FROM reading past letters to these pages it appears there are many in the Alba Party, and even some in the SNP, who regrettably seem to wish the SNP to lose seats in the forthcoming General Election, in spite of the possibility of this resulting in Scotland’s independence being delayed for another decade, or longer.

While most understand that a number of unpredictable events in recent years have combined to frustrate SNP goals in government, it has still been disappointing that more progress has not been made in our quest for self-determination. Of course a Tory UK Government, backed in opposing independence by a predominantly right-wing UK mainstream media, has not helped by cutting Scottish Government budgets and capital funding in real terms or in promoting culture wars at every opportunity (seemingly tacitly supported by the Labour Party in spite of its voting record in Scotland).

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That said, while most would not support UDI, at least for as long as support for independence has not risen significantly above 50%, most probably think the time has come for the SNP to show less respect for past UK conventions (that can be changed on a whim by a UK PM) and to be more assertive in promoting independence. This is not perhaps as straightforward as some appear to believe, given that the SNP only has a fraction of the financial support provided to the Tories and Labour, but there are a number of avenues open to greater exploitation.

It was good to listen to John Swinney at FMQs challenging Anas Sarwar’s criticism of the Scottish NHS by quoting Wes Streeting’s stated determination to increase the NHS use of private-sector services in England and Wales (reducing funds available for a publicly-funded NHS in Scotland) while making the comment, which applies to public services in general, that “all roads lead back to Westminster”.

It was, on the other hand, disappointing when Tommy Sheppard on the BBC’s Debate Night allowed the comment from Tory candidate Luke Graham that “education standards across the rest of the UK are rising” as well as a comment from an audience member that Scotland’s performance on the Pisa tables was “going right down”, to pass without directly addressing and correcting them.

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Of course we have seen, through Stephen Flynn’s persistently interrupted appearance on Question Time recently, how keen the BBC is to shut down positive SNP and independence arguments while generally allowing Westminster responsibilities to be conflated with Holyrood responsibilities, but it seems SNP politicians must be better prepared to counter this bias. It is, however, not acceptable for SNP panel members in TV debates to be denied the opportunity to respond to direct criticisms and to be repeatedly diverted from responding to deliberately slanted interrogation.

Besides disrupting arcane procedures at Westminster, SNP politicians denied the opportunity to respond to direct criticisms on say three or more occasions in a TV debate could simply walk out.

Of course such actions are difficult to contemplate when TV election leadership debates are structured to wrongly imply that the Scottish appointees of the three London-based parties at Holyrood have a say in Westminster decisions while the leader at Westminster of the third-largest party in the UK has no say.

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However, even with the limited election campaign budget of the SNP, there is no reason why, for example on education, SNP politicians cannot be pointing out that Pisa scores have fallen for all UK nations since 2018, and the UK is at its lowest levels in science and maths since 2006.

Furthermore, while questions remain around schools selected to participate in the OECD testing in England, scores for Labour-run Wales, also without the wider objectives of Curriculum for Excellence, have fallen below OECD averages and are far below Scotland, Northern Ireland and England in all three measures of reading, science and maths.

Even better than defending the SNP’s record on public services is to promote relative successes, not only in education, with more students than ever reaching positive destinations, and in the NHS with staffing levels and comparable performance indicators superior to those of our UK neighbours, but also in areas such as reducing poverty where, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, no part of Scotland now features in the list of the UK’s 25 most deprived areas.

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In addition, while some would claim that the SNP have made no progress towards independence in the last ten years, not only are there many positive stories to tell about Scottish Government actions during that period, overall it has been evident that Holyrood under the SNP has reflected higher social and egalitarian aspirations than Westminster, even while others might claim that too much time has been spent helping and protecting some of our most marginalised and disadvantaged citizens.

Should Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar still look to divert from the many failings of “Broken Brexit Britain” by discussing the travails of a former health secretary, perhaps SNP politicians in response should raise questions about the lies of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which had an impact on the lives of thousands of grieving citizens, or about the actions of those accused of profiteering through a corrupt UK Government PPE procurement process and of pocketing tens of millions of pounds, such as Michelle Mone (who I understand still holds a Tory-appointed seat in the House of Lords).

Perhaps opposition MSPs should also be pushed to end their hypocrisy and call out politicians and representatives of their own parties who have not upheld the standards they seemingly expect of others – I don’t remember Douglas Ross calling for the resignations of Johnson or Mone, never mind Liz Truss, and perhaps I missed it, but I don’t believe Anas Sarwar has yet condemned Tony Blair for taking the UK to war on a false premise.

Stan Grodynski
Longniddry, East Lothian