Theresa May must not block Scotland having a choice

By , 20/03/17

Tomorrow, the Scottish Parliament will begin one of the most significant debates it has had.

And then on Wednesday, after two days of debate, our national parliament will be asked to make a hugely important decision.

MSPs will be asked to back a motion authorising the Scottish Government to open formal discussions with the UK government on transferring to Holyrood the power to hold an independence referendum.

It comes just days after Theresa May signalled she was prepared to effectively block the people of Scotland having a choice between independence and her hard Brexit.

It is worth reminding ourselves just how extraordinary and unprecedented the current situation is.

The SNP Government was elected on a crystal clear manifesto commitment that Holyrood should have the right to decide on an independence referendum if Scotland faced being dragged out of Europe against its will.

We won that election with the biggest share of the constituency vote of any party in the history of devolution.

The EU referendum then saw Scotland vote by 62 to 38 per cent to remain, while the UK voted to leave.

That means the manifesto commitment has been met beyond question, the mandate is fulfilled and must be respected.

There's is also – as I hope and expect will be confirmed in Wednesday’s vote – a parliamentary majority for both a referendum and for independence itself.

And yet, in the face of this unimpeachable democratic mandate, Theresa May wags her finger, Ruth Davidson parrots her boss’s lines and David Mundell – the Tories’ only MP in Scotland – presumes to tell us that it is his party alone that will decide whether and when a referendum should be held.

The arrogance is jaw-dropping.

It is unprecedented, unparalleled and utterly unsustainable.

Even Margaret Thatcher, in the worst days of her governments ruling Scotland without a mandate, did not dispute the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

If we were to look anywhere else in the world and witness a similar situation, we would be aghast.

Indeed, the Prime Minister and her party would probably be among those shouting loudest about the need to respect democracy.

The PM has said she believes now would not be the right time for a referendum.

I agree – and the plan I have set out would mean giving people an informed choice in the Autumn of next year at the earliest.

But if Theresa May is saying not now – but also not saying not ever – she needs to say when she thinks a referendum would be appropriate. And then we can talk.

What is untenable is to simply try and cling to her current position.

The PM speaks of a “precious, precious” union.

But talk is cheap.

And the Tories’ actions – trying to face down the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament by Downing Street diktat – simply will not stand.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.


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