points out that previous administrations have achieved a lot without hanging around for independence. She modestly leaves out that these massive steps forward have the Liberal Democrats’ fingerprints all over them.

Past Scottish administrations didn’t need to wait for independence to introduce free personal care for the elderly, free travel for pensioners or abolish university tuition fees

And while the SNP spend their time complaining about Westminster cuts, they are not putting the extra money they have received from the UK Government to good effect:

Last year, the party told the media almost weekly that it had more than £300 million of “shovel ready” projects that were being held up because it needed the cash from the UK government. The Scottish Government has since received an extra £400m from Westminster and it is not spending it.

It could, for example, have brought forward the promised upgrading of the A9 to dual carriageway and potentially saved lives on that apology for a main trunk road.

She admits that she’s as keen as anybody to engage in the independence debate, but:

I was not fortunate enough to be elected to Holyrood to tackle Scotland’s social problems, protect our children’s future, improve their education and safeguard our health services. The SNP MSPs were. And their leadership was offered the opportunity to serve us all. And surely they can see for themselves the danger in focusing on that one issue – independence – to the exclusion of all others?

The other day, I wrote about how Alex Salmond had a cheek promising Scottish parents that they could only have a childcare revolution after independence, just weeks after Willie Rennie had presented him with a plan for extending nursery provision to 2 year olds as Nick Clegg has done in England. It is becoming a worry in Scotland that we don’t appear to have a Government at the moment, just an adjunct to the independence campaign.

You can read Christine’s full article here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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