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European Union Withdrawal Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I support the motion in the name of the First Minister, but I will consider in some detail the amendment that is proposed by the Conservative Party and that party’s actions and record, given its leading role in supporting, introducing and implementing—if that is the right word—Brexit.

The Tory amendment talks about respecting

“the results of constitutional referendums”.

The Tories demand respect for the votes of 52 per cent of people in 2016, but of course they have no respect for the 52 per cent of people who voted yes in 1979. There is no question of any respect for the 62 per cent of people in Scotland who voted remain. At all times and by all Tories, that remain vote has been denied, denigrated and dismissed.

We regularly hear Tory MPs who represent English constituencies proclaim that they must speak up for the views of their constituents, the majority of whom voted leave. However, the supine sub-group of Tory MPs in Scotland will never be heard speaking up for the remain majorities in their constituencies. Those Tories could not give a flying fig about the majority of their constituents who voted remain.

The next part of the Tory amendment says that the Tories

“support leaving the EU with a deal”.

Let us examine the path that they have followed to get to that position. For Donald Cameron’s benefit, this is perhaps a dictionary definition of opportunism. He might remember that the Tory position in 2014 was crystal clear: people should vote no to independence to guarantee Scotland’s place in the EU. I know that there are one or two original Brexiteers among the Tory group, but I do not remember any of them saying in 2014 that people should vote no to guarantee Brexit. Their party said the exact opposite.

Then, in the 2016 referendum campaign, during her debates with Boris Johnson, remainer Ruth clearly laid out the threat of economic calamity that Brexit posed, although in 2014 she had stated that that threat was likely only as a result of a vote for independence. Also in 2016, my party stood on a platform of reserving the right to hold a referendum on independence if Scotland was forced out of the EU against its will, which is exactly what is now proposed.

After the Brexit vote, we had demanding Davidson. The Tories were adamant that the First Minister had to put every possible effort into safeguarding Scotland’s place—and, indeed, the UK’s place—in the single market. That was their position after the Brexit vote. The next U-turn came when Westminster instructed all Tory MPs and MSPs to obey—no matter the cost to Scotland.

Far from demanding membership of the single market, which was their position after the referendum, the Tories in this chamber now demand that we must leave the single market. Is that not opportunism? I am happy to give way to Donald Cameron if he can define it in some other way—I see that he cannot.

Surely that volte-face would be the last Tory U-turn—the final capitulation of the craven Conservatives. But no; the Tory amendment mentions the possibility of “no deal”, and where that comes into their calculations takes us to the next part of the Tory position. The final resting position of the Scottish Tories is to refuse to vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit. They had the chance to do so in the House of Commons, but every single Scottish Tory MP refused to vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit. That is unbelievable. We have gone from the avowed Euro-enthusiasm of Ruth Davidson in 2014 and 2016 to every single Scottish Tory MP demanding that a no-deal Brexit be kept on the table in 2019. Look at the Tories now—they are all looking down at their papers.

History will judge the Scottish Tories and their endless twisting and turning to accommodate every farcical and incompetent move by this utter shambles of a Tory Government. Two hundred and fifty companies have asked the Dutch Government whether they can relocate from the UK—no bother. Nissan is talking about withdrawing from the UK. Honda is closing the only plant that it has ever closed in its history, but that is no problem to the Tories. Fourteen million pounds of public money going to a freight company that has no ferries? That is no problem to the Scottish Tories—not a word of criticism from them. We hear all the time about the Scottish Tories’ concerns about taxpayers’ money, but £33 million of it is being handed over to another company because of a process that was so cackhanded that the Tories want to keep how bad it was a secret. That £33 million of taxpayers’ money is hush money.

In the Tory Government, we have a Government that was found to be in contempt of its own Parliament at Westminster. We have a deal—the fantastic deal, which has taken two years to reach—that a record number of MPs voted against, with a record defeat in the House of Commons. That is strong and stable government, by the way—that is the smooth transition to Brexit that we are hearing about today. We have a Tory Government that promised endlessly that Scotland’s voice would be heard, but which set a new low when it afforded a mere 18 minutes to amendments from Scotland’s MPs—amendments that were talked out by Tory ministers.

The Tories have held Scotland in contempt right through the process. They have ignored its Parliament, they have ignored its Government and they have ignored their own constituents, who voted to remain.

Surely the last word has to go to the Tory Cabinet minister who told journalist Nick Eardley that even though Scotland and the UK are heading for an “iceberg”—presumably one of Titanic proportions—Scotland has to remain strapped to the decks and has no option but to go along with what the Tory Government itself says is a disaster.

We do not have to do that; we have another choice—one that is far better than being bound to Brexit Britain. The idea that anyone in Scotland would want to vote for a shower of charlatans, whose conduct at Westminster over Brexit has been bedevilled by factions and contradictions—the idea that anybody would trust such a party to run the Scottish Parliament in 2021—is becoming nothing more than a tired joke.

Presiding Office, as you may have guessed, I support the motion in the name of the First Minister, and I reject the Tories and their amendment.