Why SNP is even more extreme than under Alex Salmond – Martin Whitfield

The SNP's independence proposal is an extreme act of recklessness, says Martin Whitfield (Picture: Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The SNP's independence proposal is an extreme act of recklessness, says Martin Whitfield (Picture: Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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We're in the middle of the greatest constitutional crisis of modern times. Boris Johnson has shut Parliament’s doors for five weeks, and it has taken action in the Scottish courts to expose his shameful attempt to silence democracy.

I am proud to be a petitioner in the cross-party challenge, and the legal battle now moves to the Supreme Court.

At such a vital juncture for our country, the Prime Minister should re-open Parliament’s doors.

But prior to prorogation, Parliament still managed to hold him to account, inflicting defeat after defeat on his failing administration.

Working on a cross-party basis, we have passed a law to prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, protecting communities the length and breadth of the UK.

Inflicting deeper austerity and creating further division is not something those of us on the Labour benches could ever countenance.

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So that begs the question why SNP politicians are willing to inflict deeper austerity and create further division by pursuing the break-up of the UK?

Social cohesion has been ruptured and economic growth has been stifled due to years of constitutional upheaval – first with the ‘once-in-a-generation’ independence referendum campaign, and then with the EU referendum.

The absolute last thing that we need is more constitutional chaos.

Boris Johnson is currently threatening a hard Brexit, playing hardball with the EU and making impossible demands.

The same was true of Alex Salmond in 2014, who put forward a hard Scexit where he would play hardball with the UK and make impossible demands.

Today, the SNP’s vision for independence is even more extreme.

The overly optimistic figures for Scotland’s economy have been replaced with a decade of cuts for our public services such as schools, hospitals and elderly care.

The demand to share the pound has been replaced with plans for a new currency, putting mortgages, pensions and wages at risk.

The claims about automatic and seamless entry to the EU have become wilder, with no answers about the impact on the English border just a few miles south of my constituency.

Leaving the EU after just over 40 years of loose partnership has proved to be incredibly painful and hugely complicated.

Just imagine what it would be like to leave a close partnership forged over more than three centuries, with an entwined culture, economy and institutions.

The SNP’s independence proposal is an extreme act of recklessness.

That the Nationalists still want to create further division when we are already suffering from deep divisions should not be surprising. That’s what nationalists do: seek to divide people.

It is the polar opposite to solidarity, which is what the Labour Party stands for and has always stood for.

There is nothing progressive about breaking up the Union.

What is progressive is building a country that works for the many, not the few.

We can do that as part of the UK, with a Labour government that puts people ahead of borders, the economy ahead of flags, and co-operation ahead of division.

But with opinion polarised and basic facts simply dismissed, winning this fight won’t be easy.

We must work hard to bring us back from the extremes, and work to preserve the UK’s place in the EU, and Scotland’s place in the UK.

Martin Whitfield is Scottish Labour MP for East Lothian