We will Not Sit Down. We will not shut Up. We Will Be Heard

After the despicable attempts of the Tory government to shove through the European Exit bill in the committee stage, giving as little time as possible to debate amendments ,and Torys filibustering to prevent discussion, with 2 Torys speaking for half an hour each yesterday on devolved administrations amendments for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The events of day 1 culminated after 7 hours with every Tory and every Labour MP allowed to speak, but only 2 representatives from the SNP on their amendment and 1 each from Northern Ireland and wales speaking for their amendments. The deliberate sidelining. by the Speakers of those from the other home countries ended up with a farce and uproar as the deputy speaker wrongly cut short Joanna Cherry and ensured a rammy between Alex Salmond and the deputy speaker.

Today being the second day of amendments, the SNP had another chance to speak up and this time they sure did. When Patrick Grady got up to speak, he turned the tables on Westminsters antics by doing to them what had been done to the SNP yesterday, much to the howls from the Tory and Labour benches and the same deputy speaker as yesterday. He spoke eloquently for over an hour, ensuring intervention after intervention from his SNP colleagues. He absolutely ensured this time that Scotlands voice could be heard loud and clear!

The following is from Hansard. …….Enjoy!!! ……But pick and choose an hours worth is a long long time

  • I, on behalf of the Scottish National party, would like to speak to new clause 143, on which I hope we will test the will of the Committee later on, to amendment 58, which I tabled, which relates to the European development fund, and the 27 other amendments in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) and other hon. Friends. The SNP tabled a total of 50 new clauses and amendments to this Bill, and I hope that we get a chance to debate as many of those in this group as possible—amendments 47 to 53, 57 to 62, 64 to 77, 79, 80 and 82, as well as new clause 138.

    Government Members who have spoken were quite exercised about the possibility of the amendments causing some delay to the triggering of article 50, but I am not entirely sure what that delay might be. I have read the Bill—all 137 words of it—and nowhere in it is there a date for the triggering of article 50. The Bill gives the power to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister alone—as I said last week, it is a very presidential power, not a parliamentary power—to choose the date on which article 50 is triggered.

  • My hon. Friend makes a very good point about the new clauses we are arguing for this evening. Is he aware that the Scottish Parliament this evening voted by three to one against triggering article 50, which comes on top of the two to one of Scots who voted against triggering article 50 as well?

  • I am fully aware of that. It reflects the consensus across Scottish society that Scotland should retain its membership of the single market and the fact that it did not vote to leave the EU. The Scottish Conservatives have run a mile from that.

  • Several hon. Members rose—
  • No, I will not give way yet; we are just getting started.

    I might add that in the time that the Scottish Parliament took that vote, as well as votes on several amendments, barely one Member had spoken in this debate. Voting in the Scottish Parliament is far quicker than here; its Members can vote on far more amendments than we ever can, because they do not have the archaic procedures that we have to put up with down here.

    Yesterday’s amendment paper had more pages—142—than there are words in the Bill, but today we are down to just 121 pages. The number of amendments that have been tabled highlights the dreadful inadequacies of both the Bill and this scrutiny process. There is nowhere near enough time to consider the massive implications of what Brexit will actually mean and how the Government intend to achieve it, and of course there is still no kind of meaningful information on what they think those implications might be.

  • A theme is emerging of what Brexit might mean: a plea—I noticed this in the speech of the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove)—for the EU not to punish the UK. Yet from the same lips all the time comes the threat of a punishment to Scotland if we become independent. These acts and words will not be missed in the 27 member states of the EU—the hypocrisy, the double-edged sword and the brass neck and bare-faced cheek in the UK.

  • My hon. Friend makes a good point—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I have not responded to my hon. Friend yet.

    The Scottish National party—for the record, that is its name, as I think Hansard is probably fed up of hearing—has always understood that our kind of independence is defined by our interdependence and by the role that we want to play in the world, whereas it is increasingly clear that the hard right, Tory Brexit that is being foisted upon us against our will is an isolationist independence—[Interruption.] It is Trumpist, triumphant and narrow nationalism, as I hear my colleagues saying from the Back Benches.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No, I still have not even begun to talk about our new clauses and amendments, and I am sure that Members want to hear why it is so important that the Government should publish impact assessments on the machinery of government, which will be profoundly affected by our leaving the European Union.

    The Government must give us a benchmark. They must give us their own assessment against which we can measure and test these things so that we can hold them to account. The Chair of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), under whom I am proud to serve but who is not in the Chamber, has said that we are accountable to our voters—that is absolutely correct. However, the Government are accountable to us, and they have to provide us with the necessary information so that we can hold them to account.

  • It seems to have taken the Scottish nationalist party six months to realise that a third of those who voted yes in 2014 actually wanted to leave the EU. SNP Members seem completely oblivious to that fact, but I would like to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say about it.

  • I think that that counts as a minority.

    The First Minister herself said on 24 June that we would respect, listen to and understand the people in Scotland who voted to leave the European Union. We never heard anything like that from the Prime Minister about those on the other side. The First Minister’s words were reflected in the compromise position that was published by the Scottish Government. They have moved heaven and earth to try to reach a compromise arrangement with this Government, but their words are still falling on deaf ears.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No.

    I want to address some of the new clauses and amendments that have been tabled by various factions on the Labour Benches, and I shall focus particularly on the ones relating to Euratom. The exchanges on this subject on Second Reading demonstrated the utter chaos that has gripped this Administration and their predecessor. Euratom’s role is to provide a framework for nuclear energy safety and development. I would have thought that, no matter how much some of the Brexiteers hate the European Union institutions, this one would have been among the least controversial. Surely there must be consensus on protecting us from nuclear meltdowns. Do they not think that that is a good idea? No.

    The Command Paper that the UK Government published in February last year on the impact of Brexit made no mention of coming out of Euratom. Nevertheless, we are being taken out of it without any warning and, if the Government will not accept the Labour new clause on this matter, there will be no further discussion about it. I do not remember the subject featuring on the side of buses or in showpiece debates, yet here we are with another ill-thought-out unintended consequence of a Brexit vote that started as an internal ideological battle among Conservative Members and that is going to leave decades of uncertainty in its wake for us all. That is just one example. Each new clause and amendment, from whatever party, that calls for an impact assessment shows the Government’s lack of preparation across the whole suite of policy.

  • I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a small question, if I may. Has he given his constituents an impact assessment of any change that might take place at the next election? Has he prepared them fully and properly for the impact that a change of Member of Parliament might have on them? Or does he trust them to make their own impact assessment—does he trust the people to decide?

  • I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was here for my Second Reading speech last week, so he will know that 78% of my constituents voted to remain in the European Union. I am therefore reasonably confident that their voice is at last being heard. They will make their judgment at the next election, whenever it comes, and I will be happy to live with their decision.

    We want to test the will of the House on new clause 143. It tests the Government not only on the practical costs of Brexit but on the hard money, because we know that the financial costs will be high. It is simply not in the interests of the remaining member states for the UK to be better off as a result of Brexit. We have already seen the shocks to the currency market described by my hon. Friend the Member for Badenoch and so on—[Laughter.] I am not quite as good at this as the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). We have seen the shocks to the currency market and the revisions that have already happened in the economic forecasts. Withdrawing from the European Union and exiting the single market will lead to an enormous hit on our economy, and new clause 143 calls on the Chancellor to bring forward further revised forecasts and an assessment of the UK’s financial liability to the EU on the completion of the triggering of article 50.

