For nearly 20 years, Scots have been told their country will fail as long as it’s part of the Union.

We’ve also been told – endlessly – that Scotland somehow isn’t ‘normal’ because it’s not independent.

The UK Government has been portrayed as a panto villain intent on depriving us of the prosperous future we deserve.

No opportunity has been missed to foment division and drive home the toxic (and false) proposition that Scotland is failing – thanks to the Union.

Since 2007 – and certainly since the 2014 referendum – a doom-laden narrative of defeat has been churned out by the SNP as it agitated for the break-up of Britain.

On one level, of course, it’s right: failure is a given – but only as long as the Nationalists are in charge, and they’ve been ruling the roost at Holyrood for far too long.

They tell us (all the time) that independence offers an escape route, but we are where we are – in the economic doldrums, with public services in a downward spiral – not because of the Union but because of the SNP.

Once it’s out of power, there will be a big repair job to do but some of the damage is bound to be psychological, after nearly two decades of being told we’re captives of a malign state, our self-confidence as a nation has taken a knock.

The SNP told us we could do so much better without the Union, when in fact we could so much better without the SNP.

A combination of genuine incompetence (in abundance) and a focus on stirring up cross-Border disputes meant a slide in educational standards and policing and the NHS in decline, with a dysfunctional, high-tax, low-growth economy.

Scotland fell victim to that agenda – ‘look at how awful everything is, and it’s all the Tories’ fault’ – but possible liberation is on the horizon, not from the United Kingdom but from corrosive nationalism.

July 4 will be an opportunity to loosen the death-grip of the SNP and underline the fact that we’re not an abnormal country. We do have enormous potential and we can drive Scotland forward to prosperity – but we can’t hope to turn the tanker around with the SNP at the wheel.

It’s impossible to argue that the Tory campaign so far has been anything other than a fiasco, full of unforced errors.

Television debates, when they did mention Scotland, often gave John Swinney and his colleagues an easy ride, partly because the Tories’ multiple woes have dominated the headlines.

Yesterday, the Scottish Tory manifesto set out a vision for change and a series of eminently sensible policies – but what it chiefly offers is a way out of the snake-oil charlatanism of bankrupt nationalism.

It’s light years from the statism and the constitutional monomania of the SNP’s own miserable, threadbare manifesto last week, which contained a commitment to independence in its first line.

One of the most attractive aspects of the Tory plan is simply the commitment to fixing the country – a major clean-up exercise to undo some of the damage wrought by the SNP.

The rediscovery of competence in government is a necessary precursor to any sweeping reform. Importantly, the Tories promise to lower the current 21p intermediate rate of income tax to 20p, and to lower income tax rates to the same as the UK in the longer term.

The disparity which has made Scotland the most heavily taxed part of the UK is a drain on growth and a disincentive for young professionals, many of whom are either packing up and heading for the exit, or have already gone.

The Tories also pledge 75 per cent rates relief to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in Scotland – which is offered by the UK Government in England but denied to businesses here.

Other wise priorities include keeping quango spending under control and opposing the roll-out of Low Emission Zones, which make urban centres no-go areas for Scots who can’t afford costly electric cars.

And the Tories propose a guarantee that all pupils should have the opportunity to study at least seven subjects in S4 – a response to legitimate concern about how pupils at different schools can study for varying numbers of qualifications.

There’s also a promise to reform the SNP’s Curriculum for Excellence to bring in a more ‘knowledge-based approach’.

It’s depressing that ‘knowledge-based’ education has disappeared under the SNP, but it has to be reinstituted for the sake of pupils whose futures are at stake.

On justice, the Tories are demanding more bobbies on the beat and a reformed Scottish Sentencing Council.

It’s the barmy quango set up by the SNP Government whose guidelines urge leniency for criminals under the age of 25 – on the grounds of their allegedly immature brains.

The pledges for a reduction in the size of the devolved civil service and a boost for the private sector workforce are long overdue and would help to bolster growth, with the proceeds ploughed into the NHS and education.

True, much of this prospectus relates to what can be achieved in the Scottish parliament rather than Westminster – but it sets out the framework of what the Tories could achieve by winning the Holyrood election in 2026.

Scots have been cajoled into accepting the SNP’s self-serving story about their own country’s failures, but most of us are sick of it and have been for years.

The Nationalists have weighed us down with a crippling tax regime and turned their reverse Midas touch on every area of public life, leaving a trail of carnage behind it, with the taxpayer picking up the bill.

The SNP is the subject of an ongoing police fraud probe which has seen its former chief executive Peter Murrell charged in connection with alleged embezzlement of SNP funds.

His wife, ex-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – occasionally out on the stump when she’s not writing her memoir – is still subject to investigation after being arrested last year then released without charge.

In 2021, the front cover of the SNP manifesto was emblazoned with an image of a beaming Ms Sturgeon under the heading ‘Scotland’s Future’.

This is a party which asks us to trust it with managing public finances while failing to spend nearly £300million which could have been put to good use, but is dismissed by the SNP as a ‘modest’ underspend.

All it can offer is more of the same, but we shouldn’t accept its force-fed propaganda about the panacea of independence.

On July 4, voters will get the chance to send a powerful message to the SNP – nationalism has run its course because Scots have seen through the lies and distortions which have held our country back for 17 years.

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2024-06-24T21:00:20Z dg43tfdfdgfd