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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 George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

One thing on which I agree with Murdo Fraser is that the people of Scotland know better—that is why he has never won an election in Scotland in his puff.

As we are all aware, for the first time in 20 years of devolution, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales are debating and voting on the same motion. Together, we are declaring our opposition to the damaging EU exit deal agreed by the UK Government. This is an unprecedented event and I think that it speaks volumes.

The Prime Minister’s deal has the power to cause major, lasting damage to jobs, living standards and public services. In over 20 years of devolution, never before has something had the power to affect our two countries in such a way. As parliamentarians, we can use our voices for change. I can only hope that the UK Government takes stock of what has brought us here and why Wales and Scotland are jointly taking this historic step.

With that in mind, I am delighted to stand up in our nation’s Parliament and reiterate the message that has been put forward countless times by our First Minister, by Mike Russell and by my colleagues who have already spoken in this debate. Scotland did not want this. It is not the choice we made. Our message to Theresa May is clear—rule out a no-deal Brexit, extend the article 50 process and consider another referendum.

From the beginning, the twists and turns of the Brexit process in Westminster have resembled a comedic pantomime rather than the work of a functioning Government. We can all agree that we are no further forward now than we were two years ago. Like many people, I enjoy a good pantomime—we see them quite a lot in here—but I certainly did not expect that to come straight from the stages of Westminster, filled with the usual panto cast of characters such as the bumbling baddie, a “Will they, won’t they?” plot line and more dodgy one-liners than a 1970s Saturday night television variety show.

The House of Commons would have been entertaining over the past few months if the issue had not been so serious. We are asked to trust the UK Government as it attempts to drive us off the Brexit cliff edge. Is it any wonder that, with 24 days to go, people across our country have lost faith in the UK Government? The current withdrawal agreement means that Scotland faces being taken out of the EU against our democratic wishes, taken out of the single market against our economic interests and cut off from our European friends and neighbours against our will. We are not okay with that, and we have made that fact blatantly clear since the day and hour when the Brexit process began, but we have been repeatedly ignored and sidelined.

I cannot say that I am surprised that the Westminster Government has handled the process as badly as it has done. Just when we think that enough is surely enough, the cycle of broken promises, disappointment and confusion continues to spin out of control. The Scottish Parliament rejected the draft deal in December last year yet, time and again, our First Minister has reached out and attempted to establish an open and constructive dialogue, only to be shot down and ignored. The exit deal that is on the table does not mention Scotland even once within its 500-plus pages and, on top of that, it fails to guarantee key rights—human rights, environmental rights and employment rights—that Scotland needs and wants and should never be forced to give up.

Theresa May’s current approach would take Scotland out of the single market, despite the clear fact that 62 per cent of Scots voted to remain. Ever since the Brexit vote, our First Minister has been clear that the voice of the Scottish people should be respected. As a minimum, that means staying in the single market and the customs union. If it is possible for Northern Ireland, why not for Scotland? Yet again, the UK Government simply does not seem to care about Scotland’s wishes.

The economic implications of all this are startling at best. Analysis that the UK Government published last week predicts that a no-deal Brexit could leave the UK economy 9 per cent smaller after 15 years. If 15 years seems far away, we should consider the Scottish Government analysis that has shown that the implications of a no-deal Brexit would be felt almost instantly in Scotland. There is potential for GDP to contract by 7 per cent by the end of this year alone and for unemployment to increase by nearly 4 per cent by mid-2020, which is the equivalent of more than 100,000 additional people out of work.

After a decade of unforgiving Tory austerity, things are already hard enough for many people in my constituency. As members know, I love my town, and I bring issues that are of importance to Paisley to the chamber as often as I can. Although that is frequently mentioned in friendly jest by colleagues, this is not a joking matter. Brexit of any kind will have generational negative consequences for many families in my community. I live in a wonderful town that I love serving, and I will do my utmost to ensure that Paisley continues to flourish, but that is getting increasingly difficult under a Westminster Government that continues to demonstrate beyond any doubt that Scotland is not an equal partner in the UK. The lack of respect that is being shown to us is appalling, especially when all the signs point towards Brexit having a devastating impact on jobs and investment in our country.

Like other members, I have no idea what will happen in the coming weeks, but I know one thing: it is time for Scotland’s voice to be heard. Why should we continue to be treated like an unruly child who is told to be seen and not heard? Scotland did not want Brexit. The time has come for us to gain some control of our future. We cannot continue to be led by the shambolic UK Government. The people of Scotland deserve better and a lot more than what Westminster offers.