Scotland can do so much better than this

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 ago that I wrote about the Tory leadership election that followed the resignation of Boris Johnson.

I said then that if the people of Scotland had been given a say, it was almost certain we would have chosen neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak to be Prime Minister.

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, the new Prime Minister’s 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. Rishi Sunak is now in Downing Street, the fifth Prime Minister in my time as First Minister.

And yet again, he’s a Tory politician that Scotland didn’t vote for, and doesn’t want.

For Scotland, a new Prime Minister does nothing to solve the fundamental democratic problem we face.

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, I 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 our 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 our ‘Building a New Scotland’ series.

In the paper, we argue 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, 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.