Why are the Scottish Conservatives helping to facilitate a disastrous Brexit that is a serious threat to the union with the UK, their party’s raison d’être, wonders Ailie Ross-Oliver.
Earlier this year, I travelled to London to meet with my local MP, Stephen Kerr, who represents Stirling, to discuss how as a young person, Brexit presents a massive loss of opportunity for my generation. Five months on, with no progress having been made, I want to challenge Mr Kerr to put his country and his constituency above party and back another referendum on Brexit.
In the 2016 referendum, 68 per cent of voters in Stirling backed Remain, higher than the 62 per cent figure in Scotland as a whole.
Despite this, Mr Kerr’s team told me he would continue to facilitate Brexit. They argued that in 2017 he was elected on a Conservative party manifesto that promised to “respect the referendum”. I understand this.
Yet, circumstances have changed. With any form of ‘sensible’ Brexit deal being blown out the water, it looks like the Conservative party is going to attempt to enforce the hardest possible Brexit upon Remain-voting Stirling. I am sure Mr Kerr has seen the recent YouGov survey revealing that Conservative members are willing to endure the collapse of the party itself, an economic crash and even the break-up of the UK in order to secure Brexit.
I now find myself asking, where are the Scottish Conservatives in all of this? Are they happy to sit back and witness this collective loss of rationality and support the ‘Brexit-at-any-cost’ mentality that has gripped both their party and large parts of the UK?
This kamikaze approach would perhaps be understandable if the end result was something worth having. Yet a no-deal Brexit, which appears to be all but government policy, would be devastating for Scottish industry. For example, the drinks giant Diageo has already announced shifts of production out of Scotland to the EU. This month, Deutsche Bank announced it is cutting jobs across the UK, having previously said it would move assets from London to Frankfurt because of Brexit. And the Scottish National Farmers Union has just raised serious concerns on behalf of its members about how lower food safety standards could put farmers livelihoods at risk. Is this what Stephen Kerr and the Scottish Conservatives would be happy to sacrifice?
Finally, and most importantly for the Conservative and Unionist Party, polls in recent weeks highlighted that Scots would vote for independence if Boris Johnson became the next UK Prime Minister. With Tuesday’s announcement rendering this horror story a reality, an independent Scotland appears increasingly likely. Scots will not accept a botched deal by Boris or a cataclysmal no-deal Brexit. The Scottish Conservatives are very proud to call themselves the unionist party of Scotland. Surely, they are not so committed to any form of Brexit that they will put their party’s raison d’être in existential danger?
I understand Mr Kerr’s hesitancy about any form of a People’s Vote or confirmatory referendum as he feels he was elected on a manifesto that promised not to offer this.
However, I cannot understand how on Earth the Scottish Conservatives can continue to facilitate a disastrous Brexit that will be hugely damaging to Scotland’s economy and risks breaking up the union they are so proud of. Therefore, I ask, on behalf of young people in Scotland, who voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, to at the very least publicly state your opposition to a destructive no-deal Brexit.
Ailie Ross-Oliver is a campaigner with the Our Future Our Choice group