Principles of Democracy and the Rights of the Electorate

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:46 pm, 26th September 2019

No, I will not give way. The Scottish Conservatives—and sometimes, I am afraid to say, the Scottish Labour party, but in fairness, not the English Labour party—often like to peddle the myth that the Scottish independence referendum was a violent affair. It was not. I was there. It was a celebration of democracy, and I am pleased to say that nobody lost their life.

I return to the Brexit process. It has thrown the UK constitution into crisis because although there are four constituent parts of this Union, two out of the four of them voted remain, and that has been wholly ignored. That could never happen in the European Union. If the European Union was taking a decision as momentous as Brexit, even a small country the size of Ireland, Scotland or Malta would have a veto.

The reason why this is important is that while the Unionist parties were participating in the festival of democracy that was the 2014 independence referendum, they promised people in Scotland that we were an equal partner in the Union and that the way to retain our EU citizenship was to vote to remain part of the UK. Both those promises have been broken. The Scottish Parliament has come under attack, and constitutional conventions such as the Sewel convention that were put on a statutory footing have had a carriage and horses driven through them.

The result of all that is that a YouGov poll published earlier this month showed that the majority of Scots want a second vote on independence. Of course, the last time Scotland voted for Members of the Scottish Parliament, it elected a majority of MSPs who want a second independence referendum, and the last time Scotland voted for MPs in this House, it elected a majority of MPs who want a second independence referendum. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Many Conservative Members—in particular the right hon. Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and the Attorney General have said in public, “You cannot keep a country in a union against its will.” Of course, they were talking about England and the European Union. It is going to prove impossible in the long term to keep Scotland in this Union against its will, and if democracy means anything it means recognising the mandate that exists in Scotland for a second independence referendum and granting the Scots a second independence referendum, because that is what the majority want.