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We have received no response from the UK Government. After the various fiascos in the House of Commons last night, including the extraordinary spectacle of the Prime Minister yet again voting against what she had proposed, it is not even clear whether there is an agreed UK Government position. That is an absolutely extraordinary situation, given that there is little more than two weeks to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union.
The views of this Parliament and those of the Welsh Assembly have consistently been ignored throughout the Brexit process. Large sections of Northern Irish opinion have also been ignored, because the Prime Minister has put herself in hock to the Democratic Unionist Party. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is still trying deliberately to run down the clock to a deeply damaging exit from the EU, but we will do everything that we can to prevent that disaster.
I share the cabinet secretary’s frustration that a handful of DUP MPs have more sway over the future of the countries of the UK than the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly has. The First Minister and the Parliament have been ignored during the Brexit process. Does that not demonstrate the need for Scotland to go its own way as an independent country?
I recall the wise observation of the late, great Donnie Stewart—a former president of the Scottish National Party and MP for the Western Isles—who said that if every person in Scotland got the opportunity to spend 30 minutes in the gallery of the House of Commons, they would be in no doubt about voting for independence. Again and again, we have seen how chaotic the House of Commons system is and how chaotically MPs are being led—or, frankly, not being led—by a Prime Minister in name only. As I said, she has put herself and her Government in hock to extremists in the DUP and, in particular, in the European research group. Those people will never be satisfied with any resolution, and they certainly will not be satisfied until they have got their own destructive way for their own destructive ends.
Many people, including the Scottish Government, have repeatedly told the Prime Minister that she should have been talking constructively to others; instead, she has chosen to pander to the worst elements in her party, and the consequences are there for everyone to see.
It is disappointing that the UK Government has not responded to the Parliament’s joint work with the National Assembly for Wales. I am pleased that the Scottish Government engaged in that initiative and I hope that we will work closely with our colleagues in Wales on other issues, as well as continuing to work with them on Brexit.
Will the cabinet secretary have a word in the First Minister’s ear to ask her to stop using the Welsh Government as one of her regular diversionary shields when she is in trouble at First Minister’s question time? In fact, we should learn from the Welsh Government, which is doing tremendous work.
My engagement with the Welsh Government has been on the business of Brexit, and I have made it clear that that engagement has been and continues to be constructive. However, that does not prevent the Welsh Government or the First Minister of Wales from criticising the Scottish National Party, which I believe happened at the Labour Party conference at the weekend, and it does not inhibit the First Minister of Scotland and others from criticising the Welsh Government.
However, it is important to say that, on Brexit, we have worked constructively with the Welsh Government, as we have worked constructively with Mr Findlay and the Labour Party in Scotland. Our aim is the same, and I hope that the Labour Party will endorse and publicly press for a second referendum, which would help enormously. We have worked well with the Welsh Government on Brexit and I hope that we will continue to do so.