Our country is facing the biggest constitutional upheaval in generations.
In Westminster, we have a Tory government careering towards a hard Brexit that threatens jobs, businesses, and economic growth.
In Holyrood, we have an SNP government interested only in division – recklessly pursuing a second independence referendum that would threaten even more jobs, harm even more businesses, and cause a deeper economic crisis.
That is why Scottish Labour will oppose the Tories’ hard Brexit and why Scottish Labour will not support another independence referendum under any circumstances.
Unlike the Tories and the SNP, we will stand up for the choices made by the majority of Scots in two referendums – choices to protect jobs and the economy, positive choices for our future prosperity.
The Supreme Court has rightly made it clear that Westminster should get a vote on the triggering of article 50 and Labour MPs will seek to amend the bill to prevent the Conservatives using Brexit to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven.
The UK is leaving the EU – that is not in doubt. What is in doubt is the terms on which we are leaving.
Scottish Labour respects the result of the UK-wide referendum on the EU, but we also know the people of Scotland did not vote for Theresa May’s hard Brexit and that no-one voted to become poorer.
While the bill to leave the EU is still progressing through the House of Commons, Labour in Holyrood will send a clear message that we do not support a hard Brexit. The UK is leaving the European Union, but there is no reason why Scottish Labour and the Scottish Parliament should not give a voice to the wishes of the vast majority of Scottish people.
Tomorrow there will be a non-binding vote in the Scottish Parliament on article 50, and we will vote to send a clear message to Theresa May. So Scottish Labour MSPs will vote against the triggering of article 50.
But while opposing the Tories’ separatism we will also oppose the SNP’s separatism.
This afternoon, we will submit an amendment to the Scottish Government’s motion as follows:
“Parliament recognises that a majority in Scotland voted for the UK to remain in the European Union, and that a majority also voted for Scotland to remain in the UK; agrees that the UK single market is more important to the Scottish economy than the European single market and therefore there should be no move to put in place any barriers which would damage Scottish trade with the rest of the UK; believes that many people voted against leaving the European Union for the same reasons they voted to remain in the UK, in order to secure jobs, opportunities and our social and civil rights; believes that the majority of the people of Scotland want to remain inside the UK, with as close a relationship with Europe as possible; agrees there should not be a second Scottish independence referendum; respects the outcome of the EU referendum and accepts that, as a result, we will leave the European Union; agrees that the UK Government’s European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should not proceed until the Government has set out detail on the full range of unanswered questions covering many policy areas where their proposals would have a detrimental effect on the jobs and opportunities of people across Scotland; further believes that the UK Government must consult the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations on the process of exiting the EU; and calls on the Scottish Government to work with other devolved administrations on the range of relevant issues, including to protect workers’ rights, to ensure that the UK does not become a bargain basement tax haven, to guarantee legal rights for EU citizens living in the UK, and to seek to retain all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion measures post-Brexit.”
The Tories are threatening to inflict economic vandalism on our country.
But the only thing more damaging for our economy than a Tory Brexit is the SNP’s reckless plan for independence. We will never support something that brings greater hardship to working families. Unlike the SNP and the Tories, we will always stand up for Scotland and the best interests of people who live and work here.
The reality is there is a £15bn difference between what Scotland raises in tax and what we spend on public services. That’s a black hole that would cause further austerity in an independent Scotland.
Labour is the party for Scotland’s workers, and we will never support something that would put jobs and livelihoods at risk.
Last month, new export figures revealed the value of the UK single market is four times more important to Scottish trade than the EU single market.
So while I will continue to argue that Brexit is bad for Scotland’s economy, the SNP government’s own figures show that independence would be considerably worse.
It is simply a reckless nationalist gamble to put access to the UK single market, and all the jobs that depend on it, at risk.
So while we may find ourselves voting the same way as the SNP in Holyrood on article 50 it is only Labour which will be voting on the basis of what is best for Scotland.
Only Labour is standing up for what the majority of Scots want – a strong Scottish Parliament within the UK and close ties with Europe.
This is a time for serious politics, not the SNP’s game-playing.
The Nationalists should ditch their obsession with independence and work with Labour to help secure the best deal for Scotland and the UK.
Nicola Sturgeon should be standing up for Scotland, not constantly threatening to wreck our economy further with another referendum which no-one wants.
Scottish Labour will always stand up for the majority of people in Scotland.