Opening remarks for the Abertay University Debate Brexit has strengthened the case for Scottish Independence by Councillor Jordan James Linden. Check against delivery.
Thank you very much Wallace for your kind introduction and I am delighted to have been invited back to Abertay University here in Dundee this Afternoon to represent the Scottish National Party at this important debate, following my first appearance here last year.
And it is last year’s debate that I wish to begin with this Afternoon. Because last year I began by saying to the audience that:
I hoped over the hour or so of the debate – to convince all of them of the same question we consider today on whether Brexit had strengthened the case for Scottish Independence.
But in considering that question, I feel that my contribution today should only solidify any view you have.
Because there can be no denying that Brexit has shone a light onto the deep issues with our dis-United Kingdom and it’s total democratic deficit.
This Afternoon, I want to focus on what has transpired since our Independence Referendum in 2014, the most recent developments with Brexit and what the future holds for Scotland.
Of course, for me, that future is one which could be filled with hope and belief.
Hope and belief in an alternative that can transform this great Country of ours, into a fairer, more equal and more prosperous place to live.
Hope and belief in our Country’s ability to be an Independent Country and join the world in its own right.
Hope and belief that we can shape a Country to change the lives of those in our Communities. Let’s cast our minds back to 2014; to our first Referendum on Scottish Independence.
And think of that idea of hope. For that was the foundation of the YES Scotland Campaign. Hope and belief in a better future for all of us. Painting a vision of what Scotland could be like
with Independence and the types of values we would pursue.
Set that against the backdrop of the Better Together Campaign. Better Together that were the architects of scare mongering on pensions, the architects of the now notorious Vow and of course the architects of that now haunting promise that the best way to guarantee our continued Members of the European Union was to vote NO.
Remember that – it’s a claim that we don’t hear spoken about so often by the Better Together parties any longer.
And we know why.
Because look at where Scotland is now. Having voted no in 2014 and now in 11 days’ time, we will be ripped from the European Union despite the people of Scotland voting right across all of Scotland’s 32 Council Area to Remain.
And not only that; because we didn’t vote for independence, we now not just find ourselves exiting the EU; but doing so with an awful deal crafted by a Prime Minister that the people of Scotland did not vote for.
It is therefore absolutely clear that the case for independence is irrefutably materially strengthened from our 2014 result because of all that Scotland has experienced since 2014.
And what has Scotland experienced since 2014?
It’s a fair question – as we discuss the idea of “material changes in circumstance”.
We have been faced with continuing austerity by the UK Tory Government, with over £10 billion having been cut from Scotland’s budget since the Conservatives came into Government in 2010.
We have seen promises of more powers for Scotland reneged and indeed attempts to utilize Brexit to steal powers back from Europe to Westminster when they should come to Scotland.
We have seen policies such as the Rape Clause and the callous system of Universal Credit being forced upon Scotland by a Government we did not vote for.
And we have seen a Brexit Referendum and result that Scotland didn’t agree with being implemented without any care or thought for the people of Scotland.
Set that record and that mandate against the SNPs.
The SNP’s mandate for an independence Referendum is irrefutable. We have now won four elections that contained references to another Referendum being held. We won the Scottish Parliament Election in 2016, the General Election in 2017, the European Parliament election and most recently the General Election in 2019 – with an explicit commitment in our manifesto on holding a referendum.
The Scottish Parliament has also agreed to deliver a referendum on Scottish independence, and the Scottish Government has now published legislation to pave the way for a new referendum on Scottish independence.
We are committed to a lawful, constitutional referendum – but crucially, one which will be respected in the UK, the EU, and internationally and therefore deliver independence.
The Scottish Government has published the document ‘Scotland’s right to choose: putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands’ which makes the case for giving the people of Scotland a choice about their future, specifically a referendum on independence.
It is not about the benefits of independence, nor the Scottish Government’s vision for an independent Scotland. It is about the right to choose. And that is fundamental to everything we are considering today in this debate on Brexit and Independence.
Because Brexit will take Scotland out of the EU against our democratic wishes and out of the Single Market against our economic interests – so it is essential that we keep Scotland’s options open so that people have the opportunity to choose a better future.
