If we are not to be a fortress, we must be prepared to accept that demonstrations are a democratic right. [
However, I have given the start of my question away. After months—years, even—of sanctimony from the First Minister and her Brexit secretary, yesterday, Scottish National Party MPs refused to back the very policy option that they have been demanding. Is it not the case that, yesterday, Scotland saw yet again that, for the SNP, when push comes to shove, it is not about finding a solution to Brexit but about pursuing its independence obsession?
However, as Jackson Carlaw rightly says and belatedly recognises, for two long years, when stopping Brexit did not seem possible, the SNP argued for a single market and customs union membership compromise. That was ignored by the Tories and, indeed, by everybody else. That option, which is the minimum that we would need to protect Scotland’s interests, was not actually on the ballot paper last night. That said, over the next few days, we will continue to work across Parliament for a compromise of that nature, if that proves to be the only alternative to a hard Brexit.
Thanks to the Tories, the whole process is now such a mess that stopping Brexit altogether must be our top priority. Moreover, that is now possible. Actually, the option that received the highest number of votes in the House of Commons last night was the people’s vote option. The principle that has guided everything that we have done in this matter is the protection of Scotland’s interests. Can Jackson Carlaw tell us what principles have guided the Scottish Tories? It seems to me that the only principle that they have been abiding by is doing whatever their London bosses have told them to do.
There was no principle in the way that the SNP voted last night. In contrast, I saw a Prime Minister who was prepared to set aside her own premiership in order to secure a deal that, contrary to everything that the SNP says, will be good for Scotland and the United Kingdom.
By contrast, here is the First Minister’s record. She angrily demands that the Prime Minister goes. She angrily complains when the Prime Minister does go. She then angrily declares that the Prime Minister’s decision to go—you guessed it—makes the case for independence. Faux outrage, grievance and her own one single-minded obsession—are Scots not right to detect just a little bit of a pattern here?
Again, one has to laugh at the fact that Jackson Carlaw has come in here today and raised the position of the Prime Minister. It is traditional in politics for leaders to say to colleagues, “If you don’t back me on an issue of such importance, I might have to resign.” That is not the case with the Tories, though; Theresa May’s position is, “If you don’t back me, I’ll stay.” Theresa May must be the only leader in living memory who has tried to fall on her own sword and has managed to miss. It is utterly ridiculous.
The SNP, in contrast to the Tories, will continue to stand up for Scotland’s interests. That is what we have done since day 1 after the Brexit referendum. The way to stand up, not just for Scotland’s interests but for the interests of the entire United Kingdom right now, is to recognise that the Brexit process is a complete and utter mess and put this issue back to the people. So, belatedly, can Jackson Carlaw find it within himself to actually stand up for Scotland instead of being the last man standing up for Theresa May?
Nicola Sturgeon does not stand up for the Scottish interest; she stands up for the nationalist interest.
On Monday, the Prime Minister said that she was “sceptical” that yesterday’s trawl through the alternatives would produce an outcome—she was right. For the avoidance of doubt, no deal was rejected; a second referendum was rejected, again; and revoking article 50 was rejected. Yesterday, when it came to the crunch, the First Minister whipped her MPs against supporting her own policy of a customs union and single market membership—and that was defeated, too.
As I said, the compromise position that the SNP put forward when it looked as if remain was not an option—which is not the case now, incidentally—was not on the ballot paper last night. It has never been our position to accept just a customs union. That would not be sufficient to protect Scotland’s interests.
I disagree with Jackson Carlaw’s characterisation of what happened last night. Two of the options, which were a customs union—albeit a customs union alone—and a second referendum, both got more votes in the House of Commons than the Prime Minister’s deal has managed on either of the occasions when it has been brought forward and defeated. That gives the House of Commons something to move forward with into next week.
I do not think that the thing to do now is vote for a bad deal that would take Scotland out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union. The right thing to do now is to put this issue back to the people. I say again that if Jackson Carlaw was interested in actually standing up for Scotland’s interests, or indeed the interests of the UK, that is the option that he would be arguing for, too.
The argument for many against the Prime Minister’s deal was that there was support for an alternative. The votes in the House of Commons last night demonstrated that there is not. It is clear that there is a deal—one that secures an orderly way forward and is supported by Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and 27 of our other EU partners and backed by the business community here in Scotland, the whisky industry and our fishermen— and that is the Prime Minister’s deal. Surely after all the confusion with every other alternative being rejected yesterday, the national interest is served by supporting that compromise. Surely it is time to back the deal and get on with it.
The Prime Minister’s deal may or may not be backed by all the people whom Jackson Carlaw just listed. The problem is that the Prime Minister’s deal is not backed by his own party, and that is why the Prime Minister cannot get it through. Even if every single SNP MP had backed the Prime Minister’s deal, it would still have gone down to massive defeat.
It is time that the Prime Minister and her sole remaining defenders, Jackson Carlaw and the Scottish Tories, accepted that the deal is dead. It is now time to move on to another option. The option that got most votes last night in the House of Commons was the people’s vote. That is the right thing to do, but today we see Jackson Carlaw again failing to stand up for Scotland’s interests and simply standing up for Theresa May and his London bosses.