Scotland can do so much better than this

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Sunak as Prime Minister is a total affront to democracy

Here we are again – watching, with a depressing sense of deja vu, utter chaos reign at Westminster.

It’s hard to believe that it is just two months since the Tory leadership election that followed the resignation of Boris Johnson.

As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at that time, it is almost certain the people of Scotland would have chosen neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak to be Prime Minister had we been given a say. As it happened, the tiny number of Tory party members who did get a say chose Liz Truss.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Within two weeks of her appointment, Ms Truss’ disastrous policy of tax cuts for the richest had crashed the economy, sent mortgage rates soaring, and brought pension funds to the brink of collapse. All of it heaped even more misery on people who are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

There is no doubt that the mess the UK is now in is the fault of the Tory party – but it is people and businesses who are paying the price of their incompetence. People are struggling to pay mortgages, heat their homes, buy food and pay bills. More and more are being forced into abject poverty.

Indeed, all that Liz Truss achieved in her short tenure as Prime Minister was to make an already difficult cost-of-living crisis so much worse. Unfortunately for her – and more importantly the country – that will be the dreadful legacy of her short period in office.

But the circus has already moved on.

Now in Downing Street we have the fifth Prime Minister in the time that Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister of Scotland – Rishi Sunak, a further continuation of the Johnson brand. So close was Sunak with Johnson that he also received a fine from the Metropolitan Police for partying in Downing Street.

And yet again, he’s a Tory politician that Scotland didn’t vote for, and doesn’t want. A total affront to democracy. That’s what this Tory government is.

Let’s be honest, clearly it is not remotely in their interest to call an election. With current polling, the Tory party would be eviscerated – with some polls suggesting they would win so few seats that the SNP would become the UK’s official opposition to a Labour Government.

And so, shamelessly, without a hint of concern for democracy, the unelected Sunak has taken up post and is set to continue the mismanagement of the economy and our country. The public should not have to put up with this, yet we are subject to the whims of the Tory party.

It does not matter to them that the manifesto upon which they were elected to deliver lies in tatters. They are making policy up on the hoof – and it is all policy that is attempting to correct the damage they have inflicted upon the country over the last 12 years of government.

More generally for Scotland, a new Prime Minister does nothing to solve the fundamental democratic problem we face. It’s difficult to see Sunak as anything other than the leader of administrators who have been called in to manage the decline and wrapping up of the United Kingdom as an entity.

Scotland hasn’t voted Tory since the 1950s, and yet time and again, we have to put up with governments we don’t vote for. The bottom line is that Scottish votes don’t decide the outcome of UK elections.

So for as long as Scotland is part of a broken Westminster system, we will always be vulnerable to getting governments we don’t vote for, implementing policies that do real damage to our country. Indeed, as the news of Liz Truss’s resignation started to emerge, Nicola Sturgeon was chairing a summit of energy companies, advice organisations and anti-poverty campaigners to discuss what more can be done to tackle high energy bills.

Unfortunately – as is so often the case – Westminster decisions are making that more difficult. For example, the curtailing of the Energy Price Guarantee by the new Chancellor last week – in what was yet another U-turn – has removed any certainty people and businesses had.

Even the current cap of £2,500 – in place until April – is a very significant increase for households already struggling to pay bills and heat their homes. And yet there is now no clarity at all on the support with bills that will be provided after April next year.

Whilst the Scottish Government will continue to work hard within its limited powers and finite budget to support people, businesses, public services and the economy, it is clear that the UK government needs to do more to help in the short term – and that in the longer term, more substantial reform of the energy market is needed to address sky-high bills.

But while action from the UK government is badly needed, it simply lurches from one crisis to another. Remember how, in the 2014 independence referendum, the Westminster parties often framed the choice as being between the strength and stability of the UK on the one hand, and the risk and uncertainty of independence on the other?

Well, if that was ever the case – which it wasn’t – it certainly isn’t now. No one can now argue that the UK economy offers strength, stability or certainty.

Now, more than ever, it’s clear that the UK is heading in the wrong direction. The economy is stuck in a cycle of low growth, low productivity and rising inequality. And we are continuing to feel the damaging impact of a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for.

Last week, the Scottish Government published the third paper in its ‘Building a New Scotland’ series. The paper argues that a stronger, fairer, more sustainable economy is much more possible for Scotland with independence, than it ever will be as part of the UK.

By combining Scotland’s many economic strengths and abundant resources – particularly our vast renewable energy potential – with the powers that come with independence and an economic model built on social partnership and good, stable governance, we can build an economy that works for everyone, everywhere.

There can’t be many people, if any, who look at Westminster right now and think this is as good as it gets – it is not. Scotland can do so much better, and the SNP will continue to make the case for how and why.

It is crystal clear that the right thing for the UK right now — and the right thing for democracy – is to have a general election and throw this government out. It is a turbulent time and an election is not ideal, but the most damaging path we can take is allowing the Tories to stay in Government.

The best path for us in Scotland is independence in the EU, a choice about which the Scottish people have expressed time after time in election after election in recent years.

That referendum is coming.