Sturgeon clashes with reporter over independence questions
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Nicola Sturgeon has come under furious attack after the Scottish Tory leader raged it is “completely bonkers” the Government’s first debate after the Christmas break will be about Scottish independence and not the NHS “crisis”. Douglas Ross has lashed out at Ms Sturgeon’s ruling SNP/Green Government during a speech in Edinburgh – days before MSPs return to Holyrood on Tuesday.
But instead of the NHS crisis sweeping through Scotland, parliament is scheduled to to discuss the independence issue then in a Government debate on “People’s Right to Choose – Respecting Scotland’s Democratic Mandate”.
The Scottish Conservative leader warned the NHS is the country is in “the grip of a winter crisis” with waiting times “spiralling” and staff left “overworked”.
He highlighted major issues that have battered the NHS over recent weeks, with A&E services on the brink, ambulances queueing outside hospitals unable to deliver patients and a huge shortage of beds.
Mr Ross raged: “Fear not — parliament is back on Tuesday so surely we will be having a meaningful debate on supporting our NHS, our doctors and nurses, our paramedics, staff across the service and delivering for patients.
“Well you’d hope so, you’d expect so, but no. The SNP/Green government have scheduled the first debate of the 2023 session about independence.
“There was a time it was almost laughable that they were obsessed with speaking about separation at every turn. Now as people are lying on hospital floors and dying because of delay in being treated, the SNP negligence is criminal.”
He added: “We’re starting right now with a crisis in our NHS, we know there’s the potential for our education system to suffer as a result of strike action, we know there is this real, cost-of-living crisis that is going to continue.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine, we don’t know what’s going to happen for the remainder of the year, we know public services are struggling, they need more support.
“Yet the first debate we’re having in Holyrood is independence. That’s the first thing the SNP/Green Government think is important to speak about in the Parliament just down the road just next week.”
Commenting further on the independence debate on Tuesday, he insisted: “I think that is completely bonkers, it is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not a priority, it’s not a priority for me, it’s not a priority for my party. There is so much more we can focus on.”
Ms Sturgeon suffered a blow at the end of last year when the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Government cannot stage a second referendum on independence without Westminster’s consent.
She has now instead vowed to make the next UK general election – scheduled for May 2024 – a de facto referendum.
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The SNP are expected to reveal more details of this strategy when they hold a special conference in the subject in March.
Mr Ross admitted 2022 had been a “difficult” year for the Conservatives in Westminster, culminating in three different Prime Ministers and party leaders – Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and currently Rishi Sunak.
The Scottish Tory leader acknowledged this “political turbulence in London” has “impacted” on the party north of the border and that it had been a “source of great frustration” to him.
But he believes the installation of Mr Sunak into the 10 Downing Street hot seat has brought with it “quiet stability and competency” to Westminster.
Mr Ross said: “I believe we have turned a corner. Rishi Sunak is beginning to restore the Government’s reputation for competency and stability, and that he can win back the support of the British people.”
The SNP declined to comment on the speech from the Scottish Tory leader, instead choosing to point towards comments from the Government’s business manager George Adam in Holyrood back on December 22.
He had said: “I will never apologise for encouraging parliament to debate the right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future.”
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