Six weeks ago when Theresa May called an unnecessary election no one could have imagined the outcome would be a hung parliament. The last six weeks have been nothing short of a disaster for Theresa May and her Tory party as people all across the UK have rejected their hard Brexit plans and refused to give them the larger majority they asked for.
The election result sent one very clear message from voters in all parts of the UK – that if the Tories want to stay in office they must recognise they have no mandate to leave the single market and the Brexit negotiations must reflect that.
That is the compromise position the Scottish Government put on the table previously and that has been endorsed by the Scottish Parliament and now by people in Scotland as part of our manifesto.
What worries me is that while I am clear that the outcome of the election is something that I need to reflect on, Theresa May’s reaction to the election has been to pretend that nothing has changed.
Forming an alliance with the only other party in the UK that might back a hard Brexit – the DUP – is a sign that Theresa May continues to be deaf to the wider needs of the country. For the Tories to carry on without real change would be a huge mistake.
We have warned of the consequences of a Tory government and we will work to stop, not just a hard Brexit, but also Tory cuts to winter fuel allowance, to social security, to pensions and the further decline in living standards that will come from Tory policies.
And now we must also carefully scrutinise any deal with the DUP to ensure not only that there is no rollback of equalities legislation in England, Northern Ireland or anywhere else as a result – but also for the impact on the Northern Irish peace process. The Good Friday agreement requires the UK government to be an impartial broker between parties in Northern Ireland and it would be shameful if in in the Tories pursuit of power they jeopardised the chances of a return to devolved government in Northern Ireland.
In this parliament of minorities, the SNP will take every opportunity to further Scotland’s interests. We will work with others to stop the Tories implementing damaging policies – indeed, we will work with others to keep them out of government if at all possible. At Holyrood we have experience of minority government – of having to find consensus to move forward. It would do Westminster no harm to learn some of those lessons. It can and often does produce better outcomes for all of those we represent.
In the face of a chaotic government at Westminster it is all the more important that the Scottish Government provides the stable and effective government our country needs. We will continue with the reform of education, protecting public services, building a social security system with dignity at it’s heart and growing Scotland’s economy. As First Minister it is my job and my duty to govern in the interests of everyone in Scotland. In times like these that is all the more important and it is exactly what I and my government will carry on doing.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.