Ms Sturgeon faced questions today over her domestic record as she pushes for independence. Sky News’ Sophy Ridge asked: “I’ve been keen in this interview to look back at your record in government because it matters. “You are asking the Scottish people to trust you to lead an independent Scotland. You are clearly an exceptional communicator and have strong approval ratings. “But, just look at the facts: record drug deaths after 14 years of an SNP government, still big inequalities when it comes education, the highest rate of care home deaths from Covid in the UK.”
Ms Sturgeon did take responsibility for the drug epidemic plaguing Scotland, admitting the SNP “didn’t get it right.”
But she insisted “big improvement” had been secured on education despite inequality persisting.
One common criticism of the SNP is its record of broken pledges.
This has been a theme of the Scottish political debate since 2009, when the party ditched its 2007 pledge to scrap council tax.
Then party leader Alex Salmond soon came on the receiving end of an onslaught.
Then Finance Secretary John Swinney blamed the economic downturn, Westminster cuts and Holyrood arithmetic, but Labour called it “the most humiliating climb-down since devolution” and evidence of a “government in meltdown”.
Iain Gray, Labour leader at the time, added: “This is the biggest and most humiliating climbdown since devolution began. They really now have none of their significant policies that they took to the electorate intact. This is a government in meltdown.”
The Liberal Democrats who were in favour of a local income tax, but want individual councils to be able to set their own rates, were outraged by the change. Finance spokesman, Jeremy Purvis, said: “This is a gross betrayal of the people who voted for the SNP.”
But Annabel Goldie, Conservative leader, said: “We are relieved the SNP government has finally seen sense, realised it has lost the argument and ditched this tax on work.”
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The SNP also reneged on another 2007 pledge – to “dump the debt” for students going to university “by meeting annual loan repayments, reintroducing grants instead of loans and scrapping the graduate endowment fee”.
However, Ms Sturgeon and her SNP colleagues have overseen an increase in overall student debt in Scotland.
In the past year, the Student Awards Agency Scotland handed out over £500million of loans compared to £187million the year after the SNP’s 2007 win.
The scale of student debt is now at over £5billion, the equivalent to around one sixth of the entire Scottish Government spend for a year.
Former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raged at this in January 2020.
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He said: “We know that it is students from the poorest families who are forced to borrow the most.
“First Minister, will you simply admit that the SNP misled students and will you apologise?
“How many generations of Scottish students have to go through university before this government keeps any promise on support for student living?”
The First Minister denied the allegation that student loans burden working-class students, claiming that debt figures in Scotland are “significantly lower” than in other parts of Britain.
It is true that, while Scotland’s student debt has rocketed in recent years, graduates north of the border take on an average of three times less student debt than their counterparts in England.
This was outlined in figures published by the Student Loans Company (SLC) earlier this month.
They revealed that graduates in Scotland on average leave university with £13,890 of debt from loans.
Students in Wales have an average debt of £24,960 and students who were studying at English universities have to pay off an average of £40,280 in student loan debt.