Sturgeon with eye off the ball will ‘drag Scotland down’

An SNP Government focussed on another referendum with its eye off the ball would “drag Scotland down”, Douglas Ross has said.

Scottish Conservatives analysis found that five years of Nicola Sturgeon pushing for another referendum could result in 2,000 annual drug deaths, record high violent crime figures and record low PISA school scores, all based on current trends.

Under questioning from Douglas Ross in last week’s STV debate, Sturgeon admitted she had taken her ‘eye off the ball’ on drug deaths in Scotland, which have doubled since she became First Minister.

Today Douglas Ross will launch an ad van campaign to highlight the damage from the SNP taking their ‘eye off the ball’ again, after their manifesto confirmed they will seek another referendum while Scotland is still in the ‘recovery phase’ of the pandemic.

The ad van, showing the SNP leader fixated on indyref2 at the expense of every domestic issue, will be launched in Nicola Sturgeon’s own constituency, outside a drug rehab centre that closed on her watch in 2019.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Every time Nicola Sturgeon pushes for another independence referendum and takes her eye off the ball, Scotland suffers.

“She will drag Scotland down and wreck our recovery from Covid if the SNP win a majority because her eyes will only be focussed on independence.

“We’ve seen what happens when she takes her eye off the ball.

“Drug deaths have doubled on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch to the worst in Europe. When she’s pushing for another referendum, her eye will be off the ball again and we won’t be able to fix the broken system.

“Our schools have hit record lows in international league tables under the SNP. If the focus is on another referendum again, the current trend would see Scotland fall behind Spain, Hungary and Lithuania.

“Violent crime has increased every year that Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister. It will hit record 22-year highs if she’s allowed to spend the next five years pushing for another referendum.

“An SNP majority hell-bent on another independence referendum would wreak havoc in our communities. The damage from five more years of distraction would be devastating.

“Scotland has a choice of two futures – we can focus on rebuilding Scotland or on another divisive referendum.

“With their peach party list ballot, pro-UK voters have the power to stop an SNP majority, stop their plans for another referendum, and stop them taking their eye off the ball on jobs, schools, drug deaths and every other key issue.”



Our analysis of current trends is as follows:


Drug deaths

Scotland could be facing over 2,000 drug deaths per year in 2026. On average since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, annual drug deaths have increased by 130 each year. In 2019 (the latest statistics) drug deaths at 1,264 were double what the 614 that they were in 2014.  If this trend continues then there could be 2,174 deaths in 2026. (National Records of Scotland, Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2019, 15 December 2020, link).


Scotland could fall below international averages to new lows on mathematics and science. Scotland’s international PISA score on mathematics has fallen from 506 in 2006 to 489 in 2018. If the trend continues then Scotland could hit 481 by the 2024 assessment, below the average of 489 and in line with countries like Spain, Hungary and Lithuania. PISA score on science has fallen from 515 in 2006 to 490 in 2018. If the trend continues then Scotland could hit 478 by the 2024 assessment, below the average of 489 and below countries like Hungary, Spain and Lithuania. (Scottish Government, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018: Highlights from Scotland's results, 3 December 2019, link).



Violent crime could hit a 22-year high due to the SNP’s soft touch justice system. Violent crime has increased since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, increasing from 6,272 in 2014/15 to 9,316 in 2019/20. If this trend continues then violent crime could reach over 15,000 in 2025/26, its highest level since 2003/4. (Scottish Government, Recorded Crime in Scotland 2019-20, 29 September 2020, link).



14 of the SNP’s biggest broken promises from their 14 years in power are as follows -

1.                   Broke their promise to pass an Education Bill:

2017 promise: ‘introducing an Education Bill to reform school governance – giving more powers to headteachers, more support to teachers and strengthening the role of parents’ (Programme for Government, 2017-18, pg. 13, link).

Reality: ‘The SNP abandoned their Education Bill despite calling it their flagship reform. Sturgeon originally said that ‘A new education bill will deliver the biggest and most radical change to how our schools are run that we have seen in the lifetime of devolution’ (Scottish Parliament, Official Report, 5 September 2017, link).


2.                   Broke their promise to pass Michelle’s Law – a law for victims:

2018 promise: ‘We will also take forward a package of measures to better support the victims of crime, and put victims and witnesses at the heart of our reforms to our justice system. We will put in place further reforms to our justice system to strengthen victims’ rights and support, increase transparency and extend the opportunity for those affected by crime to have their voices heard. We want to do all we can to improve the experience of victims.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government, September 2018-19, pg.4, link).

Reality: Michelle’s Father said that ‘in two years there have been no changes’ and added ‘I thought it was becoming law but it has disappeared. He [Mr Yousaf] did set up a taskforce but what has it actually done? Zero.’ (BBC News, 25 September 2020, link).

3.                   Broke their promise to deliver two new ferries for Scotland’s islands:

2017 promise: ‘building two new major vessels for the Calmac Network, the first of which will be launched during the year’. (Programme for Government, 2017-18, pg.62, link).

Reality: The ferries are now 5 years overdue and completion date has been pushed back to 2023. (The Herald, 25 August 2020, link).

4.                   Broke their promise to build at least 50,000 more affordable homes by the end of the 2016-21 Parliament:

2016 manifesto promise: ‘Over the next parliament, we will invest £3 billion to build at least 50,000 more affordable homes. 35,000 of these will in the social rented sector. We will also continue to support council house building.’ (SNP 2016 Manifesto, pg.34, link)

Reality: Kevin Stewart backtracked on the pledge that 50,000 affordable homes would be built over the course of this Parliament. Instead claiming that the ‘vast majority’ of new affordable homes will be newly built, with some empty homes brought back into use. Even though the target has now been dropped, the SNP were set to miss their target of 50,000 affordable homes. Audit Scotland knew the SNP were not going to deliver this target. In their report, published two days after the SNP officially dropped the target, they said: ‘This leads us to conclude that the target, and particularly the social rent element, is at serious risk of not being met.’ (Audit Scotland, Affordable Homes, 9 April 2020, link; Sunday Post, 2 July 2017, link).

