Writing in The Scotsman, Brian Monteith argued that under devolution and SNP rule Scotland had seen “sluggish economic growth” as well as “poorer outcomes” on social welfare issues while the independence issue was a “drag” on the Scottish economy. Mr Monteith started by pointing out that he expects few changes following the Scottish council elections on Thursday in what has been a “lacklustre” campaign.
He said: “I am not expecting too much change following what appears to be fairly lacklustre campaign.
“It would be encouraging if there were, for Scotland badly needs its politics to change if we are to see the economy expand and provide the wherewithal for supporting those in need of help.
“We also need to see the divisions that opened up in 2014 and have never really gone away be healed, but I don’t hold out much hope there either.
“No, while there is a great deal at stake in regard to repairing our overstretched and underfunded local services I expect apathy to dominate the council elections.
“I remember those of us who campaigned against a Scottish Parliament warning that local government would be significantly emasculated, but I have to admit I don’t think any of us thought it would become quite as bad as it has.
“Indeed, while we made other warnings about the consequences of devolution such as tax rises and over-regulation (both of which have happened) I don’t think any could have predicted the state of Scotland to deteriorate as badly as it has.
“Few Scots realise that over the past 20 years the English population has changed and grown significantly (up 15 percent from 49 million in 2001 to 56 million in 2021).
“Over the same period Scotland’s population increased less than 7 percent from 5.06 million to 5.4 million and is expected to decline after 2028. We really need to grow our economy to improve our public services.
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“Devolution was meant to bring greater democratic accountability for our public services, but can we really claim it has achieved that?
“The struggle to find out who is responsible for what with the administration of the CalMac ferry contracts is a case in point, and it would not surprise me were similar difficulties to emerge with the even bigger contract with Sanjeev Gupta for the Lochaber smelter.
“All the foregoing is not to say devolution could not work. In the right circumstances – namely having a political class who truly believe in it – devolution might have been able to improve most of what it has responsibility for.
“There is no benefit to nationalists of making devolution work for Scotland because it undermines their core message that breaking up the United Kingdom trumps everything, even if it means dire poverty.
“Businesses now literally avoid Scotland. It is time we woke up to the reality of how Scotland is declining.”