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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 5:54 pm, 11th February 2020

As far as I am concerned, it is not about whether Scotland could or could not do the job. There is an advanced and deep political skillset, a developed civic society, academia and all the rest of it. [Interruption.] I am not going to be the first SNP Member for Dorset—don’t worry. It is a tempting offer, but I am going to have to decline. But in theory, could this be done? Of course. I am a Welshman. Could Wales go it alone? In theory, yes. But just because something is feasible does not necessarily make it desirable. Just because science can does not necessarily mean that science has to.

Deep within my DNA is a belief that the four quarters of the United Kingdom—through acts of history, politics, religion, shared interest, language, war and defensive values—are better, stronger and a more potent force for good in the world standing together. I do not say that to be offensive to Scottish Members, or to offend residents and fellow citizens of Scotland; it is just deep within my DNA.

I hope that the House will not find it too schmaltzy or amusing if I say that a number of Government Members often feel put off, or inhibited from, treading into the choppy and potentially dangerous waters of these debates and exchanges in this place, and we do so sometimes with a feeling of foreboding. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but actually—this may be the word that generates some titters, I do not know—as a Unionist, and having explained why I am a Unionist, I get personally upset when some SNP Members, for reasons best known to themselves, seek to portray my Unionism as being anti-Scottish. I would never portray their proud nationalism as being anti-English, anti-Welsh or anti-British. It is simply a different set of values that take us to a particular judgment.

It is possible to be vehemently pro something without being anti, per se, the alternative that is on offer. Whether it is migration, or the dust and sands that settle in this post-EU membership world, let us at least say to all our constituents—in the north of Scotland, the north of Dorset or wherever they may be—that we can engage in these debates in a vigorous, respectful and friendly way. Let us ensure that our motivations as Government Members are not portrayable as the narrow bigotry of some caricature of little England. That belies our motivations and our beliefs, and it has a negative impact on this place. If our constituents expect anything from us, particularly after the last three years, they are expecting all of us to put our shoulders to the wheel to try to raise the quality, tone and temper of our political discourse as we engage in our passionate arguments.