'˜Scottish independence case stronger after Scotland sidelined in Brexit talks'
Amidst the turmoil of last week, Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged for the first time the choice that MPs face is threefold; deal, no deal or no Brexit. On 8 October the SNP conference backed the First Minister’s decision that SNP MPs should support a second referendum on Brexit, provided “Remain” is on the ballot paper.
It is clear that Brexit will damage Scotland’s economy and society, so it is right the SNP do anything we can to stop it.
Polls show this position is supported by the majority of voters for all parties in Scotland except the Tories and Ukip.
If Scotland were already independent, our foreign policy would be to keep England as close to the single market and customs union as possible.
Splendid isolation has never been the approach of the SNP.
We are outward-looking and believe in independence in Europe. We simply wish to be an equal partner with England in the EU, not an unequal partner in the UK.
Scotland already voted Remain, but for England and Wales the position has changed since they voted Leave.
It is clear now there can be no Brexit that does not damage the UK for little or nothing in return.
When circumstances change, people should be allowed to change their minds. This is a fundamental principle of democracy, a good precedent to set and one which justifies a second independence referendum despite the No vote in 2014.
Those who want to stop Brexit but oppose a People’s Vote offer no alternative course of action.
We already know that Article 50 could be revoked with the EU’s agreement, and with the Scottish case seeking to establish that it can be unilaterally revoked now headed to the European Court of Justice, SNP MPs have the chance to lead the way out of Brexit.
It has been suggested that SNP support for a People’s Vote should be conditional on securing certain guarantees if England once again votes to leave while Scotland votes to remain.
I believe that this misunderstands the nature of the movement for a People’s Vote. This movement is not supported by the UK government or, as yet, by the official opposition.
Rather, it is a cross-party and no-party coalition responding to public demand.
The movement is therefore not in the position to make any guarantees and if the past two years have taught us anything, it is that setting unachievable red lines is not wise.
However, the window of opportunity for a People’s Vote is short.
It can only be delivered by a cross-party coalition, which includes the support of the Labour Party.
If this opportunity is lost, or if the result of a People’s Vote is again that Scotland votes Remain while England votes Leave, the mandate for a second independence referendum cannot be ignored any longer.
That is not to say that independence for Scotland will go off the agenda if the UK as a whole votes to remain in the EU. The case for independence has only been strengthened by the way Scotland has been sidelined and devolution undermined during the Brexit negotiations.
Joanna Cherry is the SNP’s home affairs spokeswoman and Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh South West