With every week that goes by, it is increasingly clear that independence is the best way to protect Scotland’s interests and ensure that our future is always in our own hands.
At Holyrood, the SNP government has spent the past week delivering a progressive budget, which provides £42.5billion of investment in our public services and the economy.
The Scottish budget includes more money for education, including £180million to raise attainment in schools. It provides more money for our NHS – taking direct investment for mental health to more than £1.1billion, and raising investment in health and social care to more than £9billion.
It is a budget that is focused the needs of Scotland’s economy and our future generations – ensuring more than £3billion investment to build 50,000 affordable homes, providing initial funding of £130million to establish a Scottish National Investment Bank, and prioritising £500million to expand early learning and childcare provision.
And it’s a budget that is rooted in our social democratic values – improving pay for those in the public sector, and delivering a progressive income tax system, where the majority of working people pay less than the rest of the UK, while those at the top contribute a bit more to support our public services.
Yet, on the same day that the Scottish Parliament passed a budget to take Scotland forward, Scotland’s Chief Economist revealed more evidence that UK government plans to drag Scotland out of the EU would be devastating for our economy – pushing us backwards. The report revealed a no-deal Brexit, of the kind being threatened by the Prime Minister, could result in a recession worse than the 2008 financial crisis – hitting Scottish GDP by up to 7% and costing up to 100,000 jobs.
We know the past decade of Westminster austerity cuts has been deeply damaging – slashing Scotland’s budget, holding the economy back, causing real wages to fall, and increasing poverty and inequality. Now we face the very real prospect of decades more pain, being imposed against our will.
Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit – nor did we vote for this shambolic Tory government. In fact, Scotland hasn’t voted Tory in sixty-four years. Yet, time and again, we get right-wing governments, and damaging policies like Brexit, being imposed on us against our wishes with devastating consequences.
While Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has been meeting our partners in France and Canada to promote trade, investment, and collaboration as part of the outward-looking country we want to be, Theresa May continues to waste precious time and resources flogging a dead-horse Brexit deal, which will make the UK more isolationist and inward-looking – and leave us all poorer as a result.
The reality is that Westminster is broken beyond repair – and is incapable of serving Scotland’s interests. We are in the middle of a constitutional crisis, on the verge of the Brexit cliff edge, with just 32 days to go, and yet the UK government is still no further forward.
Instead of showing leadership, and finding a credible solution to protect jobs and living standards, both the Tories and Labour are in meltdown. They are fixated on their own bitter internal divisions, and even their own MPs are now jumping ship. It is gross negligence, and it is costing us all dearly – as businesses withdraw investment, jobs are lost, and the pound suffers from chaos and uncertainty.
Yesterday, I wrote to Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, urging him to back SNP calls for an extension to Article 50, to give more time and to enable a second EU referendum. The UK government has made a complete hash of the past two years, and with time running out, the only way to avoid a bad deal for Scotland is to put the brakes on Brexit now. I hope Tory Ministers are listening.
The only way to prevent a bad deal for Scotland is to extend Article 50, and put the brakes on Brexit. If @DavidMundellDCT can't ensure that, then he should resign from this UK government, which is clearly willing to plunge Scotland into a no-deal Brexit. pic.twitter.com/ROMD8j1euN
— Ian Blackford (@IanBlackfordMP) February 24, 2019
Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, it is abundantly clear that Westminster isn’t working for Scotland.
We can do better than this. If we want our decisions to be respected, and our interests to be protected, then independence is increasingly looking like the only sensible path.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.