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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 3:55 pm, 15th October 2019

Yes, I absolutely do. I pay tribute the work that the hon. Gentleman has done on that. We see the devastating consequences when we do not respect one another’s freedom of religion or belief, not least in Syria at the moment. I was fortunate enough to go with Aid to the Church in Need to the Syrian border to see the good work that is being done there and the work done by my own constituents with Sam’s House on the humanitarian crisis.

The hon. Gentleman has done excellent work on that. I hope that he will not mind me saying that the humanitarian crisis has been made worse by Turkey’s recent actions. I pay tribute to the reporters who are reporting back and to the humanitarian organisations. SNP Members believe—I know that there is not always unanimity on the Government Benches—that meeting the 0.7% target for international aid is not only necessary and humanitarian but a good investment. Peace is a good investment.

The UK needs to take a bit of responsibility. As I mentioned, it should do so over the British orphans who have been left in Syria. It needs to do so, and I hope that there will be some movement from the Foreign Secretary. The fall in the UK’s international standing is not something in which any of us should take any pleasure. I most certainly do not. As someone who worked in the European institutions, I was able to see at first hand the positives—I say this as a member of the SNP—that the UK delivered in partnership with other EU member states. Leaving is a loss for everyone, but particularly for everyone who lives in the United Kingdom. That is why it is little wonder that increasingly Scotland sees its future not as part of this Union but as a member of the European Union. At least that Union respects the rights, sovereignty and votes of its members.

The UK is a Union that likes to say no—no to devolution of immigration and business regulation so that we can stay in the single market, as called for by the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and others; no to freedom of movement; no to more powers so that we can tackle climate change; no to giving people a choice over their own future. It does like to say yes to expensive new nuclear bombs that we don’t need; yes to austerity, yes to a power grab and yes to hitting the most vulnerable in our society and pursuing the most extreme form of Brexit that no one voted for.

No political organisation has an automatic right to existence. The UK Union has no automatic right to existence. It is increasingly clear that the best thing for everyone in the UK is that we build a real partnership of equals. That is achievable only with independence, as Brexit has underlined. Brexit helps no one. It has been particularly harmful to our relationships with our closest neighbours. For some time—and today the First Minister is doing the same thing in Aberdeen—we have argued that Scotland can help. As a member state of the EU in our own right, Scotland will act as a bridge between Brussels and London helping to rebuild the shattered relationship between our most important multilateral relationship and our most important bilateral relationship. That will be good for Scotland, as we attract business, research and opportunities while helping our neighbours to get out of this mess.

Finally, for what it’s worth, I do not think that this Government’s extreme right-wing Brexit plan reflects England, our closest neighbours. I do not think that this Prime Minister saying that he will break the law reflects England. The way in which England’s footballers and manager last night stood up to racism with dignity is reflective of England, not the way in which this Government have carried out their business. In some ways, this is the same speech that we on these Benches have been delivering for four years, but the Government are still making the same mistakes on the same proposals three and a half years on. It is time to change.