'THE Scottish Parliament is now in recess for the summer, having just celebrated 20 years of devolution with the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at Holyrood.

It was an occasion on which it would be appropriate to reflect on what has been achieved over the last two decades.

There are certainly positives from the existence of the Scottish Parliament that we could all point to: the introduction of free personal care for the elderly, the ban on smoking in public places, and the completion of necessary law reform.

I also believe that the development of fiscal devolution has created a more financially accountable Parliament, where there is a greater focus on the need to improve the Scottish economy, and therefore the tax take, than was previously the case when we were entirely dependent upon the block grant from Westminster.

To me, the biggest disappointment of the Scottish Parliament has been the focus on constitutional issues. For the last seven or eight years, political debate has been dominated by discussions around independence - this has been a negative for two reasons.

Firstly, it has squeezed out discussion about much more important issues. During the same period, we have seen the education system in Scotland go backwards, from a position where we were once regarded as world leaders in the sector, to the situation today where we have disappointingly low levels of basic literacy and numeracy, and a lack of subject choices in many secondary schools.

Secondly, the focus on constitutional issues has been divisive. In the 2014 Referendum, Scotland was split down the middle in what was, at times, a very bitter debate.

Five years on from that, the SNP seem to have forgotten their pledge that this would be a ‘once in a lifetime’ event and continue to agitate for another referendum. I believe that the Scottish Parliament would be a much better institution if we left behind these constitutional arguments and the Scottish Government focussed on the day job.

Just before the Parliament broke up for the recess, we had an announcement from the SNP about the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly of 120 people, supposedly selected to be representative of the Scottish public, who will act as advisors to the Scottish Government.

If this body was about providing genuine ideas for the deep-seated problems that we face in Scotland, whether they be intergenerational poverty, the funding of long-term care, or the need for a more productive economy, then I could see the point of it.

Unfortunately, this body seems to be mooted with one objective, and that is to support the SNP’s demand for another Independence Referendum.

As such, the Scottish Conservatives have made it clear we want nothing to do with this body. It is all about providing political capital for an unwanted second independence referendum, and nothing to do with the good governance of Scotland'.

Murdo Fraser always welcomes feedback from constituents. He can be contacted by email on murdo.fraser.msp@parliament.scot or by telephone on 01738 553676.