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Referendum on Scottish Independence — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:10 pm on 13th November 2017.

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Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 5:10 pm, 13th November 2017

I will make a bit more progress.

I do not dispute that the debate over our country’s future during the 2014 referendum was lively. It encouraged passions the likes of which had not been seen in our democratic process. It encouraged debate, and encouraged voter engagement and turnout the likes of which we will probably never see again, but it also divided. It divided streets, villages, cities, communities and towns. It divided friends and families.

That debate also caused uncertainty. People decided not to invest in our country, not to buy houses in our country or move there until the constitutional future of Scotland had been settled. Because of that and my belief in our United Kingdom, one of my key promises to voters in the borders in the general election was that I would oppose a second independence referendum. I therefore stand here today to urge the SNP Scottish Government to listen to borderers and to listen to Scotland. There was a time when the SNP listened to voters:

“To propose another referendum in the next parliament without strong evidence that a significant number of those who voted No have changed their minds would be wrong and we won’t do it.”

Those are not my words, but the words of the First Minister herself. Every day that the Scottish Government refuse to take another referendum off the table is another day on which the First Minister breaks that promise.

I do not shy away from making the case for Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom—a case that is stronger now than it was in 2014. I have no doubt that people in my constituency would back the United Kingdom in even greater numbers if there were another vote, but now is not the time to have that debate again. I believe that people are opposed to another referendum for two reasons. First, they had a long constitutional debate, which resulted in a fair and decisive referendum with a record turnout. Both sides agreed to respect the result. For many of us, that vote was not a pleasant experience; it was divisive and damaging. People do not want to go through that all over again. The other reason people are against another independence referendum is that even the threat of another vote is damaging our economy and distracting the Scottish Government.

The Scottish economy has grown by 0.5% in the last year, compared with 1.5% across the whole United Kingdom. Small businesses in Scotland are significantly less confident about the future than their UK counterparts. In an already uncertain time across the UK, companies north of the border face a whole extra layer of volatility. In the borders, the uncertainty is even more damaging because so many jobs and businesses are based just across the border in England. The threat of another referendum makes it more difficult for Scotland to secure a good Brexit deal, because Scotland’s two Governments are fighting internally and not together. Meanwhile, the things the Scottish Government has power over, such as Scotland’s schools, hospitals and police services, are falling behind.

The SNP needs to come to terms with losing the referendum. The SNP needs to accept that the people have had their say. The SNP needs to acknowledge that the threat of another vote is harming Scotland’s economy. The SNP needs to listen to the borderers. The SNP needs to listen to Scots, and the SNP needs to remove its threat of another referendum.