Engagements

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th April 2017.

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Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

2. To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the week. (S5F-01142)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I have engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

In recent weeks, the First Minister has joined me in calling out the Tories on the horrific rape clause. She has accused Theresa May of seeking to undermine devolution and she has said that the Tories are taking us off a cliff edge with hard Brexit, and she has just told us that we have seen the damage that a Tory Government can do, so why did the Scottish National Party abstain yesterday, instead of voting with Labour to get rid of the Tory Government?

The First Minister:

I hate to be the one who has to point it out to Kezia Dugdale, but it was not the SNP that voted with the Tories yesterday in the House of Commons. It was Labour members who trooped through the lobby with the Tories. She knows the lobby I mean: it was the one that had “turkeys” and “Christmas” written above it. The idea that in this election Labour will replace the Tories is, frankly, pie in the sky. The issue and the threat at this election is that, due to Labour’s complete unelectability, we face an unfettered, out-of-control Tory Government. We know that the Prime Minister wants to silence opposition, so the question for Scotland is this: if people want a strong opposition to the Tories, if they want MPs who will stand up and be a voice for Scotland, then the only party to support at this election is this one, the SNP.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

Labour members of Parliament voted yesterday to get rid of the miserable Tory Government. Imagine my surprise when the SNP MPs did not do the same. The First Minister has said that she wants an honest debate, so let us have it. It suits the SNP for the Tories to stay in power. That is why SNP MPs refused to vote Theresa May out of office yesterday, and every day that the Tories remain in power 430,000 Scots go without a real living wage, Women Against State Pension Inequality go without the pension that they have worked their whole lives for, and young people have their housing benefit stripped away. It suits the SNP for the Tories to stay in power, because the only thing that the SNP has ever cared about is independence. Will the First Minister tell us what is more important on 8 June, kicking the Tories out of office or having another divisive referendum?

The First Minister:

Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable and will leave Labour carping from the sidelines. How do we know that? Because that is what Kezia Dugdale said about Jeremy Corbyn. I agree with Kezia Dugdale about how awful and how damaging the Tory Government is. That is why I think that it is so utterly shameful and disgraceful that Labour has allowed itself to get into a position where the Tories are 20 points ahead of them in the opinion polls UK-wide, and are even ahead of them in Scotland. That is Labour’s failure and it is an utter disgrace.

That brings us back to the core point at stake in the election. The only thing standing between an out-of-control, unfettered Tory Government and Scotland is the SNP. If the people want to make sure that the Tory Government can be held to account, if they want to make sure that there is a strong focus for Scotland and if they want to make sure that Scotland is protected against exactly the policies that Kezia Dugdale talks about, they must ensure that they send back SNP MPs to Westminster.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

In 2015, the First Minister told Scotland to vote SNP to keep the Tories out. How is that going? I say to her in all seriousness that if Jeremy Corbyn were Prime Minister there would be no rape clause, no more housing benefit cuts and no more austerity. I will proudly campaign for that over the next six weeks as she campaigns for independence.

The last time that we voted in a general election, Nicola Sturgeon said this:

“I have made it very clear that if you vote SNP in this election, that is not a vote for independence, nor is it a vote for another referendum.”

Time and again, we were told that a vote for the SNP was not a vote for another referendum. Will the First Minister have the decency to tell the voters before they vote that she will use this election as another excuse for a divisive referendum—or, once again, will she wait until the day after?

The First Minister:

The mandate for another referendum was sought and won at the Scottish Parliament elections last year. This election is about who will stand up for Scotland against the Tories. It is about who will stop the Tories silencing and crushing the Opposition.

Kezia Dugdale has the nerve to stand up and somehow blame the SNP for the fact that the—eh—Tories did not lose the election. [

Interruption

.] I am almost speechless that the SNP is to blame for the fact that the Tories won the election in 2015. It was Labour’s fault. If Labour had won every seat in Scotland, it would still have lost to the Tories across the UK. Labour is unelectable and utterly useless. That is the tragedy of UK politics right now.

That brings us back to the central point. I ask every voter to think about this seriously. The Tories want people to think that there is a safe, tactical Tory vote that they can cast in the election, but every single Tory vote cast in Scotland will help Theresa May make sure that she has the ability to do whatever she wants to do. If people do not want an out-of-control Tory Government, if people want protection, a strong Opposition and a strong voice against the Tories, they have to make sure that they vote SNP in Scotland.