“A week is a long time in politics!” As a description of how quickly things can change on the political landscape this popular saying seems woefully inadequate, given the ongoing fall out from the EU Referendum result. Every day in the past two weeks seemed to bring another twist and turn to further complicate an unsettling situation.
Whilst the vote across the UK was a narrow Leave this was in stark contrast to Scotland’s emphatic decision to Remain. The unthinkable has happened and we now face being dragged out of the European Union against the express will of the People of Scotland. We are now in uncharted constitutional waters.
In London the Prime Minister has resigned and the Tories will be gazing at their navels for the next few months, engulfed in a leadership battle. Labour too have descended into internal warfare in a bid to unseat Jeremy Corbyn, at the very time the country needs a strong opposition to hold the divided Tories to account. The EU has told the UK to exit as soon as possible but the Brexiteers and the Government have no Exit plan. Meantime uncertainty reigns and the markets and sterling have tanked.
As a stunned and rudderless Westminster tries to come to terms with the result one leader has emerged to take control of the situation as it affects Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been clear that Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will is democratically unacceptable. She has also been clear that all EU citizens living and working in Scotland are welcome, and I would echo that welcome to all citizens born outside of Scotland, who choose to live and work here in Rutherglen Constituency.
With cross Party support, following a debate in Parliament, The First Minister has embarked on a process to protect Scotland’s status in the EU and the Single Market. As she said during the debate, the Scottish Government will look at all the options, up to and including Independence, although she made it quite clear that this is not her starting point. It has been interesting, however, to see the surge in previously Unionist voices, both at local and national level, who are now saying that this may be the only way to reflect the outcome of the Scottish result and secure Scotland’s place in Europe.
This welcome consensus was reflected in two other events which took place at Holyrood last week.
Irish President, Michael D Higgins, addressed the Chamber on Wednesday. Both his Address and the response from Deputy First Minister, John Sweeney, emphasised the shared history and close ties between our two countries. Both are outward looking nations with great potential. Describing us as on the edge of Europe but very much European he also said that “Scotland has led by example” in its democratic response to the European Union referendum.
On Saturday the Queen opened the 5th session of the Scottish Parliament in an uplifting ceremony of music, song and poetry that celebrated our diverse culture and inclusivity. Welcoming Her Majesty, Presiding Officer, Ken MacIntosh, noted that despite the unprecedented political turbulence he had seen a real willingness in the Parliament to work co-operatively in Scotland’s interests. In her address the Queen advised parliamentarians to be calm and collected when contemplating how to deal with developments in a “fast moving world.”
Wise words indeed. However, it seems the only calm heads, at the moment, are to be found in Edinburgh!