  • We are talking about financial considerations, but this is about the impact on people and we have to think about UK citizens who are living in Europe. At the moment, they are entitled to healthcare cover and to a UK state pension that will be uprated, but there is no certainty that that will continue post-Brexit—the UK does not pay pension increases in countries with which it does not have a reciprocal arrangement. This is also about the EU citizens who may return to France, Germany, Spain or wherever and be caught up in the same trap, because while they paid national insurance here, the UK might not have a commitment to uprating pensions. Those are the sorts of issues that the Government must provide certainty on.

  • Indeed. That is covered in amendment 72, in which we ask the Department for Work and Pensions to provide an assessment. I hope that there will be time for the House to discuss that measure in more detail later on.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No, I want to make a little progress.

    We have seen the leaked reports of the Government’s assessment that a hard Brexit could cost the UK economy up to £66 billion a year—9.5% of GDP—if we revert to WTO terms. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), with whom I serve on the Procedure Committee, said earlier that analysis in the Financial Times shows that the cost of simply leaving is up to €20 billion due to the shared assets that we are a part of, and that there are up to €300 billion of payment liabilities that need to be settled in the negotiations. Even after all that, there will be ongoing costs, as well as funds that we might wish to continue to contribute to. That is covered in amendment 58, which is about the European development fund. The European development fund is the main method for providing European community aid for development co-operation in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the overseas countries and territories of EU member states.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend, who sits on the International Development Committee.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that the European development fund is crucial not only to achieving our commitment to the sustainable development goals, but to providing long-term sustainable funding for projects, rather than letting them fall at the first hurdle?

  • Absolutely. The European development fund saves and changes lives in developing countries. I would have thought that there would be a little consensus—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) wants to talk to me about the EDF, I am happy to take an intervention.

  • Would the hon. Gentleman’s constituents rather that development aid from this country was spent by the UK and overseen by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, or spent by the EDF, which has none of that oversight?

  • The EDF is highly respected around the world for its effective use of international development aid. Indeed, I have pursued that with Ministers. I have received equivocal answers, but they have recognised from time to time that the EDF is actually quite an important part of the suite of European institutions and that we do make important contributions. If those contributions were ripped away, that would have a devastating effect on the EDF, so we must explore this area and understand it.

    Over the years, the UK has contributed around £10 billion to the EDF, which has been a crucial component, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) says, of our meeting the 0.7% aid commitment. According to the Government’s timetable, Brexit will happen before the end of the current 2020 commitment period, so what will happen after Brexit? The other important thing about the EDF is that it is one of the main instruments for providing development capacity to British overseas territories, so how will they be affected? What plans are being made for them? We are trying to test such things through the amendments.

    The Government have indicated from time to time that they ought to continue funding the EDF, so perhaps there are European institutions that they will have to continue to fund and support, and to have some kind of retained membership of. That makes me wonder. We hear about hard Brexit and soft Brexit, but perhaps this is some sort of hokey-cokey Brexit whereby we leave everything and then have to start joining things again: “You put your left wing in; Your right wing out; In, out, in, out”—I do not want to think about anything being shaken all about.

    Amendment 49 calls for a report from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the level of agricultural maintenance support grants beyond 2020.

  • Scotland is already losing out on more than £230 million of EU funding that was supposed to go to Scottish farmers. The UK Government promised a review in 2016, but they have not carried it out. It is critical that we have an impact assessment that tells Scottish farmers what will happen so that they can plan for their future.

8.15 pm

  • There is absolutely no certainty for Scotland’s farmers, or indeed for farmers across the whole United Kingdom. During the EU referendum campaign, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), made it clear that there would be a guarantee of capital and funding beyond 2020. Then, at the Oxford farming conference last month, the current Secretary of State completely changed her tune. Such confusing and contradictory comments about the long-term future show precisely why we need the Government to spell it out in far more detail than they have in the White Paper. Of course, we particularly want to know whether the agriculture powers currently exercised by the European Union will come to the Scottish Parliament. The principle is clear in the Scotland Act 1998: if something is not reserved, it is devolved. Therefore, everything that the EU is currently doing on this should go to the Scottish Parliament.

  • If the hon. Lady agrees with that, I am happy to hear from her.

  • I will make my own point, thanks very much. Can the hon. Gentleman give the Committee some idea of how long all these impact assessments will take? How much time does he expect the House to devote to debating them and the statements? What other business will not happen because we are debating all the spurious impact assessments that he thinks should occupy the House 100%?

  • With the greatest of respect, we voted against the referendum Bill. We did not think the referendum should happen. When it became clear that the referendum would happen, we said that the debate should last longer. In Scotland we had two full years to debate the consequences of independence, and the voters heard both sides of the debate and made up their mind. We had less than six short months between the announcement of the date and the referendum—[Interruption.] I am hearing that the Secretary of State for Brexit backed a longer debate. There should have been time before the referendum. As I said at the start of my speech, the White Paper says that article 50 will be invoked at the end of March, but the Bill does not say that. It is entirely in the gift of the Prime Minister, and she might change her mind. There is no mechanism to hold her to account for that.

  • My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The SNP obviously backed a longer debate, and I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union did, too. A little more scrutiny might not have gone amiss.

  • Precisely. The Brexiteers’ whole point was about parliamentary sovereignty and how this House would take back for itself the opportunity to make decisions, so why are they now afraid of our having those opportunities?

  • May I provide an answer to the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main)? The impact assessment would take slightly longer than jumping off a cliff.

  • That is a good point, well made. As I said at the start of my speech, we need the facts in front of us.

  • I will make a little progress because, as I said, we have a number of important amendments to discuss, but my hon. Friend can try to intervene later.

    Amendment 51 calls for a report on the impact of UK withdrawal on Scottish seaports. The problems caused by Brexit that are facing Scottish seaports are expensive and complex. Concerns for the maritime industry surround general policy areas such as employment law, immigration, border controls and contract law, as well as transport-specific areas such as freedom to trade, safety, the environment, tonnage tax and security. The White Paper offers only more uncertainty.

    The UK Government’s stated approach to immigration post-Brexit may create an increased need for border activity at Scottish seaports, and the Government’s preferred arrangements for trading post-Brexit—out of the EU customs arrangements—will necessitate additional customs checks on exports and imports at seaports, and will affect trade volume at seaports, so the Government have to mitigate that uncertainty by publishing a full impact assessment of those complex issues for Scottish seaports before triggering article 50.

    Amendment 52 calls for an assessment of financial implications for charities, on which I have a certain amount of experience from my international development portfolio. International development charities across the United Kingdom are already feeling the impact of Brexit and the currency fluctuations. Money that they had raised—money that the UK public had voluntarily donated—is now worth less as a direct result of the Brexit decision, which is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of people in developing countries to whom charities had pledged money that is now not worth what it was when the pledges were made. I hear nothing from the UK Government saying that they want to make up the difference or give the charities any kind of support. UK charities generally receive some £200 million a year from the social fund, through EU structural funds and from the regional development fund.

  • Is it not extremely concerning that the chief executive of the UK-based international charity World Child Cancer stated that the fall in the pound had resulted in a 9% to 13% cut in its programme funding?

  • I agree entirely. All of us who deal with stakeholders in the third sector will hear stories such as that time and time again. It probably explains why research published by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which represents more than 3,000 employees and 15,000 volunteers, revealed that its charity chief executives were increasingly worried about the future. Half of those surveyed receive funding from the EU and 30% confirmed that indirect funding was at risk. As I have said, in the immediate case we have seen the devaluation of currency being spent by those charities.

