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The reality gap

After nearly 40 years in the police, countless interviews and court cases, I reckon I am fair judge at spotting the gap between what people say and what is the truth.

In many ways, it was perfect training for my time in politics. I thought I had seen it all when it came to stretching the truth until the Scottish referendum.

You can see why Alex Salmond and Donald Trump once hit it off. Neither man lets facts or reality get in the way of their political project. On currency, the economy, oil prices, Salmond was prepared to say anything to get his way in 2014.

Clearly, he taught his deputy well. Since the decision to leave the EU last year, the gap between Nicola Sturgeon’s rhetoric and reality is getting wider.

This week, she said Brexit threatens to be ‘economically catastrophic’. There are certainly plenty of experts who agree it could have a negative impact although I am unaware of any who go as far ‘catastrophic’. She says it would cost 80,000 jobs – Project Fear anyone?

Her problem is her suggested alternative – the same alternative she has suggested all her life, Scottish independence.

Figures released this week by her own government shows that Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the UK (£49.8 billion) compared to just £12.3 billion to EU countries.

It’s also the UK market which has grown the most, having increased £2.1 billion in a year against a rise of around £500 million in Europe. In fact, the country we export to the most isn’t even in the EU – we export £4.6 billion to the US compared to our biggest market in Europe, which is the Netherlands (£2.3 billion).

The bottom line is this – the single market which is most important to Scotland is the one we have with the UK and the real economic catastrophe would be if we were to break it, as Nicola Sturgeon is suggesting.

It’s understandable that many Scottish companies are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of Brexit. No business likes change but we will need to endure it until the Brexit negotiations are complete. That’s what people voted for.

What is really reckless is the double uncertainty we now face in Scotland with the daily threats of another referendum that people don’t want and threatens our biggest economic market.

The double standards we are seeing from Nicola Sturgeon and her government expose her Brexit outrage as nothing more than a wheeze to create the conditions for a second referendum.

If she really cared about the Scottish economy, she would be protecting the market which matters most to Scotland – the UK single market – and working constructively to make Brexit work.

The other piece of rhetoric she is fond of reciting in response to Brexit is to pose this question – what kind of country do we want to be?

I don’t want to live in a country where expectant mothers are turned away because of overcrowding in our hospitals, where standards in our schools slip down the international league tables and unemployment continues to rise because of an underperforming economy.

If we are going to get the kind of country we want, we need politicians and political parties, whether in London or Edinburgh, prepared to get on with the day job – enabling prosperity for all of our communities and providing the level of public services people expect.

We have had a decade of constitutional bickering – it’s time to move on with a united Britain and a United Kingdom.

We have made our way in the world for centuries using our creativity and our courage. Our engineering, invention, music, culture and so much more are in demand across the globe – it’s time for us to stand tall and face the futu­re united as a nation, proud Scots and part of the UK.


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