Tue 21 Mar, 2017

Patrick Harvie MSP

Glasgow
Scottish Greens Co-leader. Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights

Dear Annie,

 

Thanks for your email about my party’s position on the call for a Section 30 order. I’m sure you wrote it in all seriousness, but I hope you’ll understand why it set me laughing grimly on the train home from Edinburgh when I read it.

The timing was odd, coming nearly five months after we debated the consequences of the EU Referendum result and issued our call for a Section 30 order. However, that point is rather minor compared with the rest of the email.

I certainly hold to the view that our suggestion of a public-led, participative means of raising the issue of independence was a positive one. You’ll be aware of course that we have never said that the Scottish Parliament should be stripped of its ability to make a decision, but simply that we’re also open to other mechanisms.

As for the “will of the people”, the two clearest expressions of this in recent years are surely the 55% vote two and a half years ago to stay in the UK, and the 62% vote nine months ago to stay in the EU. If your party in Government had shown the slightest interest in negotiating an arrangement which could respect and reconcile these two votes, then it’s possible that the will of the people would not need to be tested again.

On the subject of manifestos, since you raise it, I wonder if you are as concerned as I am that your own party appears to have forgotten its own commitments to the voters throughout the UK in the last general election. On the very same pages as the reckless commitment to an EU Referendum – essentially to gamble the whole country’s social, economic and environmental wellbeing as well as its standing in the world and its ability to work co-operatively with its neighbours, for no purpose other than dealing with the Conservative Party’s internal divisions on the issue – on those same pages there were no fewer than five commitments to the Single Market. The simple and straightforward pledge “We say: yes to the Single Market” cannot have been open to any misinterpretation.

Indeed this was not only the position of prominent Leave campaigners from your own party, it was also the position of your own Holyrood leader even after the EU Referendum result was known. I welcomed Ruth Davidson’s comments in favour of the Single Market and the right of free movement at that time, as they were in keeping both with her party’s promises and with the overwhelming Remain vote in Scotland. To abandon this position so blithely was nothing short of a disgrace.

Your final point, about our vote for the budget after achieving the reversal of £160m of cuts to local services which the SNP wanted to make, was perhaps the silliest part of your email. I’m sure that some of your colleagues who were in Parliament during the SNP’s first minority government will be able to explain to you why they voted in favour of every single budget the SNP proposed – without ever extracting a concession on the scale we achieved this year. The Green approach during that session was of course to advocate for change, to offer constructive challenge, and to judge each budget on its merits rather than act out of narrow party advantage. This saw us vote in favour of one budget, against two, and to abstain on one occasion. So you’ll appreciate the less than savage irony of having my independence from the SNP questioned by a party which proved so compliant for so small a price, when it saw some kind of self-interest.

Such an attack is absolutely as absurd as your apparent insistence that other parties should simply not react, not respond, and not seek to defend the hard-won rights and interests of Scottish citizens in the wake of your party’s reckless Brexit gamble and their use of the result as a pretext for the hard right, isolationist and dangerous agenda your Prime Minister is pursuing.

This week we will all debate how Scotland should respond to this fundamentally changed situation. You may personally be quite happy that a UK government Scotland didn’t choose will negotiate with EU institutions on which Scotland will no longer be represented, for a departure from the EU that Scotland didn’t vote for after which every other EU member state will have a choice about ratifying the agreement. In this process, if your party has its way, the voters of Scotland will be literally the only people in the whole of Europe who are voiceless in this critical decision about the country’s future. I find it breath-taking that members of your party, who so recently claimed to be pro-European and pro-Single Market, are now willing to see that happen.

If that’s the kind of Parliament you thought you were joining, one which would simply roll over and let Scotland’s future be decided by anyone other than the people who live here, I can assure you that I and my colleagues will make every effort to prove you wrong.

 

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Harvie MSP

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