    Amendment 53 calls for a report on the relationship between the Channel Islands and the EU. The Channel Islands are not a member of the EU, but they have access to the single market and now face being denied that by a hard Tory Brexit. That is why our amendment seeks a report that sets out the full implication of the relationship between the Channel Islands and the EU, and the impact that Brexit will have. That is vital because there will be a serious impact on many key Channel Islands industries, including finance and fisheries. Again, that is an example of why we need these impact assessments.

    Amendment 57 calls for a revised strategic defence and security review. The last SDSR was based on the 2015 national security risk assessment, which took place before the European referendum and did not consider any post-Brexit scenarios. As such, it is no longer fit for purpose. The SDSR makes no mention of the EU’s common security and defence policy, whereas the White Paper outlines existing UK participation in the CSDP and expresses the intention to continue that co-operation post-Brexit. Again, we see the in and out of the Tories’ Brexit.

  • My hon. Friend is giving a damning indictment of the UK Government’s lack of preparedness for Brexit, but this is also about what will change. We have heard about agriculture and fisheries, but the fact remains that Europe has delivered for Scottish crofters and Scottish farmers, and one institution that we have not been able to depend on is the UK. The EU has given the UK €233 million of convergence uplift funding, which was primarily to go to Scottish crofters and farmers, yet we have only got 16% of it. Who should we be trusting? Should we be trusting Europe or should we be trusting the UK Government to deliver for our crofters and farmers

  • That is a fair point. We hear Government Members saying, “Where did that money come from? It came from UK taxpayers”, but my hon. Friend is exactly right in what he says. The road I cycled up to school every day, in Inverness and in the country—this was when I was slightly younger than I am now—was built and paid for with EU money. There is no way on God’s earth that Thatcher’s Government would have spent that money on that road, which shows why people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

  • My hon. Friend is highlighting some issues, but I wish to get back to the SDSR. The National Audit Office has identified that a key risk to the strategic plan is fluctuations in the pound because of pricing against the dollar. If the NAO is highlighting that as an issue, should the Government not be looking at it, rather than having a Secretary of State who stands at the Dispatch Box and tells us, “Everything is okay; we made contingency plans”? We need to know what the contingency plans are and what the impact will be.

  • Of course we do, which is why we tabled all these amendments. We were asked why we were doing that and what we were trying to achieve, but my hon. Friend is making the case on that very clearly.

    I have already spoken about amendment 58, so I shall move on to amendment 59, which calls for a report on the medium-term economic forecast in the event of the UK leaving the single market. Again, Scottish National party Members have made points about the dangerous long-term and medium-term economic realities of a hard Tory Brexit. We know that the OBR forecast said:

    “we asked the Government in September for ‘a formal statement of Government policy as regards its desired trade regime and system of migration control, as a basis for our projections’. The Government directed us to two public statements by the Prime Minister that it stated were relevant”.

    Given the far-reaching and devastating consequences that leaving the single market would have on the economy, teamed with the lack of detail given to the OBR, it has to be the Treasury’s responsibility to publish a medium-term forecast.

  • It is clear that even in the short term the fall in the value of the pound is triggering significant inflationary pressure across the British economy, which will hurt ordinary people in their wage packets, with an impact on industrial costs, in a way that was wholly avoidable.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We see no action from the Government whatsoever, other than to pretend that everything is bright and breezy. We are witnessing a bit of a false dawn.

  • In the longer term we have other issues, because many of the key shortages in science, technology, engineering and maths skills are filled by EU nationals, who simply are not getting the guarantees they need either to stay in the UK or to come here in the first place.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She and I share a boundary with the University of Glasgow and we know the vital contribution it makes, not only to the city but to Scotland’s economy as a whole. Higher education institutes throughout the country are expressing those concerns.

  • My hon. Friend is making a fantastic speech, exposing the real difficulties at the heart of this bad Tory Brexit. I am trying to figure out exactly what is going on with Conservative Members. Perhaps they are opposing the economic impact assessments because they know the true nature of Brexit and the damage it will deliver. Does he agree that that seems to be the underlying reason why they are so opposed to having just a short glimpse of what Brexit will do to this country?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have every right to continue to question them; after all, as I said earlier, this is what they wanted. They wanted Parliament to regain its sovereign status.

  • Let us hear from him.

  • As ever, the hon. Gentleman is making an impressive speech, but I should say one thing—

  • No, you should not! Sit down!

  • I should, actually—just the one. Why is it that Scotland now has to import scientists and engineers when in the 19th and early 20th century we used to export them? Is it anything to do with the drop in international league table rankings for science and mathematics that has occurred under the Scottish National party’s stewardship of the education system?

  • First, I am not convinced that the words “import” and “export” are the right ones to use when we are talking about human beings—some of the most capable and talented human beings in the world. [Interruption.] Secondly, I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), who is on the Education Committee, saying, “So is the rest of the United Kingdom.” Finally, we want to welcome people to Scotland. If the Government want to devolve immigration policy to us as part of the Brexit process, they should feel free to. As has been pointed out many times in these debates, the right hon. Gentleman himself has said that immigration policy should come to Scotland so that we can attract the brightest and the best, and we are not afraid to do so.

  • Having grown up in Inverness, my hon. Friend will remember the Kessock bridge well. When people come over it now, they can see the shining example of the new University of the Highlands and Islands campus there. Thanks to £200 million-worth of EU structural funds over the past 20 years, we have been growing our own scientists and academics in the area. Does he agree that it is absolutely scandalous that up to 2022 an estimated £19 million will be lost, with no impact assessment?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is exactly what we are trying to achieve.

  • In response to the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), I would say that it was because of the failure of UK economic policy that after my brother graduated as a scientist he was forced to emigrate to Canada. He eventually became the chairman of the OECD science and technology committee and helped to write the science and technology policy for the free South Africa, yet the failure over here forced him to emigrate.

  • My hon. Friend makes an absolutely valid point.

    Amendment 61 calls for a revised national security strategy. The existing national security strategy is based on a 2015 assessment that took no account of Brexit—[Interruption.] I am not sure what Government Members are so concerned about. It is completely legitimate for Opposition Members to table amendments to the Bill and it is perfectly right and proper that we have the opportunity to debate them.

  • My hon. Friend has mentioned a long list of issues that are not being properly scrutinised in this rush to Brexit. The Government’s White Paper was hastily prepared, and in haste, we make mistakes, as conceded by the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). Does my hon. and most European Friend know how to spell Liechtenstein?

  • Yes.

  • I will give way to the hon. Lady in just one second. [Interruption.] Right, okay.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman think that perhaps the Procedure Committee should have a look at the practice of filibustering, as there are many hon. Members who want to make important speeches?

8.30 pm

  • Order. The hon. Gentleman is speaking. I know that there has been some latitude, but I also know that he wants to get back on the subject of impacts, and that is where we are going now. Let me just say that there are seven other speakers.

  • The short answer to the hon. Lady regarding the Procedure Committee is, yes, I do believe that this House should introduce rules against filibustering, and, as soon as that happens, we will be happy to abide by them.

    On the point about Liechtenstein, I do know how to spell it, but I will not find it by looking at page 54, chart 9.3 of the Brexit White Paper. Amendment 62 calls on the Chancellor to publish an assessment of future payments to the European Union. It is similar to new clause 143, which we want to push to a vote later on this evening, so some of the points should have been covered already.

