Michelle Ballantyne is a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the South of Scotland
I am standing to be the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives because I want to finish what Ruth Davidson started.
As our most successful post-devolution leader, Ruth took us from being the third party in the Scottish Parliament to being the official opposition. Now I want to lead us into Government.
For the last 10 years the SNP have played constitutional games rather than get down to the serious business of governing.
Ordinary people don’t care about flags or marches. They care about their community, about having good schools and compassionate healthcare.
The SNP’s obsession with independence has meant that those essential public services that people depend and rely upon are broken:
Children are leaving school without being able to read, write or count with Scotland recording its worst ever results in the PISA international comparison of education systems.
The length that young people are waiting for mental health treatment is the worst on record.
Capped university places are squeezing out young and talented Scots.
The NHS faces a staffing crisis, with 4,000 nursing vacancies and 500 vacant consulting posts which is placing an intolerable burden on NHS staff.
We are in the grips of a drugs deaths crisis, with Scotland having more drug-related deaths than any other EU country and even higher than the US.
With crime so high our streets aren’t as safe as they used to be.
Our local councils are starved of the funding they need to provide basic services
Our train network is unreliable with commuters facing delays, cancellations and uncomfortable journeys whilst paying through the nose for it.
The SNP have vandalised Scotland’s public services 0 and they are getting away with it. As John McLaren, economist at Scottish Trends website, pointed out:
“There is a lack of being held to account over policy decisions, in other words too little scrutiny and proper evaluation of the actions of the Scottish government.”
In 2016 we said that would hold the SNP Government to account and be a more effective and robust opposition. But the SNP’s constitutional obsession has become our own constitutional obsession.
As a group in the Scottish Parliament we have had our successes. But is there more that we can do to hold the SNP to account? Yes! Before we can think of being in Government, we need to up our game as an opposition.
With a Health Service in crisis, not to mention the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital fiasco, Jeane Freeman, the Nationalists’ Health Secretary, should be out of a job for her incompetence. Yet still she remains.
Scottish Conservatives should be holding Humza Yousaf’s feet to the fire on rising crime, unsafe streets, and a deteriorating police service. The crisis of confidence in policing should be his full time focus, yet we find him spending his time marching for independence on the streets of Glasgow while police officers are using buckets to collect rainwater leaking through the roofs of their stations.
Whilst the Scottish Conservatives should be dissecting the SNP’s economic case for independence, I cannot help but feel that Kevin Hague, in his spare time, has done more on Twitter to successfully take on the arguments of the nationalist movement than any of the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament. And now the Scottish Conservatives are offering to pass a nationalist budget.
This is not how an effective opposition behaves. We must do more to hold this woeful Government to account. We need to be less timid and more confident in ourselves. If elected leader I will redouble our efforts in leading our fight back against the SNP.
If the Scottish Conservatives are to stand any serious chance of ending the SNP decade of failure and forming the next Scottish Government then we must start addressing the concerns of working people across the country: good schools; compassionate healthcare; safe streets; reliable transport; and lower taxes.
These are the every day priorities of working people and they are my priorities too. Under my leadership the Scottish Conservatives will stand up for the people and communities most let down by the SNP and Labour.
As the latter continues its slide into political irrelevance, working people need and deserve a credible alternative to the Nationalists. This is why the party I lead will reach out to voters in every community, in every part of Scotland, including those people that Scottish Labour took for granted – and have continued to lose to the SNP.
In the last general election we went backwards. Our vote share fell and we lost half of our seats. It was devastating to see us lose such hard-working and talented colleagues. The progress we have made as a party was nearly all undone.
Telling ourselves “it’s not as bad a result as was predicted” is not good enough. Serious lessons need to be learned. There is no room for complacency, change is needed. I offer that change.
So, to the membership of the Scottish Conservatives who are now empowered to make the choice of next Party leader, I say:
Come with me for a fairer Scotland. A Scotland that delivers aspirational education, a fairer justice system, compassionate healthcare, lower taxes, safer streets, reliable transport, and a society where you benefit from the hard work you put in to it and which looks after you in return.
Come and join me for a united Scotland and a better future.
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