Tory divide-and-rule: leader candidates attack SNP’s record

Sunak and Truss: they’ll be attacking the Scottish government at a hustings event in Perth.

It’s all a bit predictable, isn’t it? Still, if it works, there’s no reason they wouldn’t carry on with it.

I refer, of course, to the Tory tactic of “divide and rule” – currently on full display in that party’s leadership election campaign.

Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have ventured into Scotland, where they said the ruling SNP should be challenged on its record, and affirmed their opposition to another independence referendum.

The SNP has retaliated by pointing out (correctly) that neither candidate is offering a solution to the current cost-of-living crisis – and suggesting that both will boost support for Scottish independence.

Sunak has announced a plan to roll back devolution to ensure “every single” government department operated UK-wide, despite key policy areas such as education and health having been in the control of Holyrood since 1999.

That’s unconstitutional, of course.

He also called for regular reports from Scotland on the delivery of key services, so these can be compared across the UK. That seems to be another attempt to establish lines of criticism that could be used to accuse the Scottish administration of failure (probably on false bases).

Truss just went straight for the jugular, saying she would make changes to the Scotland Act to give MSPs the same full parliamentary privilege as MPs at Westminster, so they would have legal immunity from prosecution over statements made in Holyrood, instead of the narrower set of protections against defamation claims and some court actions they have now.

If that seems like a bonus for MSPs, think again: Truss wants it in order to “allow for more robust questioning for ministers” and “increase the powers of the Scottish parliament to hold the Scottish government to account”. It’s all about attacking the SNP administration.

She amplified on this by saying (according to the BBC),

“I’ll make sure that my government does everything to ensure elected representatives hold the devolved administration to account for its failure to deliver the quality public services, particularly health and education, that Scottish people deserve.”

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, reminded voters that throughout the cost of living crisis, while other nations’ governments have acted to support the most vulnerable people, the UK’s Tory government has “sat on its hands”. He said:

“Whoever wins this leadership contest, Scotland loses.”

That’s true – but it’s not the argument for independence that he insists it is, because it applies across the United Kingdom. We all lose as long as any Tories remain in office at all. That’s something we should all remember as this leader election draws to its close.

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