Much has been made in the debate across both days about who holds a mandate on Scotland’s constitutional question, given that our nation is being dragged out of the European Union against our will. Who holds a constitutional mandate as Scotland faces a hard Brexit that we did not choose, with all the ensuing risks and damage that that will certainly bring?
Let us be clear: the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto stated:
“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum ... if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”
The SNP won that election with 46.5 per cent of the popular vote and there has, of course, been a significant and material change in circumstances with Scotland being dragged out of the EU against our will. Sixty-two per cent of those who voted in the EU referendum clearly expressed a wish to retain our EU membership. That is the context of this debate.
We should contrast that 46.5 per cent of the popular vote and the explicit reference to a future independence referendum with the votes that were polled by the second and third parties in the Scottish Parliament. They polled little more than 22 per cent of the vote each; the combined figure is still less than the Scottish Government’s share of the popular vote. However, over both days of this debate, we have heard Opposition MSP after Opposition MSP lecturing and condemning the Scottish Government for seeking to implement an undeniable and explicit democratic mandate. That is not a mandate for independence; rather, it is a mandate to ensure that the people of Scotland have a choice.