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Supreme Court Judgment (Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 24th September 2019.

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The First Minister:

I welcome Jackson Carlaw’s comments about the rule of law and the foundations of our democracy. Such comments are and should be uncontroversial in any Parliament and in any democracy. The fact that they are being discussed in the way that they are in the United Kingdom today speaks volumes about the turn that the UK Government has taken and the direction that it has taken the country in.

On the issue of a deal, I have made my position abundantly clear—indeed, crystal clear—since the day of and the day after the Brexit referendum in 2016. Scotland did not vote for Brexit. My principal responsibility as First Minister is to seek to ensure that Scotland’s democratic wishes are respected, and that is what I will continue to do.

That said, I made valiant efforts to strike compromise with Boris Johnson’s predecessor. This Government published a paper as far back as December 2016, in which it put forward the proposal that a single market, customs union future would be a decent compromise. That was not my first or preferred option, but it was a decent compromise that was put forward in an attempt to bring together divided opinion. That attempt at compromise was completely and utterly ignored.

To respond to Jackson Carlaw’s question, there is no deal before us to scrutinise. The European Union has made it clear in recent days that the UK Government is yet to put credible proposals for a deal on the table. Of course we will scrutinise anything that comes forward, but I make it absolutely crystal clear that neither I nor the SNP will vote for something that takes our country out of the EU—out of the single market and the customs union—against our will, with all the damage that that would do. I would be abdicating my responsibility as First Minister if I were to agree with that way forward for Scotland.

Lastly, I believe, as I said in my statement, that it is time for a general election. However, as the SNP has also said and worked with other parties to secure—this must continue to be the priority as the UK Parliament returns tomorrow—we must make sure that that general election cannot be used by the Prime Minister as a device to force through a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

The means of avoiding a no-deal Brexit is now on the statute book in the form of the Benn act, so the first priority for MPs should be to ensure that that act is complied with and honoured and that we avert the risk of a no-deal Brexit. I believe that the UK Government should then be turfed out of office and that there should be a UK general election as soon as is practically possible.