Independence is not the answerby Kezia Dugdale / March 29, 2017 / Leave a comment
Read more: The SNP has failed Scotland
Yesterday, The SNP and the Greens in the Scottish Parliament forced through a vote calling for another divisive independence referendum.
To readers elsewhere in the UK it may look like the people of Scotland are agitating for this. Let me confirm, for the avoidance of doubt, that the majority of Scots—including many who voted for independence just two-and-a-half years ago—do not want to go through all that again. The referendum in 2014 divided families, workplaces and communities. While for some it was an exciting exercise in democracy, for many more it was an experience never to be repeated.
The SNP is not Scotland and it does not speak for Scotland. When faced with the choice between nationalism and solidarity, Scots voted decisively for solidarity. More than two million people, on an 85 per cent turnout, said very firmly that they wanted their country to remain in in the UK. Because we’re stronger when the four nations of these isles share and pool resources.
The clearly expressed will of the Scottish people is to remain in the UK. That is the mandate that the SNP must respect. Instead of constantly seeking to divide the country, it should focus on the business of government. Recent official statistics confirm that cancer waiting time targets haven’t been met for four years. The nationalists have also abandoned a promise to reduce the hours of junior doctors—a promise that was made to the parents of a young female doctor who lost her life. But neither of these issues, nor the other significant challenges facing our country, are a priority for the nationalist government in Edinburgh. Independence has always been the only thing that really matters to the SNP.
We can safely assume that Brexit will damage Scotland’s economy, especially with the Tories recklessly pursuing a hard Brexit, but we have no idea what that will look like in practice. The people of Scotland deserve clarity on exactly what they are being asked to vote on. So despite the vote forced through by the SNP and its ever-reliable allies in the Scottish Greens, I believe firmly that if there is to be another referendum on independence it should not take place until Britain has left the EU, at the very earliest. The UK and Scottish governments should not be distracted from the task of getting the best Brexit deal for Britain by endless, and no doubt acrimonious, negotiations over another independence referendum.
Of course if, after Brexit, the people of Scotland clearly want another referendum then it isn’t the job of the UK government to stand in the way. But as things stand, the clear will of the Scottish people is there should not be another referendum any time soon.
Brexit is bad for Scotland, but leaving the UK would be catastrophic for families here. According to the SNP’s own figures—figures the Nationalists are now desperately trying to discredit—leaving the UK would mean an extra £15bn worth of cuts to Scotland’s schools and hospitals. That would be turbo-charged austerity, on top of the cuts already being imposed by the Tories today.
I will never vote for something that would make Scotland poorer, and pull away the safety net from the most vulnerable. During the last referendum Nicola Sturgeon sold false hope to the poorest communities when she said that independence was the route out of poverty. The truth is that those who rely most on public services would be even worse off if Scotland left the UK.
This isn’t a debate between independence and the status quo. It’s about the SNP’s never ending campaign for separation and what the people want—a powerful Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom. That’s why Labour will campaign relentlessly to secure more powers for Scotland when they return from Brussels. That’s what First Minister Carwyn Jones will also do for Wales. What a novelty it would be for Scotland to have a First Minister prepared to do the same.