WHY has the First Minister decided to seek a second Scottish referendum?
I realise there will be many of you who feel another referendum is either superfluous or a diversion from the hard task of running the country. I respect these views, but let me say why we have arrived at this position.
Top of the list is Brexit. Scotland (and East Lothian) voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe – that is to say, stay in the Single Market, on which hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs depend. As a result, the SNP Government offered Theresa May an historic compromise. We would accept staying in a UK outside of the EU, provided Scotland was given a bespoke deal that allowed it to remain in the Single Market.
However, the British Government simply refused even to discuss separate arrangements regarding access to the Single Market. As a result of this intransigence, the First Minister has no option but to protect Scotland’s long-term interests by seeking a second independence referendum. This option was clearly outlined in the SNP manifesto for Holyrood last year, which gives the First Minister a legal mandate for seeking a second appeal to the Scottish people.
Many were persuaded to vote No in 2014 because of the promise Holyrood would get significant new powers. That promise was reneged on. Then there is the economy. Last week’s Budget went out of its way to harm Scottish interests. Tens of thousands of the self-employed will face an increase in national insurance premiums. The Chancellor has frozen Universal Credit and housing benefits, meaning one in seven in working families will have their real income cut over the next five years. Then there are the thousands of EU citizens in our NHS who could be turfed out if Brexit goes ahead.
Another referendum is not about causing division or uncertainty. It is about removing the economic chaos and social divisions caused by Brexit. The UK is driving over a Brexit cliff with no plan. It is time for Scotland to take back control of its own affairs.