This week we have seen something no one expected – the UK and EU agree a new Brexit deal. The new deal changes the Withdrawal Agreement with reference to the Northern Irish protocol and adjusts the Political Declaration, making clearer the UK’s intent to have a future free trade agreement with the EU.
At the time of writing, we are still yet to see what Saturday’s sitting will bring, so the conclusion at this stage of Brexit is remains unclear.
Despite the National Farmers Union Scotland, Confederation of British Industry, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Federation Small Businesses welcoming this breakthrough, opposition parties have already started to show they aren’t willing to put politics aside and avoid no-deal by supporting this new deal.
The Liberal Democrats, who originally called for the referendum, now want to ignore the result and hold another referendum that they may not respect if they do not like the result.
After three-and-a-half years, Labour are still undecided – somewhat consistent with their demands for a General Election but refusing when given the opportunity, they now look set to back a divisive second referendum.
Meanwhile, SNP MPs have shown they would rather see Scotland torn out of the UK against its will and reject any EU deal that is brought to the table.
What about the 42%?
It is the SNP position I find the most hypocritical, illogical and downright reckless. The party claims to “speak for Scotland” by repeatedly arguing that Scotland voted against leaving the EU, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that Scotland voted to remain in the UK by a 10-point margin.
Even worse, they claim legitimacy by standing up for the “45%” and yet discard and ignore the 42% of voters who voted to leave the EU in Clackmannanshire in my constituency.
How can this be justified? Why is it 45% is a substantial and valid “voice of Scotland”, but 42% is irrelevant, close-minded, and “not Scotland”?
The inconsistency of the SNP’s democratic argument runs right through the Brexit debate. In fact, if I had a pound for every speech from SNP MPs, preaching the virtues of common endeavours, challenges and nations working together about the EU, I’d have enough to reverse the SNP underfunding of my local councils.
The good news is, in spite of the SNP’s consistent broken-record messaging, voters are starting to see through their arguments. Even a few months ago at a local coffee morning a lady put the question simply – “why do the SNP love Brussels so much but hate Westminster so badly – the arguments don’t make sense”.
Not only was this pleasing to hear as a Scottish Conservative & Unionist MP, but also as a welcome common-sense argument. The SNP cannot continue to stand up in the House of Commons arguing for the Scottish people on the virtue of trade and the benefits of union when by every statistic, every policy and to every person, the closest relationship we have is with other people on our little island.
Twisting of Irish history
And so, we come to the vote tomorrow. The SNP panic that a deal might be passed has led to barrage of insults and disparaging comments from their senior members, despite support from Scottish civic society. We have also seen the emergence of new argument, which is that “if Northern Ireland can have special customs arrangements, why can’t Scotland?”.
On the surface this sounds like a valid question, but even those outside of politics can see this is a cynical, reckless and downright malicious twisting of Irish history to try and create equivalence with Scotland: Scotland is a nation, not a war-torn province that has spent most of the last 100 years being subjected to terrorist attacks and military action; Scotland does not share a land border with the EU and finally, Scotland is not subject to an international treaty and under a power-sharing agreement to have viable local government.
A fact that is consistently missed by the Nationalists is that without Scotland, Britain and Westminster cease to exist. Scotland is the UK: two of the last five Prime Ministers have been Scottish born or raised, Scottish Conservative & Unionist MPs hold the current government in power and Scotland has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the creation of the British state, as shown by the £1,800 per head (17/18 figures, House of Commons Library) we receive over English counterparts.
But our country is about more than money, it is the historical achievements and movements ranging from the Enlightenment and the championing of the scientific method, to guaranteeing peace in Europe to establishing the NHS and welfare state – the latter of which were accomplished in Westminster by Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish MPs, working together.
While most of the Conservative & Unionists have shown compromise with our European partners to secure this new deal and finally get Brexit done on October 31, the desperation of the SNP has been laid bare.
They ask for conditions, then change them, ask for concessions, but when there is a chance of them going through, abstain on them and when, finally, there is a chance to settle a divisive issue, seek to find another wedge between the peoples of these islands.
My constituents have started to see this, and this weekend it is likely the rest of Scotland will too.
Luke Graham is the Conservative MP for Ochil & South Perthshire