Below is Councillor Jordan Linden’s opening remarks in the Brexit ‘has strengthened the case for Scottish Independence’ debate which took place on the 21st January 2019 in Abertay University. Check against delivery.
Thank you very much, Wallace, for that very kind introduction and I am delighted to be here this Afternoon to represent the Young Scots for Independence, the Youth Wing of the SNP and indeed the Scottish National Party.
I’m even more delighted to have left North Lanarkshire and to be here in Dundee. From one Yes voting Local Authority to another. I hope over the next hour or so – to convince all of you of the question before us today on whether Brexit has strengthened the case for Scottish Independence. I am of course speaking in favour today – in favour of the alternative available to Scotland; the positive case for independence; not because I have been asked to for the sake of this debate but because I believe it – with every fibre of my being.
In my remarks this Afternoon; I hope to frame my contribution to the debate around the recent events that have engulfed Scotland and the UK over the last five years or more from the 2014 Referendum to Brexit and everything thereafter; that has led me to believe in my proposition today; indeed, I hope to be able to take us all back to the first Independence Referendum and to recall some of the commitments which we were encouraged to believe at that time; commitments which have since seen history re-written and turned out to be false promises.
Of course, it would be remiss in framing the debate we are having today – not to conclude my remarks later, by reflecting on the abject failure of this Conservative UK Government in their negotiations on the Brexit process and indeed the situation which we now find ourselves in; with the real prospect of a No Deal Brexit and a frankly obstinate Prime Minister who says her door is open to talks but the reality is that her ears are not.
In 2014; the people of Scotland were made every manner of promise; from the closest thing to Federalism to a powerhouse Scottish Parliament. And my personal favourite of those promises – that voting No would be the only way to guarantee our continued Membership of the European Union.
How quickly that fallacy disappears into Memory. As we consider our current position. Having voted no in 2014 and facing been torn from the European Union despite the people of Scotland’s voting right across all of Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities to Remain in the EU. And not only that; because we didn’t vote for independence, we now not just find ourselves facing exiting the European Union; but seeing the voices and interests of Scotland being completely ignored and side-lined – time and time again.
It is therefore abundantly clear that the case for independence is materially strengthened from an already strong base in 2014 because of all of the experience of Scotland in the last few years. From conversations I have, each and every day, the people of Scotland feel that they were lied to in 2014 – not only on the question of our Membership of the European Union but on a great many issues.
This causes distrust in the system and I hear time and time again that this causes doubt for many in their belief of what those at Westminster and indeed Politicians in the Better Together Campaign have to say against the Independence Campaign. The people of Scotland – can now see right through – the Better Together Campaigns false promises and will not be fooled again.
Of course, the Brexit Referendum did not just happen of its own accord. It took place with thanks, to that now not so familiar face, David Cameron. Why? Because he and his Party have had an issue with Europe and have been split down the middle – for many many years. And he saw the rise in popularity of some of the views expressed by the likes Nigel Farage. And rather than make a stand – he pandered to the growth in popularity of these views and more importantly he pandered to the Right Wing of his Tory Party and selfishly wishes to deal with this issue - we were given a Referendum on the EU that the people of Scotland did not want.
Indeed, Scotland is used to Tory Government’s inflicting decisions upon us – that we didn’t vote for. From Thatcher’s experimentation on the people of Scotland with the Poll Tax to modern day roll out of failing Universal Credit. Scotland faces policies being implemented – that they never wanted in the first place.
And why? Because we have an Official Opposition in the House of Commons in the form of UK Labour; who sit on their hands as the Tories inflict misery to the lives of people across the UK. And indeed – fundamentally the democratic deficit in the UK.
A deficit which sees Government’s that Scotland did not vote for and did not want being forced upon it anyway.
This is the case all too often, where Tory governments are imposed on Scotland – against our will and at great cost. That’s why only independence will stop the Tories for good and we need to grasp that opportunity when we have it.
Not only that, we see exactly the reasons why imposed Government’s and imposed Referendums that we don’t want – do not work. We look to the outcome of the EU Referendum in Scotland.
I make no apologies for reminding anyone of the stark contrast:
United Kingdom Result, Leave 51.89%. Remain 48.11%.
Scotland Result, Remain 62%. Leave 38%.
And by Council Areas? 32 out of 32 Councils voted to Remain.
The outcome? Scotland is part of the UK and Scotland will be leaving the European Union. No ifs. No buts.
So we have a Referendum given to us by a Prime Minister we never voted for, led by a Party we never voted for, set to impose a Brexit upon us – that we never voted for.
What happens next of course, is beggar’s belief. The person who leads that Government then decides – it’s all too much and resigns. And so begins the time of Theresa May.
And let’s look at Theresa May, for a moment and judge her appropriateness as choice for Prime Minister. Her leadership leaves a lot to be desired:
Leadership on Cuts. In June 2010, May announced radical cuts to the Home Office budget, likely to lead to a reduction in police numbers
Leadership in creating the “Go Home” Campaign. In August 2013, Theresa May launched an advertising campaign telling illegal immigrants to “Go home or face arrest through her Department the Home Office.
