On Monday, Nicola Sturgeon announced what many of us were fearing – a second independence referendum. Speaking from Bute House, Sturgeon claimed that the people of Scotland must be offered a choice between a ‘hard Brexit or becoming an independent country. She claimed the SNP had sought compromise with the UK government but had ‘no other option’ but to seek another referendum on independence as the conditions laid out by the Scottish Government had not been met. Sounds plausible, no? It would be if the SNP had actually approached negotiations with Theresa May’s government with an open mind. Instead, Sturgeon maintained that Scotland should get ‘special treatment’ and still be allowed access to the single market on account of a majority of the electorate opting for Remain on 24 June 2016.
The key word here is majority – Sturgeon’s rhetoric implies every single voter in Scotland voted to Remain in the EU referendum. This could not be further from the truth. Just as Sturgeon argues that those who voted Yes on 18 September 2014 should have their opinions respected, surely so should those who voted to Leave on 24 June 2016 also be respected? Sturgeon’s dogged determination to ‘defend the interests of the Scotland’ sounds like a noble cause – but it is in fact just more of the same arrogance from the SNP, listening only to those who share the same views as the party leadership.
So as children’s wards are closed, leaving parents without access to vital services at their local hospital, as a generation of young people are let down by an education system not fit for purpose, and as crippling cuts are passed on to local government, Sturgeon turns a blind eye and relentlessly focuses on her mission to break up the UK, supported by her nationalist colleague in Wales, Leanne Wood, who claimed the announcement of a second referendum would be a ‘huge opportunity for Wales’.
Most shocking of all is the poverty in Nicola Sturgeon’s own backyard. Govanhill is one of Glasgow’s most deprived areas and its problems have been well documented in the media in recent months. What is Sturgeon’s response to the asylum seekers at the mercy of rogue landlords, living in accommodation unfit for human habitation, or to the parents and teachers of Annette Street Primary School who last year had to set up a crowdfunding page to ensure non-English-speaking pupils have an equal access to education as their white Scottish counterparts.
Supported by the votes of the Scottish Greens, the SNP’s motion calling for a second independence referendum will pass when it comes before the Scottish Parliament next week. However, this vote means nothing – it is simply vacuous gesture politics which the SNP are well accustomed to. The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to call another referendum on independence without the agreement of Westminster, and with Theresa May already ruling out the possibility of allowing such a referendum being held while Brexit negotiations are underway, next week’s vote is nothing but a waste of parliamentary time and resources – valuable time that could be spent debating solutions to the NHS and education crises.
Therefore, rather than accusing Labour of ‘carping from the side lines’, Sturgeon should get on with the job and focus instead on the challenges faced by her own constituents who are more concerned with being able to put food on the table rather than what political union Scotland is a member of. We know the SNP only have one priority – independence. Meanwhile, Scottish Labour will continue to fight against cuts to our public services – we will not stand by while the SNP wreak havoc on our communities.