    Amendment 64 calls on the Secretary of State for Education to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibility in this area. We have already heard from some Members about the serious implications regarding the ability of our universities to attract talented researchers and students in the event of the UK leaving the European Union. Figures for 2014-15 show that there were 13,450 full-time equivalent EU students studying for undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities. Frankly, almost every single one of them will have been shocked and saddened by the result on 23 June. None the less, they have appreciated the warm welcome and reassurances that have been provided to them by academic institutions up and down Scotland, by the Scottish Government and by the friends, neighbours and families who live in their cities.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for giving way once again. One of the uncertainties faced by EU nationals wanting to come and study in the UK post- Brexit is what fee structure will be imposed on them, and absolutely no answers have been given on that.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Again, we will continue to push the Government on that. I hope that the Minister will have some time to respond to some of these important points. I have spent a lot of time in exchanges with him in Westminster Hall, which perhaps should be renamed “Brexit Minister Hall” in due course once the Brexit process has been completed.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten us? Has any impact assessment ever been undertaken by the Scottish Government of the impact of their education policies on participation in higher education, particularly given that the most recent statistics demonstrate that the Scottish Government’s policies—

  • Order. The problem might have come from somewhere else in the Chamber, but I do not want it to be from the right hon. Gentleman. You have been around this Chamber for far too long and you know that you are way outside scope. I think that I preferred you on the Front Bench than on the Back Bench.

  • I think the Prime Minister might disagree with you on that, Mr Hoyle.

    I want to talk more about education and health before I start to wind up. There are elements of education that are shared with the European Union. Will they also be devolved fully to the Scottish Parliament? That also applies to some aspects of health. Leaving the EU will have serious implications for the workforce of our health service. According to the Trade Union Congress, just under 50,000 citizens from the European economic area work in the NHS—9,000 doctors, 18,000 nurses, and the list goes on. Those people are a vital source of skills and experience, plugging gaps left by the underfunding of training places, especially in England and Wales, in recent years. This again is where the failure of the UK Government to guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain and to live and work in the UK after we leave the EU is causing uncertainty and disappointment.

    The UK Government have also yet to set out how they will deal with cross-border health issues after leaving the European Union.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for giving way on that point. Many people have received medical treatment abroad under the European health insurance card. That includes me, and I have the scars to prove it. Does he share my concern that we may no longer have access to the card after Brexit?

  • My hon. Friend makes a crucial point, which he was right to raise eloquently in the House in the run-up to the European Union referendum—[Interruption.] I hear dissent from Labour Members, but the reality is that these are the uncertainties and confusions. Nobody seems to know exactly the right answer, which is why we continue to press our amendments.

  • One impact assessment that has been researched is by End Child Poverty. Its report “Feeling the Pinch” has assessed that prices are due to rise by 35% between 2010 and 2020, which will have a massive impact on the exponential rise in child poverty. Does my hon. Friend agree that impact assessments like that—of the impact on families and children—are so important, and that is why we table our amendments?

  • Absolutely. As I said at the beginning of my speech on these important amendments that we want the Committee to debate in full, the Brexit debate was for too long an ideological debating society game being played on the Government Benches. As the reality hits home, we are now beginning to realise the kind of consequences my hon. Friend mentions. It is important that as many of the powers and as much of the budget that are relevant and appropriate come to the Scottish Parliament as part of the Brexit process so that we can protect and defend the rights that people have enjoyed under the European Union and that are now at risk. That is why we continue to press for impact assessments.

    Amendment 66 is important because it calls for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibilities, which, of course, include the common fisheries policy.

  • Expendable.

  • Yes. It was decided in 1972 that the policy was somehow expendable, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) is saying.

  • I will give way to my hon. Friend, who has a lot of experience.

  • I represent probably the only constituency to reach 200 miles of the exclusive economic zone. Is there not a case not just for putting Scotland in control of fisheries, but for giving the Hebrides and island groups some power over them? We should certainly not leave them in charge of the guys in Westminster who sold them down the river once and, given this White Paper, are looking to sell them down the river yet again?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the fishermen and women of Scotland will be particularly concerned when the Government talk about a UK-wide approach. When the Prime Minister makes passing references to Spanish fishermen, everyone knows what she is signalling. Fishermen should not be on the table as some kind of bargaining chip. The UK Government must not sell out our fishermen as they did in 1972. They must tell us now what access arrangements they will seek to negotiate, and conduct a full impact assessment for our fishing sector.

    Leaving the EU will create significant uncertainty within the agricultural sector, and the UK Government have to produce an assessment of that. It is particularly true in the case of the food and drink industry, as I am sure that hon. Members who were at the briefing from people in the food and drink industry earlier today would want to know. Some 69% of Scotland’s overseas food exports go to the European Union.

  • I share my hon. Friend’s passion for the rural economy. Would he be surprised to learn that when an audience of 800 mainly English farmers at the Oxford farming conference were asked how many had confidence that DEFRA could deliver in the Brexit environment, the only hand that went up was that of the Farming Minister?

  • Well, there we are; I think that says it all.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. Is an intervention not usually made by the person who wishes to intervene, rather than by the person on the Front Bench trying to invite support from his Back Benchers?

  • If we kept that rule going, nobody would speak on either side.

  • The reality is that my hon. Friends have a very important role in representing the interests of their constituents. There is a reason we tabled this many amendments and why we want to partake in the procedures of this House. We have been sent down here to do a job: to scrutinise this Government and hold them to account, as the official Opposition have been almost singularly unable to do so.

  • Is it not the case that when the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) was on his feet, he was begging for interventions? He did it at least five times, and his hon. Friends were all laughing at the time.

  • Order. We are not getting into a debate about that. I think Mr Grady wants to come to the end of his speech, because he recognises that seven other people are waiting.

  • You are absolutely right, Mr Hoyle. As we know, six of my hon. Friends were waiting to be called last night, and they were unable to be called, because some people chose to vote for the programme motion and not to allow sufficient time. So I think it is important that I remain within order and that I speak to the SNP provisions in my name and those of my—

  • Order. If I was keeping everybody in order, your speech would have finished 15 minutes ago. We have latitude for all sides here tonight, so let us see how we go, but I do hope that you will recognise that others are waiting.

.

  • Thank you, Mr Hoyle. I do recognise that.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that an impact assessment on the justice system is crucial because our membership of Europol, Eurojust, the European arrest warrant and other key areas of co-operation on security matters remains at risk following a hard Tory Brexit?

  • That is exactly what amendment 67 calls for. Members can see that my hon. Friend has read all our amendments and is prepared to debate them on the Floor of the House. Justice issues are particularly important. Where will the Government be on the European convention on human rights? Where will their Bill of Rights be? How will all of that interact with the instruments of justice in the European Union that my hon. Friend speaks of?

    Amendment 68 calls for the Home Secretary to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibilities. We heard about immigration earlier. Is that responsibility going to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, as the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath called for during the campaign? Our membership of Europol, our participation in the European arrest warrant and other key areas of co-operation on security remain at serious risk following Brexit, and that is why we need an impact assessment on the role of the Home Office.

    Likewise, amendment 69 calls for the Secretary of State for Defence to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. As I said on Second Reading, we are at risk of being left with Trump, Trident and a transatlantic tax treaty. At this rate, Trump and Trident will be the beginning and end of the UK’s security policy.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman have a timetable for how long it would take to conduct all these impact assessments?

  • I am absolutely certain that these impact assessments can run in parallel, but the hon. and learned Lady touches on an important point, which goes to the heart of all these points about impact assessments and the capacity of the UK Government to deal with all of this. There is an impact on the whole machinery of government—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • If the hon. Lady wants to talk to me about the machinery of government, I will be happy to take her intervention.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman know exactly how much these impact assessments would cost the taxpayer?

