Scotland can have a brighter future as an independent nation

As Patron of the Scottish women’s national football team, I’m still feeling a little sore from the heartbreaking result in Paris last week which ended our team’s 2019 World Cup journey. In feeling that way, I know I’m far from alone. Everyone who watched the match last Wednesday night will have experienced the same rollercoaster of emotions and sense of devastation when the final whistle blew. And, of course, however upset we fans feel, that is nothing compared to the team itself who gave so much and came so close. 

However, despite the disappointment, I wanted to reflect on the fantastic, inspirational journey it has been.

For too long women’s football has been side-lined, so to see the country come together to back our girls so strongly has been tremendous. Our first game, against England, broke records as it became the UK’s most watched women’s football match of all time, drawing a peak of 6.1 million viewers.

And while our team may not be bringing home a trophy – this time! – their legacy is worth more. There is no doubt that they have energised support from all corners of Scotland and inspired the next generation of young female players – and, I am sure, male players too.

As they return home, our girls deserve our praise, pride and support. They are role models, who have taken women’s football to the next level.

The football has of course been light relief from that other knock out tournament – the Tory leadership contest.

After being given a generous Brexit lifeline by the European Union, the extra time should have been spent wisely, putting plans in place for a second referendum on EU membership or revoking Article 50 altogether. 

Instead, at the behest of her own party, Theresa May resigned and the country was thrown into even deeper crisis and the throes of a Tory leadership campaign. And while it isn’t yet over, what a dire campaign it has been so far.

Thankfully we’re in the final stages now and it is only a matter of weeks before the next Prime Minister of the UK is chosen.  Though given that neither candidate is a good prospect for Scotland, that isn’t much of a cheery thought.

The fact is that Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt will be handed the keys to Number 10 at one of the most crucial times in our history – and the approach they take could seal the fate of the UK for years to come. 

Normally, it would be the electorate who decides who gets to lead us through such turbulent times. However if you thought that those carefully designed leadership pitches of the two contenders were in any way for our benefit, you’d be very wrong. 

Despite the Tories losing every election in Scotland since the 1950s, it is the membership of that party alone that will decide which of the two will be Prime Minister.

According to polling, the Tory membership is 70 per cent male, 97 per cent white, has an average age of 57, with 86 per cent coming from the top social grade – in other words, it is not exactly what you would call representative of the population.

However it was another poll which shone a light on their views on Brexit that caught the attention of many last week. 

The study by YouGov found that the Tory membership would do almost anything to take Britain out of the EU, including “significant damage” to the economy and even the destruction of their own party, with 61 per cent and 54 per cent respectively saying these potential consequences were prices worth paying.

In fact such is the membership’s obsession with achieving Brexit, this so-called ‘unionist’ party said that it would even support the break-up of the UK. 63 per cent of members said they would be prepared to accept Scottish independence if it meant getting Brexit, while 59 per cent said the same about a united Ireland. 

Perhaps it’s time for the Conservatives to drop ‘Unionist’ from their name.

Read more: ‘Brexit is more important than the UK’ – meet the Tory members choosing the next Prime Minister

To put it bluntly, the Tory leadership campaign is a complete horror show. And Scotland deserves so much better than the current crop of incapable, incompetent Tories. 

The prospect of any Brexiteer becoming the next Prime Minister illustrates the divergent paths that Scotland and the rest of the UK are on.

Neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Hunt is fit to lead the country out of the dire situation in which we find ourselves. And whilst neither has a plan that is remotely credible, both have pledged to deliver a hard Brexit – even a no deal Brexit – which would be catastrophic for public services, jobs and living standards. 

The people of Scotland deserve the choice of a better future than the Brexit shambles offered by Westminster and the Tory leadership. As the Tory party lurches even further to the political extremes in an attempt to pander to Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party, it is time that Scotland had the choice of a brighter future as an independent nation able to chart our own future.