I had to spend most of time as an MP embroiled in Scotland’s constitutional debate…and today I find myself returning to the Houses of Parliament to look on as today’s MPs take to Westminster Hall to debate the prospect of there being another independence referendum.
Two petitions – one from a pro-independence standpoint, another from a pro-UK view – will be rolled up together and discussed from 4.30pm today. They exemplify how divisive and acrimonious this subject has become.
First, we have:
Another Scottish independence referendum should not be allowed to happen - We in Scotland are fed up of persecution by the SNP leader who is solely intent on getting independence at any cost. As a result, Scotland is suffering hugely.
It racked up a substantial 221,514 signatures.
To counter it, we also have:
Agree to a second referendum on Scottish Independence - The actions of the UK government after the Brexit vote do not align with the people of Scotland. We are not bigoted. We are not racist. We welcome everybody based on their contribution, not on where they come from. The UK government does not behave in this way and so we must LEAVE.
This petition gained 38,515 expressions of support.
Whilst most people in Scotland do not want another referendum, it is not right to say that we are persecuted, no matter how frustrated we get with constant recourse to independence. I am appalled at the suggestion that Leave voters – and the nations within the UK which had majority support for it – are bigoted and racist.
I trust that all MPs who speak in today’s debate strike a calmer tone when they debate these petitions, and respect the arguments on each side. Ultimately, I hope there is consensus across the parliament that this is not the time to be thinking about another referendum.
Scotland in Union has set out five reasons why we should not be rushing into another constitutional debate.
Most importantly, the people of Scotland simply don’t want independence, as borne out in every recent poll. Secondly, we were told the referendum was once in a generation and both sides pledged to respect the result.
Thirdly, the economic case has collapsed – until the pro-independence side come up with a solution to the yawning deficit in their finances of independence, they shouldn’t be trying to force this issue.
It is important to highlight the complexity of the Brexit vote in Scotland - many Remain supporters are unhappy their vote is being taken as an endorsement for an independence referendum, while a third of SNP supporters actually backed Brexit.
Lastly, we raise the growing damage the added political uncertainty is doing to our economy – Scotland grew by just 0.5 per cent in the last year compared to 1.5 per cent across the UK.
The case against a referendum is powerful, yet Nicola Sturgeon still clings to her timetable of before the 2021 election, and the hope that the fallout from Brexit gives them a window of opportunity.
Today is a chance for MPs to speak up for the majority of Scots who do not want another referendum, and the majority of the rest of the UK who want us to stay. It is time to end the upheaval and uncertainty and make clear once and for all that Scotland does not need another divisive referendum.