The people of Scotland must be given a choice over their future

The co-conveners of the Scottish Green Party have today (27 June) written to the First Minister, urging her to resist calls from opponents who have conceded to a Hard Brexit and who are against holding an independence referendum once the terms of the deal are known.

Ahead of an expected announcement from Nicola Sturgeon this week, Maggie Chapman and Patrick Harvie MSP argue that there is nothing to change the argument in favour of Scotland’s future being decided by the people who live here, on the timescale previously set out.

In October 2016, in light of the Brexit vote, the Scottish Greens at their party conference called for a Section 30 order, giving Holyrood the power to call a referendum, to allow the people of Scotland to choose their future.

The full text of the letter sent to the First Minister today is as follows:

Dear First Minister,

We are writing in advance of the statement you are expected to make before the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess, regarding your plans for a possible independence referendum. As you know the Scottish Greens first called for a Section 30 order back in October 2016, to allow the Scottish people to decide on this issue. We took this position in light not only of the EU Referendum result, but also of the UK Government’s choice to ignore the strong Remain vote in Scotland and to take a narrow UK-wide Leave vote as a pretext for the ‘Hard Brexit’ stance which we know will do so much damage to our economy and society. When the issue was put to a vote at Holyrood in March this year, we continued to make this case.

On the question of timing, it seems quite reasonable to us that once the negotiations are concluded and the ‘deal’ is known, and broadly in the same period during which all other EU member states will have the chance to ratify the outcome, the people of Scotland should have their chance to decide on their future. The people who live here should not be the only people in Europe to remain voiceless at this critically important time.

Following the 2017 General Election, it is clear that some are making the case that the relative fortunes of the political parties in Scotland give a basis for claiming that the right of people in Scotland to decide their constitutional future has been “rejected”. We cannot accept this, and we urge you not to. The single clearest implication of the general election, which was called for shallow and opportunistic reasons by a Prime Minister who was then barely willing to campaign, is that her request for a strong mandate for her Hard Brexit agenda has been refused by voters throughout these islands. This must be seen alongside the unchanged reality that Scotland has not consented to leaving the EU in the first place, and is being all but ignored in the whole process.

Given these facts, we see nothing to change the argument in favour of Scotland’s future being decided by the people who live here, on the timescale outlined above, one which we see as giving both maximum information and opportunity to voters as they make their choice. As such – and given the critical period we find ourselves in – we hope that you will resist the calls from opponents who have conceded to a Hard Brexit and who demand that the Scottish Government abandons the objective of holding an independence referendum and giving the people of Scotland a choice over our collective future. That choice would be between the angry, isolated Brexit Britain the current Westminster government are constructing or putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands as an independent country at the heart of Europe. In such a choice the Scottish Greens will of course campaign for our longstanding policy of independence and full European Union membership.

As you are well aware the movement for Scottish independence is broad, diverse and goes far beyond either of our two parties. Just as it is important for voters to judge political parties on the basis of more than a single position, so it is essential that no single party is seen as the entirety of the pro-independence movement. Indeed in any future independence referendum it will be more important than ever that voters are able to distinguish clearly between that constitutional choice and support for any particular party’s record or policies in government. It is true that our two parties – and many other people in Scotland - agree that remaining part of the Single Market and protecting the free movement of people are interlinked and fundamental to Scotland's approach as a welcoming nation and that a Hard Brexit alternative would inevitably mean far more job losses and damage to our economy.

However Greens believe that the European Union is about much more than the Single Market. We believe in the European project as a way to break down barriers between peoples, to tackle climate change, promote democracy and justice across the world and of course, as the most successful peace project in history. We also believe that the EU needs fundamental reform and democratisation; we believe in a people's Europe, not a Europe for the corporations. These goals are too great to give up on and while leaving the European Union but not the Single Market would limit the economic damage, it would still leave both Europe and Scotland weaker for each other’s absence. This future as part of a progressive Europe contrasts with our current position in which political choices are imposed upon us by a Conservative Party which called a referendum and an election which were not needed, lost both, and now finds itself propped up by the DUP.

There can be no doubt that the UK is in a political crisis, and the closer we get to Brexit the more its deficiencies will be exposed. The stakes are too high for our future to be decided yet again by a Government that we did not elect, enforcing a Hard Brexit for which they received no mandate from Scotland in last year’s referendum and which was rejected entirely in this year’s UK-wide election. The people of Scotland must be given a choice over their future and we write to urge you, as First Minister of Scotland, to continue fighting for that choice. We certainly will be.

Yours sincerely,

Maggie Chapman and Patrick Harvie MSP

Co-conveners, Scottish Green Party