3. Another day, another dose of Brexit chaos. The Prime Minister’s so-called deal satisfies almost nobody, from Brexiteers to remainers; it is unlikely to pass at Westminster, and the public must ultimately be given the chance to kill off Brexit in a people’s vote.
However, if the last two years have made anything clear, it is that Scotland’s future is best secured as a full, independent, European Union member state. In summer last year, the First Minister stated in the chamber:
“At the end of the period of negotiation with the EU ... when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come back to Parliament to set out our judgment on the best way forward at that time, including our view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future.”—[
, 27 June 2017; c 14.]
Jackson Carlaw might not want to know the answer in that respect, but I do and I do not think that I am alone in that. Will the First Minister now confirm to us that Scotland will be given that choice and tell us when?
As I said at the time that Patrick Harvie has alluded to, I will come back to the chamber and set out my views on the precise detail when we have clarity. We have now seen the terms of the deal, but it remains to be seen whether it will make it to a vote in the House of Commons over the next couple of weeks. When we see how the whole sorry saga plays out, I will undertake my commitment as I said I would.
However, I want to say a couple of things in addition. I have no doubt that Scotland will get an opportunity to choose again on the question of independence, and when it does, I am confident that it will choose to be an independent country. With what has happened over the past two years—from the decision that risked taking us out of the EU against our will, to the way in which the Scottish Government, in trying to represent Scotland’s interests, has been sidelined, to the way in which the powers of this Parliament have been undermined—the case for independence has grown stronger each and every day. The sooner this Parliament and this country are independent and are no longer at the mercy of Tory Governments that do not have our interests at heart, the better. That time will come and when it does, I have no doubt that the people of Scotland will choose to be independent.
The First Minister is right to say that we have only just seen the deal, and it is conceivable—though, I think, highly unlikely—that MPs will vote for it. However, surely there is already enough clarity to make a judgment, given that there is nothing in Theresa May’s plan that protects our social, economic and workplace rights and our environmental rights and protections, or that guarantees the future rights of EU citizens living here or our ability to attract more of the people whom we need for the strength of the economy, the delivery of our public services and the diversity of our society.
There is no reference to Scotland in either the withdrawal agreement or the absurdly simplistic paper on the future relationship. The chaos of Brexit was inevitable, but we need to face up to the equally inevitable fact that Scotland will only get the strong future relationship that we want with Europe—which the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland voted for—if we get out there, campaign for it and persuade people to vote for Scotland to become a full, independent EU member country. The Greens are ready to start that campaign; is the First Minister?
The Scottish National Party started that a long time ago and has never stopped campaigning for independence, so my message to Patrick Harvie is, “What’s holding you back? Get out there and make the case for Scotland to be an independent country.”
I agree with everything that Patrick Harvie said. The case for independence, which I have long thought has been made, has got stronger every day over the past two years. In terms of the precise timing of Scotland having that opportunity to choose, people deserve clarity about what else might unfold over the next period. Are we going to have another general election? Is there going to be a second EU referendum? It is reasonable to wait and allow that to play out over the next few weeks.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that this country will become an independent country, and when it does, it will be a far more prosperous, fairer and better country. It will be able to choose its own place in the world. It will be able to make its own decisions. Undoubtedly, it will make its own mistakes, but it will not be at the mercy of a Tory Government imposing policies on us that we did not vote for. That will be a far stronger position for this generation and for future generations.