And leadership in shaping Government Policy for a “Hostile Environment”. Indeed, she was involved in the Windrush Scandal which saw Windrush generation of Afro-Caribbean Britons being threatened with deportation by the Home Office at the time and in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported from the UK. Her response thereafter to questions in Parliament on the Windrush scandal on 25 April, was maintaining that the hostile environment policy would remain government policy.
So this is the record of Theresa May – the individual set to lead us to Brexit. Her record in showing leadership should concern us all and we have seen that it has not got any better throughout the Brexit process. The Prime Minister is not strong; she is stubborn and unwilling to work to compromise with anyone.
Throughout the entire disastrous Brexit process, the interests of Scotland haven’t even been an afterthought for the UK Government and the Conservative Party.
Despite, the overwhelming vote to remain in the EU, repeated votes in the Scottish Parliament and the compromise option of Single Market and Customs Union membership, put forward by the Scottish Government, all have been ignored.
The stark contrast in Leadership by our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and by extension her Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Mike Russell to the Prime Minister and indeed her predecessor – is clear for all to see.
Indeed, from the moment of the Referendum Result when David Cameron went into hiding. Our First Minister, provided hope, reassurance and the leadership that was sadly lacking where it should have been.
And day in and day out since then, both the First Minister and our Cabinet Secretary have worked tirelessly to represent Scotland’s voice to the Prime Minister and the UK Government as well as to the European Union and others throughout the UK and the EU.
From the publication of Scotland’s Place in Europe – our blueprint to provide alternative options that will square the UK Vote and the result of the referendum in Scotland – to their continued efforts at the Joint Ministerial Meetings.
Efforts – all of which – have been ignored, sidelined and dismissed.
Contrast that – I think, to one of the most instructive and revealing aspects of the period since the Brexit vote and that is the contrast between the way Ireland has been treated by the EU and the contempt with which Scotland has treated by the Westminster Government.
On one hand, you have Ireland who has received solidarity and support from all its EU partners, while our national interests are ignored, the powers of the Scottish Parliament are eroded and we are left at the mercy of an increasingly dysfunctional and chaotic Westminster system. Indeed, the costs to Scotland of not being independent have never been clearer.
And I want to linger on that point for a little longer – because it is a deeply important issue and one which can be overlooked easily in this debate. Just this weekend, I was discussing today’s debate with the Cabinet Secretary, Mike Russell who has as I have already mentioned – lead on these matters for Scotland since Brexit became apparent as the outcome. And he mentioned that in a recent speech in Killarney, Ireland, this issue was one that was topical.
Namely, that the values of the EU, being exhibited towards independent Ireland; are very different from the values being shown by a right-wing, anti-migration, inward and backwards looking Tory government in London. So Brexit, in illustrating that, does provide anipetus for us to choose our future - solidarity with values which are ours, or continued dissonance in values within the UK.
And that leads us to ask – what happens next?
Where we are now.
What a question to answer.
Many across the UK are asking themselves that question. And the answers to it - well it depends who you speak to.
No Deal. Theresa May’s Bad Deal. No Brexit. Peoples Vote.
It is clear, that there is no shortage of answers but none seem to be able to make progress. And why? Because you have the failure of Theresa May to achieve a viable Brexit deal which has taken the UK to the brink of a historic crisis, with a No Deal Brexit now the default without cross-party agreement on an alternative.
And Labour who have a strategy of prioritising a General Election over a second EU referendum – delaying a vote of confidence until after the meaningful vote – which has now failed. It is time that Labour joined us – and supported our position on our future relationship with the EU.
And whilst the only way to ensure that democratic guarantee, of EU Membership of course, is for Scotland to be an independent country.
Whatever constitutional future, it will be in all our interests for the UK to have the closest possible relationship with Europe, and therefore it is time to put the question of EU membership to the people again through a Peoples Vote.
So – as I consider bringing my remarks to a conclusion.
I think it is important for all of us, to pause, to reflect and to consider everything that has happened over the past couple of years, from Scotland facing exit from the EU against our will to every reasonable attempt at compromise to protect Scotland’s interests by the Scottish Government being spurned, to the powers of the Scottish Parliament being eroded, to the UK Government even taking the Scottish Government to court.
All of that surely has strengthened and reinforced the case for Scotland to be independent, because these are not just academic arguments, all of this will have a material impact on Scotland’s economy and well-being for decades to come.
Scotland faces a catastrophe through Brexit – on our economy, our society, our living standards, the prospects for the next generation and our reputation in the world, it is essential therefore that the option of independence is open to people in Scotland.
I believe beyond any doubt, that that case has been strengthened by what has happened in the past two and a half years.
It’s now incumbent upon those, who believe in Independence, like me - to get out and make that case.
And I believe that when people in Scotland have the ability to choose independence again.
I believe that this great country of ours will opt to be an independent one.
And we can get on, together, with building a better future than the one offered to us by the chaos and incompetence of Westminster.