Scotland needed government. It got nationalism instead

As you approach the Scottish Parliament from the Royal Mile, a modest curve juts out from the obnoxious angles.

This camber, the Canongate Wall, is studded with 26 slates of Scottish stone each bearing a quotation from the Bible and scriveners of more questionable repute. Among them is the instruction to ‘work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’, etched on Iona marble and attributed to the novelist Alasdair Gray. The words are totemic for Scottish nationalists, a rallying cry heard often during the 2014 referendum. And why not? They bear the promise of national rebirth, of hope in even the darkest days. 

Inside, where the SNP can not only work but legislate for a better nation, inertia reigns. MSPs have only just returned to law-making after a year without passing any bills except the budget; Ministers were otherwise engaged, seeking to parlay England’s Leave vote into support for Scottish independence. That didn’t go entirely to plan and after a punishing reversal in the General Election, Nicola Sturgeon has graciously allowed that she might wait a while longer before pushing a second referendum. On Tuesday, after ten years of SNP government, the First Minister declared: ‘We look forward to getting on with the job in the best interests of all the people of Scotland.’ On Thursday, Holyrood went into recess for the summer. 


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