Ian Murray: We had the ‘listening’ exercise two years ago

Pro-independence supporters stage a rally on Glasgow Green at the weekend. Picture: John Devlin

Pro-independence supporters stage a rally on Glasgow Green at the weekend. Picture: John Devlin

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Its déjà vu all over again. No, not the long winter months, but another endless and exhausting debate about Scottish independence.

You could be forgiven for thinking that here in Edinburgh there are no GP shortages, no widening of the educational attainment gap, no underfunding of our local services, no pressures on primary school places, no problems with housebreaking or local community policing, no downgrading of NHS services, no increases in student debt, no issues relating to Brexit and the impact on our universities, businesses and investment. In fact, you would think that the Scottish Government has nothing to do but talk about the constitution.

But rather than getting on with the day job, the First Minister has orientated her entire government to produce a new white paper on independence. The media is dominated with talk of a rerun of the “once in a generation” referendum. The SNP has even launched yet another public conversation on the subject – a “listening” exercise. However, the only thing they want to hear is from those that agree with their ideological obsession.

They conveniently ignore the largest democratic listening exercise in history. The 2014 independence referendum delivered a result that was loud and clear – no to independence. It would be good if our elected government listened to what the Scottish people have already decided. They are deaf to the democratic will of the Scottish people.

The First Minister said at the weekend, on the second anniversary of the referendum, that nothing else matters. She said that independence “transcends” the economy, the oil price, Brexit, and everything else. Well it doesn’t. Nothing should transcend the livelihoods of my constituents and the opportunities for our young people.

Harping back to the arguments of the past just brings paralysis. The Conservatives have spent decades banging on about Europe and look how that turned out. We now have the SNP banging on about independence regardless of the consequences for our nation.

And what’s worse is that they are positively encouraged to do so by the Conservatives.

Ruth Davidson said to the Scottish people at the elections back in May “vote Scottish Conservative to protect the union”. It sticks in the throat because it’s Ruth Davidson’s party that has lead Scotland to the exit door of the Europe Union. They keep saying that “Brexit means Brexit” but as we have seen in the last few weeks, they haven’t a clue what Brexit actually means.

Post-Brexit, doing nothing is no longer an option. But the SNP plan – independence – does not deliver what Scotland wants or needs.

We must be challenged to find a new way forward that goes beyond the unreconstructed polarising nationalist position that wants Scotland in Europe but not in Britain and a polarising status quo Tory position that is for Scotland in Britain but not in Europe. What Scots have voted for is to stay in the UK with the advantages that are brought by the EU.

None of the big questions of our time can be addressed by independence or the status quo in a post-Brexit UK. How do we deliver jobs and secure full employment, fund universal and high-quality public services, protect social, economic, civil and political rights, eradicate poverty and reduce inequality, and secure our collective defence and security, whilst promoting solidarity between Scotland and other nations?

That is why the Scottish Labour Party will continue to fight for a future that keeps Scotland in the UK with the benefits of the EU. That is what the Scottish people have voted for and it is that which should dictate what happens next. In the meantime, the SNP needs to get back to the day job.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South