The SNP’s message to Boris Johnson is clear, there is no democracy, security or prosperity for Scotland in Brexit.
We all know it. All the evidence suggests that it will cost 100,000 jobs in Scotland, plunge the economy into recession and reduce GDP by the equivalent of £2,300 per person – and put enormous pressure on public services such as the NHS.
Having published its own official analysis of the economic consequences of Brexit, the UK Government has confirmed that under all Brexit proposals we would be worse off than if we remained in the EU.
So The Tories can try and spin but they can hide no longer – it is clear that any kind of Brexit will make Scotland and the UK poorer.
And this takes me to my point about a democratic deficit. We did not vote for this Tory Government, we didn’t vote for this new Prime Minister and we didn’t vote for Brexit.
In December 2019, the SNP won an incredible 80% of seats in Scotland - an overwhelming endorsement of our campaign and message. A message that focused on continuing to work every day to earn the trust of the people of Scotland regardless of how they voted in the election, a message that focused on our work to build a fairer and more prosperous country for all who call Scotland home, a message that focused on promoting our outward-looking internationalist values which are at the heart of our vision for Scotland and crucially a message that focused on doing all we can to protect Scotland from this deeply damaging Tory Government and their Brexit obsession.
Defending the NHS including from post-Brexit trade deals and working as hard as we can to defend Scotland from the ultra-Brexit Tory ideology that threatens a race to the bottom on issues like environmental protections, food standards and workers’ rights; standing up for the rights of those from other European countries who have chosen to live here.
It is abundantly clear – that in 2019 – the separate and distinct journeys that Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom are on turned a corner.
And it is clear that the kind of future desired by the majority in Scotland is different to that
chosen by the rest of the UK.
Westminster has ignored people in Scotland for three years. And at the General Election, the people of Scotland said – enough.
We rejected Boris Johnson and the Tories and, yet again, we have said no to Brexit. It is time for Boris Johnson to start listening.
Regretfully Boris may have a mandate for Brexit in England. But he has no mandate whatsoever to take Scotland out of the EU.
If he presses ahead he will drive a coach and horses through the very idea that is supposed to underpin the UK – the idea that this union is a partnership of equal nations.
And as I have made clear already this Afternoon, the most recent win for the SNP only serves to renew, reinforce and strengthen the mandate we have from previous elections to offer the people of Scotland a choice over their future.
A mandate that makes clear that it is for the Scottish Parliament – not a Westminster government - to decide whether and when there should be a new referendum on independence.
Whether or not Scotland becomes an independent country must be a matter for the people who live here – and for all of us, wherever we come from.
It is not a decision for any Westminster Prime Minister - and certainly not for one who suffered a crushing defeat in Scotland in December.
Of course, we know that Boris Johnson has responded to our First Ministers requests for the legal power to hold an Independence Referendum.
His refusal of the Section 30 Request was not surprising, indeed it was predictable.
But know this - it will not hold.
Clearly the Tories are terrified of Scotland having the right to choose our own future.
They know that given the choice the overwhelming likelihood is that people will choose the positive vision of independence.
They know that there is no positive case left for the Union and rather than facing another referendum and trying to make that case, they would sooner try to block it.
But it is not politically sustainable for any Westminster government to stand in the way of the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future and to seek to block the clear democratic mandate for an independence referendum.
The issue for the Tory government is that the longer they try to block a referendum, the more they demonstrate that this Union is not a partnership of equals as we were told in 2014 and we will see support for independence soar.
I want to end my remarks by stating clearly.
The people of Scotland will get the right to decide our own future in an independence referendum. The Union cannot be sustained without consent and equality. Democracy and the right to choose will win.
The people of Scotland spoke at the General Election – it is time to decide our own future. A future that means we take our place as an equal partner with our closest friends in the rest
of the UK and across the European Union.
A future that means we will always get the governments we vote for.
And a future that means we will have full control of the powers and levers we need to build a truly fair and more prosperous country – to change the lives of the people of Scotland for the better.
An Independent Future.