New first minister urged by rivals to focus on ‘challenges’ facing Scotland

Opposition parties have called for the new SNP leader and first minister to focus on the “challenges” affecting people in Scotland.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack called on the SNP to “drop the obsession” with independence and “concentrate” on the challenges faced by people across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The party has began its first full search for a new leader since 2004 when former first minister Alex Salmond became the leader.

Nicola Sturgeon was elected SNP leader unopposed and subsequently First Minister in 2014.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Mr Jack said: “Whoever becomes the next first minister of Scotland, they need to change course.

“They need to drop the nationalists’ obsession with independence and concentrate on the challenges faced by people across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has been clear that we want to strengthen working relationships between the UK and Scottish governments, to work together on the things that make a tangible difference to people’s lives.

“We all want a successful and prosperous Scotland but we will be forever held back from that if one of Scotland’s two governments remains constantly distracted by political battles on independence.

“Scotland needs a first minister who will put the nation’s interests above the nationalists’ interests. One who will concentrate on fixing our failing public services.

“One who will engage with businesses to grow Scotland’s economy. One who will work constructively with the UK Government. No more distractions and excuses, the Scottish people deserve a relentless focus on what matters to them.

Scottish Secretary visit to Kimarnock
Alister Jack has called for the SNP to ‘drop the obsession’ with independence during the party’s leadership election (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“My offer to all those considering entering the leadership fray is this – the UK Government stands ready to work with you. The real win would be improving the lives of people in Scotland.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton called on the SNP to drop key pieces of legislation when the new leader is elected, such as the national care service.

He also called for the NHS recovery plan to be replaced and has demanded an inquiry into the ferries fiasco.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s launched ferries with painted-on windows and failed to close the attainment gap in our schools.

“Drug deaths many times worse than anywhere else in Europe and a stagnant economy are the consequence of years of ministerial disinterest. The delivery rarely lived up to the hype.

“I’m challenging the leadership contenders to recognise where timeworn SNP policies have failed to deliver for the NHS, schools, the economy and the efforts to reduce Scotland’s emissions.

Scottish Politics Holyrood Covid 19 Scottish Parliament
Alex Cole-Hamilton called on the SNP’s new leader to reconsider the national care service legislation (Fraser Bremner/PA)

“We will work hard to move the debate on from the divisions of the past because people can’t wait for years behind yet more arguments and naval-gazing about independence.

“When it comes to breaking up the UK, no price is too high and no amount of disruption too painful for the nationalists.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will stand up for communities around the country being totally taken for granted by this SNP government.”

At his party’s conference on Friday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the country needs politicians “focused on delivering the change Scotland needs”.

He said: “In the weeks ahead, the SNP will only be talking to themselves, about themselves.

“But our country, now more than ever, requires politicians focused on delivering the change Scotland needs.”