Scotland needs the freedom to take a different direction
This time last week, we woke to horrific news from Christchurch. Since then people have come together to express shared revulsion at the actions of the white supremacist terrorist, and concern for the bereaved and injured in New Zealand. I’ve also been inspired by New Zealand’s wider response – they are recommitting to the values of their inclusive society, refusing to placate the far right, and taking urgent action on gun control.
And as their Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has said, we need to make it a global mission to challenge and condemn racism and bigotry wherever it occurs.
Within our own political climate, we need an honest acknowledgement of how racist and far right sentiment has been normalised in much of our media, and in UK politics. At the very highest level of government are people who have courted and even cultivated anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim prejudice.
And for many of these people, the Brexit project always was and continues to be a fundamentally racist endeavour. It is a far-right coup – driven by imperialism, xenophobia and free-market disaster capitalism.
In that context, the Prime Minister’s handling this week of a crisis which is entirely of her own making, has been nothing short of despicable. Both at Question Time in the Commons and later in her TV address from Downing Street, she once again refused to listen to reason and instead effectively told people that Parliament is their enemy.
Her contempt for Parliament, for the public interest and even for her own colleagues have never been clearer. But she should be ashamed of trying to tap into the kind of anti-politics sentiment so readily associated with Steve Bannon and his acolytes. It’s a dangerous path to go down.
It’s also out-of-step with what people feel now. I don’t think there’s any doubt that millions of people understand that they were lied to by the Leave campaign and that Remain would win a second vote against the PM’s failed deal. The public petition asking MPs to revoke article 50 – using the powers that my colleagues Andy Wightman and Ross Greer among others helped to secure through the courts – smashed through one million – perhaps it’s first million - signatures in less than 24 hours.
The UK Government has persistently refused to hear Scotland’s voice throughout the Brexit crisis. MSPs have called repeatedly for the narrow 2016 result, and Scotland’s remain vote to be respected. We have called for our place in the single market to be protected. We have called for the public to have the right of a final say, and the chance to cancel the crisis. But we have been ignored at every turn by an utterly blinkered Prime Minister.
If she refuses to budge and the country finds itself being driven to the cliff edge this time next week, MPs must be prepared finally to put the public interest first, and if all else fails be willing to do what’s necessary, and revoke Article 50.
That may even be necessary if an extension is granted. Despite Parliament rejecting No Deal, by only asking for a three-month extension, the PM still threatens us with it. Faced with more gridlock between MPs and still possible disaster in June, Parliament needs to have another option to force the time for holding a People’s Vote.
Another tumultuous week awaits, but whatever happens I’ll be coming together with Greens next Friday in Glasgow to show solidarity with EU nationals, who have had to bear the brunt of so much havoc and incompetence from the UK government, and to reaffirm our commitment to an independent Scotland in the EU. Whatever happens, we need to focus very clearly on the steps we must now take to secure Scotland’s continued EU membership.
This week at First Minister’s Questions, I made it clear that Scotland needs the freedom to take a different direction, to leave behind this chaos and find our own way out of the crisis. It’s one more reason why we need our independence.
In January, the First Minister said she would tell the people of Scotland her preferred timing for an independence referendum within weeks. That was two months’ ago.
I understand why this is a difficult call, and as much as anyone I want the independence question to be asked when it’s most likely to result in a win for Yes. I also accept that having some clarity on Brexit will help. But the contempt that has been shown for Scotland over the past three years should be enough to know that being run from Westminster is bad for our nation’s health. The time is now surely coming when the people of Scotland must have the choice to decide their own future, and make the decision to remain in the EU as an independent member state.