Debate on Scotland’s Choice

Clare spoke in the Scottish Parliament in the debate on Scotland’s Choice. We now have a chance to ask the people of Scotland what kind of future they would like – Brexit Britain or Scotland in Europe.

It’s Scotland’s Choice.

Full transcript follows the video:


“I have been so disappointed by the language that some members have used during this debate. Language has been weaponised, with members using words such as “battle”, “fight” and “divisive”. I have heard accusations of arrogance, slurs and—yes—even rabid nationalism. The language of threat, which was ever present in the previous independence referendum campaign, is again being used. Members have talked about threats to Scottish trade and have made untrue and indefensible threats about pensions and hard borders. It is shameful that the word “foreigner” has been used to sow fear of division where none exists.

None of that helps to foster a mature, factual discussion on the future of the country. As leaders in our communities, we need to be mindful of that and to avoid tribalism. Let us have debate—yes. Let us be passionate about our beliefs—yes. However, let us respect others’ views and, in doing so, allow the people their voice and their choice.

This is fundamentally about our right to self-determination. The starting point has to be that Scotland, as a nation, has that right. Scotland was not extinguished as a nation in 1707, as some would have us believe. We have an absolute right to choose the path that our nation takes, particularly when we are being taken down a path that we have no wish to follow.

This is not an argument about who loves their country most but an argument about choice and about letting the Scottish people decide their nation’s future. That is democracy; that is the people exercising their democratic right, regardless of how they vote. How can anyone in this Parliament deny the Scottish people their say and still call themselves a democrat?

Some parties in this chamber, even though they opposed Brexit and, in the wake of the leave vote, supported the Scottish Government in its aim of protecting our relationship with Europe by staying in the single market, now say that we must just suck it up and do as we are told. Why? At what point does doing what is in the best interests of Scotland come into the equation?

Who decides what is in our best interests? Is it the Tories who, like Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have a sole MP at Westminster? Perhaps it is Philip Rycroft, an unelected senior civil servant, who we hear is the person in the UK Brexit department who will decide which of the powers that come back from the EU are to be given to this Parliament. Where is the democracy in that? Indeed, where is the mandate?

Often, the members who shout loudest about mandates and the legitimacy of this Parliament’s call for a section 30 order are those whose own mandates do not bear scrutiny. The Scottish Government’s mandate on the matter is clear and irrefutable. The SNP was elected on a clear commitment that it would review the constitutional arrangements and, if necessary, call for the people of Scotland to have a choice, if there was a material change of circumstance.

A material change is upon us, and it is clear that the interests of Scotland are being completely ignored in the current process. A hard Brexit will damage our economy. It will damage the global perception of us as an inclusive, forward-thinking and outward-looking nation. If this Parliament votes by a majority today to ask for a section 30 order to legislate for an independence referendum, the UK Government will be ill advised to block what will be a clear mandate to have the power to let the people of Scotland choose their future.

Let us stand back from the emotive language and look at the cold, hard facts. For instance, in the last referendum campaign, we were told that pensions would be safe if we voted no. Members should tell that to the women of the women against state pension inequality campaign, who have to wait years longer for their pensions than they should do. They should tell it to the people who might have to work until they are 70 before they can lift their pensions, and to the pensioners who potentially face cuts to pensioner benefits after 2020.

We were told that our shipyards would be safe if we voted no, but the orders for Navy vessels have been cut and are years behind schedule. We were told that our tax offices would be safe if we voted no; members should tell that to my constituents who work at Centre 1 in East Kilbride.

We were told that voting no would deliver the “nearest thing to federalism”, only for the vow to be watered down, with Labour opposing powers that it is now promising once again, but with no hope of delivering them.

We were told that if we voted no, we would be able to keep our membership of the European Union; we now face the prospect of Scotland being taken out of Europe against her will.

As I said before, Scotland is a nation, not a region or a province and not a territory. As a nation, it has an absolute right to seek its interests and to reconsider its relationships with other nations, particularly in the current circumstances. It is also right that the decision on our future be taken during the timeframe outlined by the Government and that Scotland’s referendum be made in Scotland without external interference or obstruction.

We will have that national conversation again, as we are perfectly entitled to do. I look forward to that conversation being as engaging and uplifting as the previous one. My hope is that a new conversation can be had without recourse to the language of threat and fear.

We know that the status quo will not be an option in the forthcoming referendum. We will choose between two futures: one, that we already see, will be damaging and isolationist; the other, while challenging, will be ours alone to fashion. Sovereignty lies with the people. I trust the people to make an informed choice that will see Scotland say, “Stop the world, we want to get on.”

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