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The Scottish Conservatives will be opposing the First Minister’s motion, but I thank her for at least bringing this debate to Parliament. It is almost three years since all the Holyrood party leaders stood here to argue for a remain vote and there is little doubt that the decisions made in the next few weeks will be among the most critical that our country has had to face in recent times. Therefore, this is a timely opportunity to debate, at this key juncture, our withdrawal from the European Union, which the UK has voted to leave after 40 years.
I believe that the right decision at Westminster is to support the withdrawal agreement, to leave the EU on 29 March, and to move to the next phase of our negotiations with the EU.
The Brexit referendum in June 2016 was one of the largest exercises in democracy that this country has ever witnessed. The number of people who voted to leave was the largest number of people to vote for anything in our history. Although they have been largely forgotten in this place, let us not forget that they included 1 million people in Scotland—more than the number who voted for the Scottish National Party in the most recent Westminster election.
That was without the same effort underpinning the leave campaign here as was the case elsewhere in the UK. In Scotland, the campaign was led by former Labour MP Tom Harris and was opposed by all the Scottish party leaders, all our MPs and all but a handful of MSPs, but it nonetheless attracted more than 1 million Scottish supporters and a 38 per cent vote to leave. That is a reality upon which this Parliament has never properly reflected. Too often, those 1 million Scots have been casually dismissed as either deluded or deranged or both—or worse—and their anger is very real.