  • That is exactly the point. The whole machinery of government is going to be tied up for years and years—this was supposed to be about taking back control. The reality is that, if the Government do not accept these amendments and do not do these things before article 50 is triggered, they will have to do them afterwards. They are simply going to have to figure out how Brexit impacts on every single Government Department. The whole machinery of government will have to be reformed—it stands to reason. So they can do what we propose before triggering article 50 and have some kind of certainty, or they can do it afterwards and the complete chaos can continue.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I think we need to continue looking at the various proposals.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I think we have heard enough from the former Justice Secretary for now.

    The point the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) is exactly what amendment 70 touches on. It calls on the Chancellor to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. The responsibility of the Treasury will change quite significantly. As we heard from the Brexiteers throughout the campaign, the Treasury currently channels all this money into the European Union. It is going to have to reabsorb that money and have the structures to apportion it back out to lots of different Government Departments.

  • My hon. Friend is doing a fantastic job of outlining a series of important areas that are likely to be greatly impacted on financially by the UK leaving the EU. Does he agree that the assessments we are calling for are the very least one should expect from any responsible Chancellor of the Exchequer?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. An impact assessment, by definition, is more than simply something printed on the side of a bus.

  • The argument put forward by the hon. Lady from England somewhere—the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries)—is quite strange. It is akin to the person who says, “Given the cost of buying a map, isn’t it far better that we stumble around in the dark?” That is the argument against impact assessments: do not buy a map, stumble in the dark.

8.45 pm

  • Exactly.

    Talking of maps, my hon. Friend brings me to amendment 71, which calls for the Foreign Secretary to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. We need clarity on the working relationships and the division of labour between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union, especially as regards the UK’s permanent representation at the European Union, which we have to assume will continue in some form.

  • It will be bigger.

  • Indeed—

  • Does the hon. Gentleman welcome the fact that UKRep will probably have to get bigger? Does he welcome more UK bureaucrats in Brussels?

  • I hope that UKRep will be very slim. The hon. Gentleman is surely now suggesting the most pointless of all his impact assessments, because the Department for Exiting the European Union will cease to exist at the end of the process, and therefore having an impact assessment on what it might do before the process has ended is otiose beyond measure.

  • I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has clearly not read the amendment. The amendment calls for the Foreign Secretary to publish an impact assessment that will include, but not exclusively, his relationships with the Department for Exiting the European Union.

    Amendment 72—perhaps the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) will want to intervene on this—calls on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to publish an impact assessment on his responsibilities. The Scottish Government are seeking to give people in Scotland reassurances that they are allowed live and work here.

  • No, I am not giving way.

    One of the key agreements of the UK’s renegotiation in earlier years was that the UK would be able to establish a four-year period before non-UK EU nationals have access to in-work benefits such as tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit. It is unclear whether the new deal that is done with the EU will enable the UK to impose such restrictions. The Scottish Government did not approve of the proposal and would want to seek different arrangements if they could. Again, there is a question about whether these powers will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There were only two pages—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No, I am not giving way to the right hon. Gentleman.

    The token total of two pages on securing rights for EU nationals is telling about the UK Government’s real priorities.

    Amendment 73 calls for the Secretary of State for International Trade to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. Trade policy is currently under EU competence, and leaving the EU single market and customs union would mean that it fell under the responsibility of the UK Government. The Secretary of State therefore needs to outline how his Department is going to make use of its new competence over trade policy.

  • If the hon. Gentleman can tell me that, I will be happy to hear from him.

  • The hon. Gentleman is certainly giving a speech that is great in length. On amendment 73, would he suggest that the assessment by the Department for International Trade should include the potential impact of having to deal with Scotland outside the UK single market as an international trade partner?

  • Conveniently, we have heard from the Prime Minister in recent days about her support for friction-free travel and friction-free trade across the islands of the United Kingdom, so I have every confidence that when Scotland becomes an independent country—

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. I wonder whether you can advise me. There are seven other hon. Members waiting to speak in this debate, including me, as a Select Committee Chair wanting to share with Members the scrutiny of our cross-party Committee. Does the time limit for this debate not indicate that important assessments on areas such as the environment and agriculture will not be heard by the Committee tonight? Can you send a message to the Lords to make sure that they do the job that this House is incapable of doing?

  • We can enter into an argument about it, but the House decided on a programme motion, and unfortunately some people are a victim of that.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle.

  • Are we serious?

  • Yes. I seek your guidance, Mr Hoyle. Is it in order for Members who abstained on the programme motion to complain about the programme, when they have taken no part in it?

  • I knew that my instinct was correct, and that that was not a point of order.

  • I take the point that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) is making, and I believe she is indicating that she joined us in the Lobby to vote against the programme motion. I agreed with the point made by my friend from the Procedure Committee. We are all in favour of reform of this House. As it is, we will use the procedures of the House to hold the Government to account.

    Amendment 74 calls for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. The vote to leave the European Union has plunged our business and energy sector into further uncertainty.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. The Scottish National party has now been here for almost two years. That is sufficient time to have learned some of the manners and the protocol of the Chamber, which includes referring to Members by their—

  • Order. As a member of the Panel of Chairs, you know that you are not making a point of order.

  • That is an interesting point. The hon. Lady is sitting where a couple of other Members are accustomed to sit on Friday afternoons, and we have watched them rise and talk out private Member’s Bill after private Member’s Bill. So I will not hear Members of the Conservative party complaining about the legitimate use of the procedures of the House. We have tabled amendments. We went up to the Table Office and lodged amendments in precise accordance with the rules of the House, and we have every right to stand here and explain to the House the importance of our amendments.

  • If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to me about my amendments, I will be happy to listen to him.

  • I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is completely right to use the procedures of the House as they allow, and, if he carries on like this, he will reach the heights attained by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). [Interruption.]

  • I hope I am not hearing applause from Conservative Members, because that would be a breach of order.

    It is important that we consider our amendment about BEIS, because the vote to leave the EU has plunged the business and energy sectors into further uncertainty.

  • I reiterate that we are speaking to the amendments that we have tabled. One of the better productions from the UK Government is the Green Paper “Building our Industrial Strategy”, published by BEIS. The Green Paper highlights the challenges in skills gaps, in productivity and in research and development. It does not mention the challenge of leaving Europe, and it does not mention that leaving Europe is even an opportunity. That proves the need for an impact assessment from BEIS—

  • Order. Let us be a little bit fair. We understand what is going on. In the end, interventions have got to be shorter for Mr Grady to get towards the end of his speech.

  • I outlined at the start of my speech the amendments that we tabled. My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have spoken about the uncertainty caused by Euratom, which was, I accept, covered in important detail by Labour Members.

  • Is not amendment 74 the most important one, because it includes workers’ rights? Many of us view the Government’s attitude to workers’ rights with great suspicion.

  • Absolutely; indeed, an entire new schedule on workers’ rights has been tabled.

    Amendment 75 calls on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. Local government throughout the UK receives a host of funding from the European Union, not least the structural funds that we have heard about many times.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that with so many regulations being implemented by local government in areas such as food protection and waste disposal, local government needs to know what form those will take once we leave the EU?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have tabled amendments calling for impact assessments.

    Amendment 76 calls on the Secretary of State for International Development to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibilities. Again, we need clarity and a full commitment to 0.7% of gross national income going to overseas development. That is similar to the amendment in my name, amendment 58, which I have already spoken about.

