The public not politicians should determine country’s future, Sturgeon says
CHANGE THAT UPROOTS the verdict of people in Scotland is coming and the decision now is whether to let voters have their say on what that change looks like, according to the Scottish Government’s case for a fresh referendum on independence.
The first day of a two day parliamentary debate on ‘Scotland’s choice’ set the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens apart from the other opposition parties in support the right of the people to vote on the country’s constitutional future when the terms of Brexit are clear.
The debate was launched following the confirmation that Article 50 on exiting the European Union will take place on March 29th without any agreement being reached with the Scottish Government on a compromise Brexit position. The failure to strike any deal or concessions from the Tory Government led First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to announce plans to hold a fresh independence referendum on a timescale, she hopes, between Autumn 2018 and the Spring of 2019.
Sturgeon told the chamber that the Brexit issue was a warning sign for what remaining in the UK threatened for Scotland’s democracy and economy: “If the UK Government can ignore this parliament on one of the most fundamental issues that the country faces, what meaning can ever be attached to the idea that the UK is a partnership of equals?
“The answer to that question is surely one that should lie in our own hands — that is the fundamental point at the heart of today’s debate.” Nicola Sturgeon
“If the UK refuses to guarantee the rights of EU citizens and focuses on ending free movement, despite the fact that growing our population is economically essential for Scotland, what does that mean for Scotland’s desire to be an open, inclusive and welcoming society? If the UK Government is determined to leave the single market, despite the wealth of evidence that doing so could permanently weaken our economy by risking jobs, investment and trade, what does that mean for our living standards and our future prosperity?
“Add to all that the fact that, because of the collapse of the Labour Party, the current UK Government could be in power until 2030 or beyond, and it becomes clear that Scotland faces a fundamental question, not just about how we respond to Brexit, but about what sort of country we want Scotland to be.
“The answer to that question is surely one that should lie in our own hands — that is the fundamental point at the heart of today’s debate. As a country, we cannot avoid change, but we can choose what kind of change we want.”
Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who previously argued against leaving the EU, then argued against leaving the single market, was open about the fact that the UK’s future is uncertain – but said a debate on independence should not take place as an alternative.
“I hate what the Tories are doing to Britain. I have never felt anger like it.” Kezia Dugdale
“Brexit is going to be a major challenge for this country and none of us knows how it will play out, how we will come through it and what impact there will be for our country,” Davidson admitted.
This is “exactly why we question how we can make a decision on our future constitutional path at a time of such uncertainty,” in Davidson’s view.
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said she had “hate” for what was becoming of Tory Britain – but said she would continue to hope for change within the UK.
“I hate what the Tories are doing to Britain. I have never felt anger like it. The austerity programme is destroying public services that we all value and which the poorest people rely on,” Dugdale explained. “It is not this union of nations that is intrinsically unjust or unfair—it is the actions of the powerful people within it,” she said.
The motion in favour of seeking a fresh independence referendum is highly likely to pass due to the support of the Scottish Greens, whose manifesto pledged that a fresh voted should come about by “the will of the people”.
Party co-convener Patrick Harvie explained why his party would back the motion: “The two clearest recent expressions of the will of the people are 55 per cent voting to remain part of the UK two and a half years ago and 62 per cent voting to remain part of the European Union just nine months ago. If the UK Government had shown any interest in reconciling those two positions, we might not be where we are today.”
With the motion expected to pass tomorrow, it will be down to the Tory Government whether to respect the result of the vote on the right of a fresh referendum to go ahead with legal recognition.
Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament TV
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