Independence referendum: Boris Johnson is acting like Donald Trump in refusing to accept Scottish election result – Angus Robertson MSP

Political parties, if they win office, do their best to fulfil election manifesto commitments and, if they don’t, are usually subject to intense criticism from their opponents.

In Scotland, we have a bizarre situation where the Scottish Government’s opponents are desperately trying to argue that we should break a manifesto commitment – and one which was at the heart of last year’s Scottish Parliament election.

There is an old saying politicians often use when confronted with the latest opinion poll “the only poll that counts is the one on polling day”.

But again the Scottish Government’s opponents – the Westminster parties – have turned that on its head. For them, the only poll that shouldn’t count is the one that took place on polling day.

Because last year the SNP was returned to office with a record number of votes on a clear, unambiguous commitment to hold a fresh independence referendum. Our partners in government, the Scottish Green Party, had a similar manifesto commitment.

Together we have the biggest ever majority at Holyrood for an independence referendum in the history of devolution – bigger than in 2011 when the Tory government of David Cameron recognised the democratic mandate given by the people of Scotland.

Back then the UK and Scottish governments sat down together and came up with an agreed process.

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Boris Johnson and the then US President Donald Trump pictured at a Nato summit in Watford in 2019 (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The government of Boris Johnson operates by different rules (in fact it sometimes seems to operate with no rules at all) and has refused, in a very similar way to Donald Trump’s refusal to recognise the election victory of President Joe Biden, to even acknowledge the democratic decision taken by Scottish voters.

Obviously we hope that changes but this week the First Minister set out how we intend in any case to give people in Scotland their say over whether or not Scotland should become an independent country in a lawful process.

There has been much discussion over that process but what really matters to people is the substance of the argument for and against independence.

Scottish independence is founded on the belief that it will be better, for this and future generations, for decisions about Scotland to be taken by the people who live here.

Independence will also mean that we can enter into a genuine partnership with our closest friends south of the border.

Instead of partnership, the Tory government (supported on this issue by Labour and the Liberal Democrats) insists the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland must be subordinate to whatever Westminster decides, no matter the cost.

For many people currently opposed to independence, this may challenge the very notion of their idea of how the UK should work – a voluntary union and partnership of equals.

Indeed the Brexit process has already shown that for the Conservative government – again supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, neither of whom now say their policy is to rejoin the EU – that idea of the UK as a partnership is a fiction.

People in Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU but we have of course been forced out against our will by Westminster.

The impact of that decision is now really being felt – a smaller economy and food prices rising even faster because of Brexit. Unbelievably, because the Brexit-ultras are now in charge, there is a lot worse to come.

The UK Government has set itself on a collision course with our fellow Europeans by introducing a new law that rips up key parts of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement that Boris Johnson previously hailed as fantastic.

If this bill is passed, it will break international law and threaten a catastrophic trade dispute with the EU – a dispute that could be particularly damaging to Scotland’s world-class food and drink industry.

It beggars belief that the UK Government could threaten such self-inflicted damage in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis and with the UK already at real risk of recession.

No-one is saying that independence guarantees success. But we would always have governments the people of Scotland vote for, putting in place policies they support not those they reject.

And although independence would be hard work, the evidence all around us shows what can be achieved.

The Scottish Government recently published an evidence-rich paper comparing the UK’s performance with neighbouring countries similar to Scotland such as Ireland, Norway and Denmark.

The evidence is revealing – these and other countries are both wealthier and fairer than the UK. They combine economic dynamism with social solidarity.

That means not only are they more productive, with higher national incomes per head, they are also more equal with lower rates of poverty.

Many of those countries lack the resources and advantages that we enjoy, so the question is: if they can be successful, and a lot more successful than the UK, why not Scotland?

What has been so instructive is that the Westminster parties have refused to engage with the substance of the arguments and the evidence presented on how we could build a better future with the powers of independence available to those other countries.

Of course, there will also be challenges and, over the coming weeks and months, the Scottish Government will address openly how an independent Scotland could meet and overcome those challenges.

But what is clear is that Scotland is going to change regardless of the choice we make. The question is how are we going to change and who should be in the driving seat of that change.

We can leave it to a Brexit-obsessed Westminster system which is taking Scotland in the wrong direction or we can take our future into our own hands and build a better future as an independent country.

Angus Robertson is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution Secretary

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