    Amendment 77 calls on the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to publish an impact assessment.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No—which is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said to me on Second Reading.

    The UK Government need to clarify what involvement the EU’s digital single market, which is vital for supporting highly paid jobs in an exciting growth sector, will have. They have been completely silent on the digital single market, which will be one of the most important sectors of our economy—like tourism, which also comes under the remit of the DCMS. Approximately 20,000 EU nationals work in Scotland’s hospitality sector—12% of the total. What will be the impact on them?

    Amendment 79 calls for the Chancellor to publish a report on matters relating to the pensions of UK nationals living and working in the European Union. Again, that is an area of great uncertainty, and I have heard about it from my own constituents. Some 400,000 UK nationals living in the EU receive a pension from the United Kingdom Government, and they are incredibly concerned about the impact of Brexit. The Government have done nothing to reassure them.

    Amendment 80, one of the most important, calls on the Government to publish an equality impact assessment. We heard earlier from the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) about the whole range of minority and interest groups in our society—faith groups, LGBT groups and so on—that are completely absent from the UK Government’s White Paper. That is why it is important that we hear about them in an impact assessment.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s failure to include an equality impact assessment is very distressing? It is completely contrary to their words of support for equality, which are so often let down by their actions.

  • Of course. Equalities are at the heart of the European project, which the Brexiteers have wanted to rip us away from.

    Amendment 82 calls for a regional and national economic impact assessment.

  • Why do we need an impact assessment? Well, right now chemical manufacturers and importers from non-EU countries are using the UK as a base from which they can guide chemicals through the REACH programme through the appointment of a UK-based only representative. When the UK leaves the EU, only representatives will no longer be able to be based here. Does my hon. Friend agree that that will incentivise—

  • Order. We wanted short interventions.

  • It will not surprise the House to hear that I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The single market has allowed Scotland’s economy to flourish over all these years, and that is now at stake in a hard Tory Brexit.

    Finally, new clause 138 addresses trade agreements. We have heard the FCO and the Department for International Trade boasting in public about new trade agreements that the UK will sign after it leaves the EU. Of course, it cannot sign them until it has left. That is why the Government have to be transparent and report on which trade agreements they are working on and give details on the nature and terms of those deals. It is crucial that the UK Government inform and consult Parliament in their ongoing trade talks and allow scrutiny throughout the process.

  • Of nearly 200 members of the United Nations, only six states are outwith a regional trade agreement. The UK is to become the seventh, joining the likes of Mauritania and East Timor. Does my hon. Friend share my concerns and those of the chemical industry about where that leaves us and everybody else involved? The UK is going headlong towards a cliff in joining countries as small as those.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I hope that by examining in detail these vital new clauses and amendments tabled by Scottish National party Members, the Government will begin to understand how seriously we are taking this issue.

  • My hon. Friend has made excellent points about the amendments and about how many there are. Does that not underline the woeful lack of time given to this entire process in respect of article 50?

  • Absolutely. As has been pointed out, we had more time to discuss the Scotland Bill. That will now probably not be the last legislation on Scotland; I see that the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken his place. He will probably have to steer through another Scotland Bill during this Parliament as a result of Brexit, to give us all the powers he promised he would.

    This is only the beginning. The Government want to bring forward the great repeal Bill, increasingly known as “the great power grab”. They must be willing to stand up to the scrutiny of the House. We have been sent here to do a job, and that is what we have done this evening with our amendments. That is what we will continue to do during the passage of this Bill and all the future legislation that comes with Brexit. [Interruption.]

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Posted in Brexit, Europe, independence | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Time to Get Out of Dodge

Yesterday was the day when every Scot, regardless of political leaning should have been conclusively made aware the disrespect that the majority of the Westminster parliament and in particular the current British government hold them in.
I can only call much of the governments disdain towards not just the SNP but the wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard as being despicable.
If anyone was in any doubt of the vacuity of the statements made previously by Westminster, of Scotland being a valued equal partner in the Union, yesterdays debate at the committee stage of the European (Notice of Withdrawal) Bill  should have shown them up for being the utter dross that they were.

The events which followed in the 7 hours of debate, finishing at midnight, would have left those few that watched them threatening to destroy their television sets in anger.

3 major amendments from those of the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, asking that they be consulted properly by the Westminster government with respect to matters which directly impacted on each of these Countries be respected, were each dismissed out of hand by Westminster. On the 2 of the amendments with regards to Northern Ireland and Wales Labour voted in favour of the amendments so their loss was not by all that much of a majority. The Scottish amendment was utterly trounced because Labour abstained.

However the manner in which the SNP were dealt with, and the manner in which they were denied voice was incredible. In the whole 7 hours, they were afforded a mere 4 speakers. While 2 Torys took up a third of the time available filibustering for half an hour each in order to deny debate, the scenes involving Joanna Cherry MP as she sought to speak was beyond belief.

  • I rise to speak in support of amendment 46, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friends, but before that I would like to take the opportunity to thank Conservative Members who have spoken this evening for their quite extraordinary display of hubris and contempt towards amendments, laid by several different parties, that simply seek to make sure that the reality of the modern British constitution and devolved settlement is respected. Those of us who believe that Scotland would be better off managing its own affairs as an independent member of the EU will have received a huge boost this evening from their behaviour. It was a pleasure to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). I am sure he will forgive me if I say that I suspect that the cause of a united Ireland has also received a boost this evening. I very much hope so.

    I will be brief so that others from my party might have a chance to speak. The purpose of amendment 46 is to require the Prime Minister to obtain the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Assembly before she triggers article 50. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to correct the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara) and his woeful misunderstanding of what the Supreme Court did, and did not say, in relation to legislative consent motions. It said that, as currently framed in the Scotland Act, it is not legally enforceable. It did not say that it had no meaning whatsoever. The hon. Member for Foyle quoted paragraph 151 of the judgment, and I very much suggest that Conservative Members read the judgment, rather than simply taking from it what they want. It said:

    “The Sewel Convention has an important role in facilitating harmonious relationships between the UK parliament and the devolved legislatures. But the policing of its scope and the manner of its operation does not lie within the constitutional remit of the judiciary”.

  • rose

 

 

 

11.45 pm

 

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. It is clear that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) had not resumed her seat, Sir. Being in the Chair accords you many privileges, but you cannot reinterpret the wishes of an hon. Member who is on her feet.

  • As the occupant of the Chair, I have the right to make decisions in this Committee. [Interruption.] Just a moment. I rightly wanted to bring in the hon. and learned Lady, which I did. When the SNP Whip comes and asks me to give a couple of minutes to ensure that the SNP has another voice, which I did, I certainly do not expect advantages to be taken of the Chair on the agreement that I met. That is the issue. Sit down.

  • Thank you for your chairing of this debate, Mr Hoyle. [Interruption.]

  • Calm down, Mr Wishart. This is a very serious matter. It is so serious that I want to hear what the Minister has to say in response to where we are. It is very serious and I want to hear it.

  • This is a hugely important debate. [Interruption.]

  • Order. Mr Salmond, will you clarify something for me?

 

 

  • Other Members have been making their contributions without any admonition from the Chair.

  • Order. Tempers are running quite high. We need to calm it down. In fairness, I have been very generous in coming into the Chair—[Interruption.] Mr Wishart, we do not need any extra help for the moment. Let me say that I want to hear, and Mr Salmond would expect to hear, what the Minister has to say in response to the opening speeches. I believe Mr Salmond would have wanted answers. The fact is that this Committee wants to hear what the Minister has to say. The last thing I wanted to do was to take up time dealing with points of order. In the end, if we do that, we will not hear from the Minister. I understand that you, Mr Salmond, may have used some unparliamentary language to me, but I am sure that you are not that kind of person and I am sure you did not do so.

