UK is one big family and we shouldn't split up just because of Boris Johnson's government – Christine Jardine MP

Two years ago this week, I headed to the General Election count to learn that the electorate of Edinburgh West had allowed me the privilege of serving them for another term.

The SNP chose to engage mutual name-calling with Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, rather than talk about how to help people (Picture: House of Commons/PA)
The SNP chose to engage mutual name-calling with Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, rather than talk about how to help people (Picture: House of Commons/PA)

The years since have been dominated by the biggest crisis of this generation, or any other since the Second World War.

And the question with which we have all been forced to grapple is what should be our priority. For me, the answer has been simple throughout: health and economic recovery.

So I was disappointed yet again this week when the SNP passed up an important opportunity to focus on precisely that in favour of taking a political pot shot at the Prime Minister’s behaviour.

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The two hours of mutual name-calling across the parliamentary chamber helped nobody.

We could have spent that time talking about how to help those in Scotland left without power after Storm Arwen. Or we could have focused on how to mitigate the impact on families of the twin problems of rocketing energy prices and a cost of living crisis.

But what we have become startlingly aware of – though I wish it hadn’t taken everything that’s happened for it to be seen – is that it’s not the SNP’s style, or priority.

As one colleague put it leaving the chamber: “Why are they here if they don’t want to spend time talking about how to help people?”

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Independence was the main topic, yet again, of the party’s conference as they reiterated their determination to hold another referendum, regardless of whether the majority wants it or not, and despite the First Minister’s promise to put it aside until after the pandemic.

At a time when the country is facing the threat of a fresh wave of Covid, economic concerns and Brexit how can it be reasonable to effectively say, “we know you’re worried about your job and your family’s future, and we know it’s going to be an expensive business to rebuild. First, however we’d like you to take the time and the money to talk about a constitutional question you have already answered”?

Because already answered it has been. Clearly. And not just in the 2014 referendum.

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I am waiting for the weather to be Westminster’s fault. I can barely stand to think if we were to count the time taken up by the constitution, how much that equates to not spending time on making actual improvement to lives.

A cynic might suggest the nationalists would be quite happy for us all to struggle as it makes us more likely to listen to their case.

But just recently I experienced a morning in Edinburgh which convinced me there is hope.

At the launch of a movement focused on Scotland’s future, I listened to ordinary people express their mounting frustration that the SNP is not listening to them.

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That they are fed up with their rejection of the idea of breaking up the Union being depicted as ‘unScottish’. And they find the notion that only nationalists care about Scotland plain offensive.

This was not by and for politicians but a movement launched by a think tank, headed certainly by Gordon Brown, but giving expression to what real, ordinary Scots care about.

What came across loud and clear at that inaugural meeting was that this is not about what currency we might have, European Union membership, or who decides foreign and immigration policy.

The growing movement to persuade the SNP to just let it go is about who we are at our very core. How we see ourselves.

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And the growing issue for the SNP is that the majority of us still see ourselves as part of an intrinsically linked family. One which stretches from the southern tip of Cornwall to the most northern Shetland isle.

My own family roots were nurtured in Argyll, Cheshire, Edinburgh and Ireland.

I recently travelled home up the west coast after visiting family in Oxfordshire and shed a tear when the train stopped at Preston, as I remembered happy times with a close relative there we have lost.

When I pass signs for Nantwich, I am determined that one day I will find out more about my great-grandmother whose love for my Scottish great-grandfather brought her north.

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Every reminder strengthens my resolve that I will not be separated from part of my family, from my roots.

Do I think what we have is perfect? No. I believe there is a way that we can improve the decentralisation of the UK, move more power to the nations and regions and strengthen us all.

Among the many things, this pandemic has shown us is how valuable the economic and civil ties we have across these isles are.

I want to remain in the United Kingdom not because I don’t believe in Scotland’s ability, but precisely because I do.

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And I do not want to place any limit on our ambition or growth by cutting us off from our friends, family and neighbours.

Ironically that is precisely the objection which the Nationalists, who would rip us out of the United Kingdom, make to us having left the European Union.

Leaving an economic union does not solve having left another one. But then there is the other argument which we hear employed: Scotland did not vote for this government.

Scotland voted for a minority SNP government at Holyrood. I would prefer not to have either. But that is democracy. I accept it because every few years an election gives us all the opportunity to decide again.

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I am not prepared to throw away what is best for my country, my family and their future because of one government.

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