5.                   Broke their promise to meet their own 18-week maximum treatment waiting time target:

2007 manifesto promise: ‘We will set a target that no patient should wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment by the end of 2011.’ (SNP Manifesto 2007, p35, link).

Reality: The target is being missed. In September 2020 only 66.9 per cent of patients were being seen. It was also being missed before the pandemic, with only 78.6 per cent of patients being seen in September 2019. (PHS, Stages of treatment, 24 November 2020, link).

6.                   Broke their promise to meet their own climate change targets:

2019 promise: The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 requires a 54 per cent reduction in emissions between the baseline period and 2018. (UK Legislation, Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, 25 September 2019, link).

Reality: Target missed. Emissions reduced by 50 per cent in this period, although source emissions rose 1.5 per cent from 2017 to 2018. (Scottish Government, Greenhouse gas emissions 2018: estimates, 16 June 2020, link).


7.                   Broke their promise to deliver superfast broadband to 100 per cent of premises across Scotland by 2021:

2016 manifesto promise: ‘ensure that 100 per cent of premises across Scotland have access to super-fast broadband by 2021’. SNP, Election Manifesto 2016, pg.9, link).

Reality: In March 2021, Paul Wheelhouse conceded that parts of the project, covering the north of Scotland, will not be complete until 2026. (The Times, 21 March 2021, link)

8.               Broke their promise to freeze income tax for those on low and middle incomes.


2016 manifesto promise: ‘We will freeze the Basic Rate of Income Tax throughout the next Parliament to protect those on low and middle incomes’ (SNP 2016 Manifesto, pg.17, link).

Reality: They increased tax on hundreds of thousands of basic rate income taxpayers (Scottish Government, Income Tax Policy Proposal: Scottish Budget 2021-22, 28 January 2021, link)

9.               Broke their promise to establish a publicly owned energy company:


2016 manifesto promise: ‘We will explore the potential to create a government owned energy company to help the growth of local and community energy projects.’ (SNP 2016 Manifesto, pg.30, link).

Reality: Consultants were paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for a business case which was due in January 2019 but not delivered until April 2019. The SNP’s latest Programme for Government makes no mention of the company at all. (BBC News, 10 October 2017, link; The Sun, 16 April 2019, link; Scottish Parliament, Question S5W-19882, 12 November 2018, link; Scottish Government, 16 April 2019, link; Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2020-21, 1 September 2020, link).


10.               Broke their promise to scrap council tax:


2007 manifesto promise: ‘Local taxes can be fairer. The SNP will scrap the Council Tax and introduce a fairer system based on ability to pay.’ (SNP 2007 Manifesto, p.6, link)

Reality: Council tax has still not been ‘scrapped’ as promised by the SNP in 2007. Instead the SNP have now promised, as part of their 2021 manifesto, to scrap the tax but only for those under 22 years old. (Twitter, @thesnp, 29 March 2021, link)

11.               Broke their promise to take responsibility for devolved benefits:

2018 promise: Jeanne Freeman, the former social security Cabinet Secretary, claimed that 'by the end of this Parliamentary term in 2021, we will have taken over responsibility from the DWP for 11 benefits, including PIP'.  (SNP, 24 June 2018, link).

Reality: The SNP won’t take full responsibility for all the devolved benefits until at least 2025. It will be nearly a decade since the SNP received power over devolved benefits before all cases are transferred from the DWP to Social Security Scotland. (Scottish Government, 17 November 2020, link)

12.               Broke their promise to cut class sizes:

2007 manifesto promise: In their 2007 manifesto the SNP promised ‘We will reduce class sizes in Primary 1, 2 and 3 to eighteen pupils or less to give children more time with their teacher at this vital stage of their development.’ (SNP Manifesto 2007, Page 52, link).

Reality: In 2020 only 14 per cent of P1-3 pupils were in classes of 18 or fewer and the average class size was 22.9. (Scottish Government, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland 2020, 15 December 2020, link).

13.                   Broke their promise to deliver 1,140 hours of childcare for two, three and four year olds by August 2020.

2018 promise:We will continue to implement our commitment to double entitlement to funded early learning and childcare for eligible 2 year olds and for all 3 and 4 year olds to 1140 hours from August 2020.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2018-19, 4 September 2018, pg.13, link).

Reality: 1,140 hours policy has been delayed by years. (Scottish Government, 14 December 2020, link).

14.                   Broke their promise to pay out the £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme and the £36 million Digital Growth Fund.

2016 promise on Growth Scheme: ‘We intend to use the strength of our balance sheet to establish a new Scottish growth scheme worth up to £0.5 billion over the next three years.’ (Official Report, 6 September 2016, link).

Reality on Growth Scheme: ‘Figures from January 2021 show that the Scottish Growth Scheme has only paid out £333 million since it was launched in 2017, despite a promise of £500 million over three years. (Written Answer, 3 March 2021, link)

2016 promise on Growth Fund: ‘That is why this year, building on previous investments in digital skills, we announced the Digital Growth Fund, with £36 million available over three years from April 2018 to enhance the digital capabilities of our people and our businesses, through support for digital skills training. We will work with business to ensure this investment meets their needs.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2016-17, page 53, link).


Reality on Growth Fund: As of 8 March 2021, the SNP’s Digital Growth Fund has only paid out £6.4 million to 129 businesses in Scotland. (Written Answer, 8 March 2021, link).


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