[6th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 4:02 pm on 10th January 2019.

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Photo of Mhairi Black Mhairi Black Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Equalities), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Disabilities) 4:02 pm, 10th January 2019

When I started to write this speech, I truly did not know where to start, so I will try to explain my feelings and views on this madness as bluntly and simply as possible.

Since long before the ink had even dried on the text, the Prime Minister has been trying to create the narrative that it is a choice between her deal and no deal. But the Prime Minister quite clearly has other options beyond her deal and no deal—she could ask for an extension of article 50; she could keep us in the single market and the customs union; or she could take the choice back to the people—so to say that it is her deal or no deal is a piece of nonsense. She is failing to say to the public that she has deliberately manufactured things to appear that way, in a cynical attempt to save her own skin.

I will vote against the Prime Minister’s deal, because of the simple fact that it is an appalling deal for my constituents. That is not just me looking at the deal and making a decision on their behalf: since the deal was announced, thousands of my constituents have written to me, and more than 97% of them have asked me to vote against it.

To explain my thoughts and feelings a wee bit better, I must go back a few years. I often hear Members from both sides of the House—I have heard this today—accuse the Scottish National party of not respecting the result of the 2014 referendum or the 2016 referendum. They are wrong. The key difference between us and those who criticise us is that we do not fear referendums. We do not fear democracy. We do not fear holding up our vision and hopes for a better Scotland to the electorate for them to at least consider. Most importantly, we are not afraid to learn lessons. My presence and that of my SNP colleagues in this Parliament serves as evidence that we do respect the outcome of referendums because when Scotland voted no to independence, we said, “Okay. We didn’t convince you. That’s fine. So long as Scotland wants to stay in this British Union, we will respect that. But let us fight to make sure that we get everything that we were promised.” If anything, it seems that it is the winners of both referendums who are terrified of being held to account for the promises they made.

As I mentioned earlier when I intervened on the Secretary of State, I went to the House of Commons Library, where the wonderful staff dug out this HM Government booklet that was sent out during the Scottish referendum. The Government, of course, were a Tory coalition—the Secretary of State corrected me—but Tory none the less. And I have to be honest about this booklet: there is a stoater on every page. Page 1 speaks of

“All the advantages of the pound”.

That is the same pound that had an 18-month low. Later, the booklet mentions “Safe savings and pensions”. I wonder whether WASPI women would agree with that. It went on to state that there would be

“More support for public services”,

which was followed by an austerity agenda. And then there is the quotation I mentioned earlier:

“As one of the EU’s ‘big four’
nations, the UK is more able to protect Scottish interests in areas like agriculture and fisheries.”

The last page reads:

“Together with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland has created one of the world’s most successful families of nations.”

Now, that is a legitimate point of view, but it is one that does not hold up to scrutiny. Call me biased, but this does not feel very successful right now. If you are an EU national, a nurse or a student, or if you are working on the minimum wage, I doubt this feels successful. If you are a lorry driver in Dover, I imagine it feels even less successful.

I believe in independence for Scotland for democratic, logical and moral reasons, but when Scotland voted no to independence, at least we came here for a genuine fresh start—to try to make this Union work better and find some compromise where possible. After all these promises and all the precious Union chat that is dished out by the British nationalists of this place, when Scotland votes to remain in the EU, it is cast aside as irrelevant because it was a UK-wide vote, where Scotland was treated as a region. The people of Scotland watched as our Scottish Government tried to make sensible suggestions and compromises with the UK Government with regards to Brexit, such as asking for continued Scottish membership of the single market and the customs union. This was not even considered.

If Unionist Members truly believe that Scotland should be subject to an English and Welsh EU result, they concede that we are not a family of nations and that, to Westminster, Scotland is no more than a province; or they could live up to their partnership of equals patter and recognise that the second largest nation in this family of nations has outright rejected leaving the EU, and show us the respect that we are due. Either way, this hypocritical doublespeak will not wash much longer with Scotland. As with most things on the Government’s plate these days, time is running out. And to be honest, who knows how much longer Scotland is going to stick about?