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Scottish Conservatives claim SNP 'wasted' more than 24 hours debating indyref2 in last parliament

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives (Alamy)

Scottish Conservatives claim SNP 'wasted' more than 24 hours debating indyref2 in last parliament

The Scottish Conservatives have accused the SNP of "wasting" more than 24 hours debating a second independence referendum during the last Scottish Parliament session.

They have claimed that Nicola Sturgeon's party spent 1,488 minutes exchanging views on indyref2 in the 2016 to 2021 term, which they believe should have been spent focusing on jobs, the drug deaths crisis and schools. 

In their breakdown, the Tories have cited the time it took to pass the Referendums Bill, as well as minutes spent discussing motions which call for an independence referendum or the need for more devolution to the Scottish Parliament. 

Douglas Ross, who is campaigning in Edinburgh today, said: "The SNP wasted more than 1,400 minutes of parliament’s time on another referendum that Scotland didn’t want. 

"During that time, drug deaths soared and our schools continued to slide down international league tables. The SNP took their eye off the ball and the damage was disastrous. 

"If they win a majority, they’ll squander even more time on their obsession, just when we all need to be 100 per cent focused on tackling the health and economic crisis.

"Instead of trying to create jobs and improve public services now, they’ll plan for a fantasy future. 

"The SNP have no economic case for independence, so they’ll waste time inventing one instead of tackling the economic crisis facing us right now. 

"They will wreck Scotland’s recovery with a reckless referendum. Their plan would cost jobs and risk a prolonged recession."

Responding to Ross, an SNP spokesperson said: "This election requires serious politicians with serious ideas for the leadership and direction of this country.

"Mr Ross is clearly not up to the task. He might be happy wasting his time on stupid claims like this but we are not going to waste time on responding, instead we will continue our focus on getting Scotland through the pandemic, building a strong recovery and keeping Scotland in safe hands with the experienced leadership of Nicola Sturgeon."

Sturgeon's preference is for the independence question to be put to voters within the first half of the new session – a period of time which will last until the end of 2023.

However, she previously acknowledged that if the country is still battling a pandemic in the same way it is now, the realities of COVID would guide that timescale.

Meanwhile, Willie Rennie has used a campaign visit to Eyemouth to say that recovery should be put first, ahead of the independence debate. 

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said: "We have just had five consecutive days of confusing arguments inside the nationalist camp about the border, the currency and whether to join the EU. If the nationalists get a majority it will be like this for five whole years.  

"Emma Harper said borders were a good thing then Nicola Sturgeon insisted they weren’t. Mike Russell wanted another EU referendum but Alex Salmond didn’t. And to make matters worse Lorna Slater said using the pound would be catastrophic. 

"This is the box of freaky arguments that the country will be subjected to if the nationalists win a majority of seats in the parliament on 6 May."

Sturgeon, however, believes the SNP is the only party who will lead Scotland out of the pandemic and drive economic recovery.

The SNP leader, campaigning in Wigtown today, was expected to say: "After a year which has tested all of us like never before, the election next Thursday is the most important in Scotland’s history - and the SNP is the only party offering serious and experienced leadership to take the country through the pandemic and build a recovery that works for everyone.

"Leading Scotland through the pandemic, I don’t pretend that we have got everything right - but I do know that we have learned and changed our approach as international understanding of this virus has developed - and we have a plan to build a sustainable recovery.

"Our investment plan for the next parliament has creating jobs at its heart - including £33bn in infrastructure investment, which will support 45,000 jobs, and our plan to deliver 100,000 homes over the next decade.

"We’ll also get Scotland’s economy ready for the future by investing in supporting the creation of greener jobs, or providing people whose current jobs are at risk with the opportunity to retrain in high-tech, high-skill and greener jobs."

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