Scottish MPs’ recent rejection of the motion to formalize the UK’s exit from the EU has been dismissed in many quarters as empty political posturing, with Conservative whip John Lamont branding it ‘bizarre’. But when 58 out of 59 MPs turned down the motion to trigger article 50, bizarre is not the word that comes to mind: it merely constitutes a continuation of long-standing SNP policy on Europe.
The First Minister has had her fair share of abuse over the years. From her “dangerous nationalism” to her footwear, there are few features of her character that haven’t been cross-examined by the media. What has never been in doubt, however, is her willingness to make sure Scotland’s voice is heard. This is a woman who has remained loyal to the Scottish National Party since the age of sixteen, who retrieved her party from the loss of the 2014 referendum and went on to lead it to a landslide win of 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the 2015 General Election. There should be no doubt of her commitment to Scotland’s interests, which, incidentally, have taken on a decidedly pro-European form of late.
Theresa May has condemned any attempt to push a second referendum, making it clear that if the UK goes down, it goes down “united.” However, this comes at a time when Britain is more divided than ever. Leave voters are being vilified as racists; racially motivated hate crimes are on the rise; Remain voters continue to be abhorred that Brexit will go ahead; and the politicians who created this mess are nowhere to be seen. Labour are divided, and the Tories have not managed to maintain a front of unity either. The Greens and Lib Dems voted with the SNP against triggering Article 50. It’s a wonder the island of Britain itself hasn’t just fractured along its border lines and drifted apart.
But, running against the trend of incertitude which characterized the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the morning the Brexit result, Sturgeon provided clarity and courage. It was common knowledge that if the outcome was one of Britain leaving the European Union, the SNP would push for a second independence referendum. Sturgeon, unlike many others, kept to her promise.
And it is not an unreasonable request, either. There are 181,000 EU nationals currently living in Scotland that are vital to our country both economically and culturally. By increasing the working population and offsetting the ageing population – a growing concern throughout the UK – EU migrants are helping to drive our economy. European nationals have brought a wealth of cultural diversity to cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Walking down Nicholson Street it is possible to hear five different languages before reaching the Mile, and this is a diversity which should be protected. The cultural breadth that migrants bring in terms of art, cuisine, philosophy, literature, music is to be celebrated. They enrich and broaden Scotland’s cultural landscape, while undertaking work without which the economy would almost certainly falter. It is this that Scotland voted to keep.
The time for another referendum is now. If the effort to protect the will of the Scottish electorate is dismissed as ‘bizarre’, then so be it. I for one will be glad to leave the political circus that is the U.K. behind.
Image: Tom Donald