The SNP has been “engulfed” by “poisonous divisions” in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish first minister, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has said.
With Ms Sturgeon having announced she is quitting after more than eight years in charge in Scotland, Sir Ed hit out at her party’s record of “complete and utter failure” in power – and said none of the three candidates vying to succeed her would “clear up the mess she’s left behind”.
Speaking to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Dundee on Friday, Sir Ed criticised the SNP’s record in areas such as health, education and crime.
As Ms Sturgeon prepares to leave office later this month, Sir Ed said “Nicola leaves huge problems behind”.
He said: “After 16 years in power, the SNP’s record is a one of complete and utter failure.
“They’ve failed on the NHS – with big backlogs and long delays for patients.”
He added that the “botched” deposit return scheme – which will see shoppers charged a 20p deposit when buying a drink in a bottle or can – had “failed businesses”.
Sir Ed also claimed the SNP has “failed on education” and is “leaving disadvantaged children behind”, while he also accused the party of “taking police off the streets, as violence rises”.
Speaking about the party’s time in power, he said: “So many failures. So many crises. So many people so cruelly let down by this SNP Government.”
He insisted Ms Sturgeon had been a “dedicated public servant” and a “giant of Scottish politics for two decades”, recalling that she “smashed through the glass ceiling to become the first woman to lead her party and the first female First Minister”.
He said it is therefore right to wish her well for “whatever she does next”.
But with three candidates seeking to take her place – Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan – Sir Ed claimed: “None of the contenders to replace Nicola Sturgeon will clear up the mess she’s left behind.”
He insisted that is because all three are “blinkered by their total obsession with breaking up our United Kingdom”.
Speaking about the SNP leadership contest, he added: “Watching their candidates tear lumps out of each other might be fun, if only it wasn’t Scotland’s future at stake.
“Who could have guessed that a party whose very existence is to divide would find itself engulfed in such poisonous divisions?”
He branded both the SNP Government in Edinburgh and the Conservative Government at Westminster as “awful”, claiming: “They’re both out of touch and both out of ideas.
“It’s time to get both of them out of office.”
On the cost-of-living crisis, he said the “out-of-touch Conservative Government just lets everyone down”.
He said: “As soaring energy bills, food prices and housing costs overwhelm millions of families and pensioners, rather than helping the Conservatives have added to the pain – with all their chaos.
“They crashed our economy, adding hundreds of pounds to people’s monthly mortgage payments.
“They’ve imposed unfair tax rises and deep cuts to key public services, just to pay for the damage they themselves caused.”
He made a plea to the Chancellor ahead of next week’s Budget, urging him to cut energy bills for households across the country by taking cash from energy firms to pay for it.
Sir Ed told the conference: “Jeremy Hunt still has four days before his first Budget.
“The choice before him is clear: Help families across the UK by cutting their energy bills now, or protect the unearned billions Shell and BP are raking in thanks to Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“The British people will not forget which choice he makes on Wednesday.”