  • I did not.

  • I am saying that I am sure that was not the case. I did not accuse you; far from it. Let us now get the Minister on his feet.

  • Thank you, Mr Hoyle.

    We have heard from all four corners of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Everyone who has spoken in the debate agrees on the importance of engaging closely with the devolved Administrations and legislatures as we embark on the forthcoming negotiations.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. I have to say that I have great respect for you as the Chairman, but I hope you can understand the frustration that we all feel that only two SNP Members have been called to speak in this debate, which is important for the future of Scotland and our position within Europe. I am asking what you can do, Mr Hoyle, to make sure that the voice of the people of Scotland is heard correctly in this debate. It has not been heard this evening.

  • I assumed my place in the Chair, and I have tried to ensure that a second SNP voice was heard, and we were listening to that. That is what I agreed to, and that is what I have done. In fairness, I think the SNP has done better than it was going to otherwise, in which case, let us hear what the Minister has to say.

    That all was just the lid coming off the teapot

    Here is the link to the whole debate in Hansard
    I would draw your attention to exchanges in columns 140… Letwin/MacDonald/Harper

    142 Blackford

    145 Deputy Chair

    148 Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik

    154 Redwood

    165 Edwards

    167 Paterson/Salmond

    177 Elphick/Blackford/Salmond

    EU Withrawal Bill Debate

 

And Finally….at the end of the evening…..the reaction of Anne McLaughlin MP

So that was a long night in the House of Commons. It was 1.15am before I was on my way home after an eventful day.

In 8 hours of debate, 4 MPs representing Scottish constituencies got to speak. At the end of the first debate every Tory and Labour MP who wanted to speak, got to do so. 1 Lib Dem was refused as were 7 SNP MPs.

One of the 4 was Joanna Cherry. After 2 minutes (when many others had spoken for around 20 mins each) the Deputy Speaker saiid he expected her to finish up, that he had been kind enough to let the SNP speak and she should not abuse it.

Joanna rightly carried on. So he told her she was done. Unbelievable. Alex Salmond raised a point of order and about 12 of us walked out in disgust.

Incidentally, when the deputy speaker was telling us to get back in our box, Labour folk were cheering. Angela Eagle’s “hear hear”s were very loud and animated.

It’s not about the SNP being treated badly particularly and it’s certainly not about us individually. But you elected us to represent you and If we are not allowed to speak we are not allowed to represent you.

It’s ridiculous. I am glad I walked out. Joanna was right to stand her ground. We shouldn’t have to fight for the right to fight for you.

Right it’s 2am and I’ve to be back there at 8.30am so I am off to bed. Thanks for all the emails.

 

Posted in Brexit, EU, independence, politics, scotland | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

EU shouldn’t bank on it

The SNP do not have a mandate to call another Independence referendum, and should not even consider doing so! The reason that they don’t have a mandate to call one is quite simply because they have lost their majority in the Scottish parliament.
Even if they wanted to call one, they will not be allowed to do so!

Such are the sort of arguments that the Torys are trying make now.
Although Michael Fallon said that the SNP would not be allowed to call another referendum, as they would absolutely be refused permission by the Westminster government, he was very quick to do a smart u turn on that the following day.
I suspect the reason for the sharp volte face was because he probably got a roasting from No.10 and the Scottish Torys. Theresa May has always been extremely careful to say that she believes the SNP should not call another referendum, not that they could not call one. Both she and the Scottish Torys know fine well that to attempt to deny Scots sovereignty in that manner is a sure fire way of ensuring Independence.
The question being though is whether or not that was a deliberate blunder by Michael Fallon, in order to test the reaction it would receive, or as a means of leaving the idea hanging with those Scots less politically aware that Westminster did not have the authority to deny a Scots referendum?
As for their weak assertion that the SNP do not have a mandate because they no longer have the majority in the Scottish parliament….that roundly fails on 2 counts. The parliament was set up in such a way as to supposedly make it impossible for any party to have an overall majority . The fact that the SNP fell just short of repeating the remarkable feat they last achieved is neither here nor there. Also there is a mandate because jointly the SNP and the Scottish Green Party are both for independence and jointly they do have a majority.

What all of this means is that the unionist partys are running scared!
They know fine well that Indyref2 is almost certainly going to happen. It is not a matter of If it will happen, but rather When it will happen.

The example given of a material breach in the SNP Holyrood manifesto was that of Scotland being taken out of the EU against the explicit will of the Scottish people.
Given that we were all told categorically by the NO campaign that only by voting against Independence would we be guaranteed to stay in the EU.

So that material breach will be the trigger once Article 50 is implemented by Westminster.
However it can be argued that the removal from the EU is not the only material breach given the Vow and nearly every other promise made by Better Together has been broken.

It is at this point that I would urge the SNP and all YES campaigners to be extremely cautious.
While the trigger may be the EU, and while Westminster, the Press and the BBC will most certainly focus on a sort of rerunning of Brexit arguments and old rehashed scare stories and impossible questions. We cannot simply sit back and let them run the agenda like we did before. Nor can we center the argument ourselves solely around the question of the EU. If we allow ourselves like the old official YES campaign did, in merely responding ever so politely on the back foot to make our case, we shall assuredly lose again….and that we cannot allow ourselves to do.

The EU is merely one issue, but it is not such an issue that will excite the majority of Scots. It has a prominence for the moment because of Brexit, but it is not a main reason in itself for Independence. Given that the EU elections have been by far the poorest turn outs of all our elections,and given that most Scots were until recently blissfully unaware of whatever MEPs were supposed to do, and I  suspect many still do not know. While it may be the trigger, it cannot be allowed to be the sole focus of the argument to come.

We can see that even at this early stage, in the media and on social media the constant bombardment and belittling and fault finding of everything Scotland and Scottish, and this will only be ramped up once the phony war is over. We cannot allow rhe BBC to tell us what the big agenda is in political debating programmes… we have to turn that around, and unless we have proper equal representation on these programmes and be allowed to put our own questions, then we should refuse to take part!

We have to be absolutely clear why we want Independence, and what we hope to achieve by it, and not have it be some watered down version of the British state
Instead of us answering and rebutting a multitude of questions…. We should be taking it to the them…and asking them to justify clearly what benefit the Union is to us now, and why they think subjugation is better than Independence?

Time to get off the back foot, and bring Independence home.

Posted in EU, Europe, independence, politics, scotland, YES2 | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Lentils and Watermelons

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that Lentils and Watermelons are utterly dreadful if they watched the meltdown in the Scottish parliament yesterday by ace Tory troll Murdo Fraser MSP.
Murdo was fair doing his dinger at Patrick Harvey and the Scottish Green party because they did a deal with the SNP to allow the budget to progress.
“lentil-munching sandal-wearing watermelons” he called them.
Well poor Murdo who has been a list MP since 2001 and who has failed to ever win an election in his life can only be pitied for his grandious sense of self importance. If ever there was a Minister for Twaddle role created he must surely be a main contender for it.
As it is, Murdo seems to spend most of his life trolling on twitter.
However today he is venting his ire on the Greens in the Daily Mail again, by saying “punished for working in Scotland by flat earth minnows”
I have no idea whether Murdo had a really bad experience as a boy with being forced to eat his greens, or whether as a fully paid up member of the Queens 11 he just has an aversion to anything with the colour green. Whichever it is, the poor man needs counseling urgently, he is just not right in the head.

