Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Analysis: First Minister’s drive for independence threatened to drown out her programme for government

A jubilant crowd celebrates on hearing of the Japanese surrender on VJ Day in 1945, a date referenced by the first minister.
A jubilant crowd celebrates on hearing of the Japanese surrender on VJ Day in 1945, a date referenced by the first minister.

Nicola Sturgeon evoked the wartime generation who created the National Health Service when she unveiled her legislative agenda.

Her reference to the 75th anniversary of VJ Day was a way of saying that the Covid-19 outbreak is a moment in history that requires the sort of radical reform that characterised the birth of a health system free to all at the point of delivery.

So it was that Ms Sturgeon announced plans for a National Care Service to rethink how the country looks after its most vulnerable.

Thousands gather in Trafalgar Square to mark VE Day.

“One of the many impressive things about that Second World War generation is the way in which – even in desperate times – they resolved to build a better world,” said Ms Sturgeon.

“They created institutions – from our National Health Service to the United Nations – which have stood the test of time and serve us to this day.”

Today’s crisis, she acknowledged, was different and “in many ways less extreme”. Nevertheless, it was “without doubt the biggest challenge our generation has faced”.

During the pandemic there have been nearly 2,000 Scottish deaths in care homes and major controversy over the Scottish Government’s drive to use them to house discharged hospital patients – a role that has been linked to their tragic mortality rate.

Given the lofty rhetoric, it would be tempting to think that the creation of a National Care Service in a radical attempt to overhaul the system might have been the main talking point of Ms Sturgeon’s Programme for Government for 2020/21; or perhaps some of the other measures such as the job training fund, the coronavirus proximity app or plans to improve the environment might have provoked some illuminating debate.

But it is a sign of the constitutional obsession, which grips Scottish politics, that they were almost drowned out by her announcement that her government will publish draft legislation for a new independence referendum – including the question and timescale of the vote – before the end of this parliament.

Despite the new bill not answering any of the questions about whether a referendum will actually be held given the UK Government’s opposition, it got the biggest cheer of the afternoon at Holyrood from the SNP benches.

Her pledge to fight next year’s Scottish election on the case for independence, as Ruth Davidson said, put indyref2 “front and centre”, while other opposition politicians claimed focus on a referendum distracted from the challenges facing the country.

Scotland may be in the midst of a pandemic, but when it comes to politics some things never change.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from The Courier Scottish politics team

More from The Courier