Scot­land must have the right to choose

Rutherglen Reformer - - Clare Haughey -

Two weeks ago I had the priv­i­lege of speak­ing in a de­bate in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment on the sub­ject of Scot­land’s choice.

Fol­low­ing the de­bate par­lia­ment voted in favour of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment mo­tion to seek a Sec­tion 30 or­der from the UK Gov­ern­ment to give Scot­land a choice be­tween any even­tual Brexit deal or an in­de­pen­dent fu­ture, in­clud­ing a con­tin­u­ing re­la­tion­ship with Europe.

The fol­low­ing day Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May signed and sent the letter that trig­gered Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty, start­ing the process of the UK leav­ing the Euro­pean Union. Barely two weeks into the process, many of the UK Gov­ern­ment’s de­clared open­ing negotiating po­si­tions have been se­ri­ously un­der­mined.

It is per­haps worth re­flect­ing on how we got here. Last year Eng­land and Wales voted to leave the Euro­pean Union and Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land voted to re­main.

Since the ref­er­en­dum last June the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has at­tempted to reach an agree­ment with the UK Gov­ern­ment about the terms of Brexit that would re­spect the Scot­tish peo­ple’s 62 per cent vote to re­main.

There were op­tions for the UK as a whole and for Scot­land in par­tic­u­lar to re­main in the sin­gle mar­ket, ei­ther through mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Free Trade As­so­ci­a­tion or the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area.

The First Min­is­ter pro­posed sev­eral op­tions that would al­low us to re­spect the UK-wide vote while also re­spect­ing the ma­jor­ity of the vot­ers in Scot­land.

It is now ev­i­dent that the UK Gov­ern­ment was de­ter­mined not to lis­ten to the voices across the UK who were of­fer­ing prac­ti­cal solutions to the prob­lems of Brexit and they def­i­nitely did not want to lis­ten to Scot­land.

Un­like the Tories and Labour, our start­ing point is that Scot­land is a na­tion, not a re­gion, not a prov­ince, nor a ter­ri­tory. It is not com­pa­ra­ble, as is of­ten quoted, with York­shire or Maid­stone or even the City of Lon­don. We have our own dis­tinct le­gal frame­work and con­sti­tu­tional background, of which the Act of Union in 1707 was only a part but not a fi­nal chap­ter.

As a na­tion we have an ab­so­lute right to seek to pro­tect our in­ter­ests and re­con­sider our re­la­tion­ships with other na­tions, par­tic­u­larly in the cur­rent cir­cum­stances.

It is also right that the de­ci­sion on our fu­ture is taken dur­ing the time­frame out­lined by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, not now but in the pe­riod when the terms of any Brexit deal with the EU is clear and dur­ing the fol­low­ing six months, when EU mem­ber states and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment will agree that deal. If 27 other coun­tries can have a say on our fu­ture we should have the same right.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s man­date on this is­sue is clear and ir­refutable. The SNP was elected in 2016 on a clear com­mit­ment that it would re­view the con­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments and, if nec­es­sary, call for the peo­ple of Scot­land to have a choice if there was a ma­te­rial change of cir­cum­stances in Scot­land’s con­sti­tu­tional position.

That ma­te­rial change is upon us and it is clear that the in­ter­ests of Scot­land in the cur­rent process are to be com­pletely ig­nored. A hard Brexit will dam­age our econ­omy and it will dam­age the global per­cep­tion of Scot­land as an in­clu­sive, for­ward-think­ing and out­ward-look­ing na­tion.

The vote in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment will en­sure that Scot­land has a voice and a choice in its fu­ture. The Scot­land’s choice de­bate was the very def­i­ni­tion of democ­racy in ac­tion. MSPs from all par­ties had their say and there was a vote on the next step in the process of hav­ing a ref­er­en­dum. As the SNP do not have a ma­jor­ity, this vote was passed with cross-party sup­port.

The prime min­is­ter said that now is not the time for a ref­er­en­dum. Well, what­ever your opin­ion on in­de­pen­dence or mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union, it should not be a Tory prime min­is­ter with no man­date and only one MP in Scot­land to de­cide that.

We know that there will be change, that the sta­tus quo will not be an op­tion in the forthcoming ref­er­en­dum. We must choose be­tween two futures. One, we al­ready see, will be dam­ag­ing and iso­la­tion­ist. The other, whilst chal­leng­ing, will be ours alone to fash­ion.

Sovereignty lies with the peo­ple. When the time comes I trust the peo­ple to make an in­formed choice.

It is clear that the in­ter­ests of Scot­land are to be com­pletely ig­nored

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