In these dark days for democracy, Scotland must find another way

Last week will go down in history as one of the darkest times for British democracy, as Boris Johnson pressed ahead with plans to shut down Parliament in a blatant attempt to force through an extreme hard-Brexit.

These conniving, underhand manoeuvres came just after it was revealed by the Sunday Times that a no-deal Brexit would cost Glasgow £2.35 billion and lead to the loss of 30,000 jobs over just four years.

It is likely that damage on that scale would be replicated across the entire country. Indeed, it is only since the 2016 referendum that the true impacts of Brexit, and in particular a no-deal Brexit, have become clear. Boris Johnson and the Leave Campaign were at pains to avoid giving voters any real detail before the vote – and it is becoming clearer by the day why that was the case.

Airport and travel chaos, potential food and medicine shortages and a possible recession. Whilst the majority of Scotland voted to remain in the EU, I’m pretty certain that even those who voted for Brexit were not voting for Scotland and the rest of the UK to face such catastrophic consequences.

Those advocating Brexit spoke of it being about ‘taking back control’, yet in whose hands does that control now sit? The fact is that control of the UK now lies with a group of elite, extreme-right wing Tories who are more interested in saving the future of their own party than they are in the interests of the country.

This week at Westminster the SNP is making every effort to stop this assault on democracy and we are working with other parties to do so. Even some members of the Conservative Party are deeply concerned about the actions of their colleagues, and rightly so.

But where are the Scottish Tories in all of this?

We can only take their deafening silence on the day of the Boris Johnson coup last week as a signal of their unwavering support for whatever their Westminster bosses say.

It is incredulous that the Scottish Tories are willing to back Boris Johnson – a Prime Minister with no mandate and no majority – in his attempt to shut down the Westminster Parliament, especially when they know the price people in Scotland will pay as he pushes the country over the Brexit cliff edge.

Of course, there was one sign of discomfort at what her party is doing, when Ruth Davidson announced her resignation the following day.

I don’t doubt the personal reasons for Ruth’s resignation and I genuinely wish her well. After all, I know only too well the toll that political leadership takes on family life. But even if she wasn’t saying so, there’s no doubt disagreement with the new Prime Minister was a factor in her decision. And that begs a serious question – if the leader of the Scottish Conservatives isn’t prepared to put up with Boris Johnson then why should the rest of Scotland?

Whilst her colleagues stand firmly behind Boris’s attempts to silence Members of Parliament, the SNP will work harder than ever to ensure Scotland’s voice can be heard, loudly and clearly, including by intensifying our calls for an early general election.

As this out of control Tory party plunges the UK even deeper into a democratic, constitutional and economic crisis, domestic policy is taking a back seat.

By contrast, the SNP Government has returned to Parliament this week with a strong, progressive Programme for Government, full of bold plans for making Scotland a fairer, greener country.

We are demonstrating real leadership in setting out ambitious plans for the year ahead – with tackling climate change and improving the lives of people across Scotland at their core.

We have new legislation, new infrastructure projects and new policies which are focussed on building a successful, fair economy which reduces inequalities and improves wellbeing for all.

This follows on from some strong updates on the delivery of last year’s Programme for Government – including the news that 42,000 Best Start Grant payments have benefitted families on low incomes to the tune of nearly £13 million.

However it cannot be stressed enough that even as the Scottish Government moves forward with progressive policies for a more successful country, for as long as we are tied to Westminster and the acts of an out-of-control Tory government our public services, economy and society are under threat.

That is why, as the Holyrood session gets underway, the SNP will also intensify work to give the people of Scotland the choice of a better future in an independence referendum.

Securing that choice is now more important than ever. After all, it can no longer be said with any certainty that a Prime Minister who is willing to shut down Westminster wouldn’t be prepared to do the same to Scotland’s Parliament if it suited his purpose.

Scotland did not choose Brexit and we did not choose Boris Johnson.

As we face these unprecedented and deeply troubling times, we must ensure that Scotland has the choice of another future – a better future – as an independent nation.