Mind you, Murdo was not alone in his Ire…Labour were doing their nuts about the Greens too….how very dare they do a deal with SNP BAD…..That is just totally unacceptable in their books….never mind public services, never mind social justice and all that Green claptrap….Everything that is wrong with Scotland is all the SNPs fault, and nobody should be doing deals with these Devils.

Willie Rennie and the Lib Dems just sulked and said that Green wasn’t green at all, but was grey. It seems that Willie needs to go and get his eyes testing, he has gone colour blind.

The Torys were outraged. Scotland is now the highest taxed part of the UK they claimed, when it actually is the opposite when all forms of taxation are taken into consideration.
Oh sure…the Greens pressurised the SNP into keeping the 40% tax band threshold the same as it has been, when in England and Wales the threshold on earnings to take people into that tax band is being raised to £45k before they have to start paying the 40% band. So the lie that by the earnings level of remaining at £43K in Scotland is somehow a rise in what people pay in tax is utter bunkum. Remaining the same does not in any perspective amount to people paying more tax.
Even those who earn over £43k only pay the higher rate on anything earned over £43k. So if they earn £45k for instance, they only pay the higher rate on £2k of these earnings not the whole £45k
What the Torys are really moaning about is that the better off are not getting more tax breaks, and even worse the Greens persuading the SNP to use the current level of taxation are now using it to put £160 million extra into local services… How very dare they give the plebs more at the expense of the rich!

Labour on the other hand are howling about SNP cuts!  The SNP should be forcing people to pay much more in tax to pay for all these cuts the SNP are responsible for.
Of course they completely have amnesia when it comes to who is really responsible for all these cuts. Oh no it wasn’t a Labour government that totally messed up and started this austerity lark.. Oh no..it wasn’t Labour MPs abstaining that allowed the Tory government to punish the poor even more… Oh no….it wasn’t them, never them.
If any cuts are happening it is solely down to scotlands block grant being shredded year on year…and yet somehow managing to prevent the worst happening is the SNPs fault?

What the Greens did teach all these Unionist parties is that considered negotiation and a willingness to reasonably compromise, rather than attacking and being totally unrealistic just for the sake of opposition achieves results.
Now that really gets up Labour and Tory noses, the wee Greens showing them up for being the totally ineffective numpties that they are.

Posted in politics, scotland | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Article 50 and time to leave

Today the British government finally got round to issuing their white paper on leaving the EU. Having wasted a half hour of my life reading its 77 pages, I discovered that it told us absolutely nothing new whatsoever what their plans are. It may just as well have said Brexit means Brexit and we want to have our cake and eat it.
Next up it goes through the House of Commons committee stage before popping up to the House of Lords and then coming back to the Commons.
To cut to the chase, all this will mean at the end of the day is that Theresa May will eventually action Article 50 to start the process to take us out of the EU at the end of March.
In the meantime the leaders of the devolved administrations will meet with Theresa May once a month without any progress whatsoever made in the supposed consultation exercise. The 650 page Scottish government paper which has been given to the UK government will be roundly ignored.
What that will leave us with come the end of March when Theresa May makes her Article 50 proclamation to Westminster will in effect mean that all avenues for a separate deal to take into account Scottish wishes will have been exhausted, and Nicola Sturgeon will be left with no option but to declare Indyref2.

Wouldn’t it be a sight to behold if when Theresa May stands up in front of a packed house of commons to issue Article 50, if all the Scottish Independence MPs got up as one and smartly filed out of the place leaving behind rows of empty green benches.
No clearer constitutional statement could be made.

Posted in Brexit, EU, independence, Nicola Sturgeon, politics, scotland, Theresa May, YES2 | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Unionists are Not Unionists

It may seem a strange thing to say, but unionists are not unionists.
Whatever they may be, or whatever they think they are, what they are decidedly not is Unionist.
Many residents of Scotland when asked how they identify themselves, will say ” I am Scottish and British” , others may say ” I am British first and foremost”
If one identifies oneself as being British first, or solely as being British, then it stands to reason that even if they will also Identify as being Scots, their allegiance is to the Union and the British State before and above any other consideration.
They may have been born in Scotland, they may have lived all their life in Scotland, but when it comes to their first priority that is not to Scotland but to the UK.
Being British, their country is Britain, even though there is no such Country but a Unified State.
When they tell you that they are against Independence but are proud Scots they are talking utter bunkum. When they go along to Hampden or Murrayfield for Scotland matches against England, and sing ever so lustily Flower of Scotland it means as little to them as singing Baa Baa Black Sheep… Oh yes they may want our neighbours to lose the match, but that is just regional competition as far as they are concerned. Its like Dundee v Dundee Utd.. We can still rise now and be a Nation again is just utter rubbish as far as they are concerned, and a tad hypocritical when they sing it.

But if they value the Union above all else, how can they not be Unionists?
Quite simply, their political allegiances are with Westminster, and what is decided there takes priority over whatever the majority of Scots wish for.
Take the Brexit vote as an instance. A clear majority of Scots in every single area of Scotland voted to remain with the EU. Their argument is that it was a UK referendum so it is immaterial if the majority of Scots voted to remain, therefore it is quite ok that Scots wishes be discarded. Scotland voted to remain in the UK so therefore Scotland must simply accept without demur exit from the EU. The fact that we were all told prior to the independence referendum that Scotland was a valued and equal partner in the UK, we are just supposed to forget that now. Forget consultation, forget finding acceptable compromise to take into account Scots wishes. Brexit is Brexit and it is a Red White and Blue Brexit.
That is not a Union, that is Submission.
Under these circumstances, there is no such thing as a Union, so therefore Unionists are not Unionists. When push comes to shove, Scotland does not count.
They will not readily admit it, but what they are is Nationalists, and they are the worst kind of Nationalist at that. Not civic Nationalist like Scots Independence supporters but the other kind which has wrecked havoc across the globe. They associate more readily like we have seen Theresa May doing, with the Trumps and Le Pens of this world.

In recent times we have seen the likes of Davidson, Dugdale and Rennie and our solitary Tory MP Mundell all having argued to Remain in the EU, and all of them supporting the Scottish Government after the Brexit vote in endeavouring to seek every possible solution which would allow Scotland to remain in the UK and the EU, before all of them doing a complete U turn when it became evident that Theresa May and her Cabinet were just not going to seriously entertain finding a solution.
At which point they all lost their conscience and principles and did a fast about turn, because with no chance of May and her Tories budging an iota Scottish Independence was back on the table.
Forget showing a united front and putting Westminster under real pressure to find a solution, they all bowed to their respective London Party leaders to do their bidding. Forget serving the people of Scotlands  majority views and standing up for them, the Union comes first. Their own political self interest and country comes first, and that country is not Scotland.

A Union where every single Scottish MP, albeit only 1 Lib Dem, 1 Tory and 1 Labour amongst them all voted bar one against Brexit can never win a vote, is no Union at all.
Every single MP could be a Scottish Nationalist, and Scots voices would never be listened to. That is Subjugation not Union.

Those that adhere to such a thing are not Unionists whatever ever else they might be , and they do not serve Scottish Interests when they advocate the opposite of the Scottish popular view.

Posted in EU, independence, scotland, Theresa May | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Make the journey

Some people have not made made it across to my new blog.
So here it is for you… give it a  like and follow for fresh updates..

Phoenix Rising

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments