Kezia Dugdale: Two votes in one day could break deadlock

Unless the Prime ­Minister can buy off around 100 MPs with peerages and pork barrel politics by 7pm tonight, her Brexit deal is going to be voted down in the House of Commons.

Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 10:06 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 10:08 am
Labours Yvette Cooper is forcing government to report back on Brexit within three days. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

That leaves a no deal Brexit as ­probably the odds on favourite ­outcome as the clock runs down to the 29 March, our deadline day for ­leaving the European Union.

Thanks to the wily work of a few proper parliamentarians, notably Dominic Grieve and Yvette Cooper, the Government will be required to come back within three days rather than 21 days to report on what ­happens next.

Yet, reading the runes, there is ­little scope for the PM to improve the offer because of her own red lines and indeed the EU’s determination that this is the only deal on offer. There will be no further negotiations.

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This is a critical point because as we obsess about the votes in the ­Commons, we must remember the remaining 27 EU countries all have to back the deal too and the EU’s leaders have done a far better deal of ensuring their votes are locked down.

So what happens next? Well, if the country wants to avoid a no deal Brexit, the PM really only has two ­further choices. Apply to extend ­Article 50 in the hope that extra time might throw up some solutions. Alternatively, she can revoke Article 50 altogether and halt the process.

Understanding the detail of these two is important. If she applies for extra time, the EU have to agree to it. Why would they? The deal is done as far as they are concerned and it’s too close to the next EU elections to look so weak in front of their home nations.

Revoking Article 50 is something that the UK Government can do ­unilaterally, a point proven in court through the heroic work of Andy Wightman MSP and others.

However, to do this means hitting the big red reset button. Some ­consider this a useful stalling tactic, but the reality is that this means ­ripping up the whole two-year negotiation and starting again from scratch, if and when the UK reapplied to leave. Why would the EU agree a more favourable deal in these circumstances?

All in all the, country is in a bit of pickle, to put it mildly, and my path out of this sour jam is unpalatable to the PM.

EU leaders have said they would consider an Article 50 extension if the UK was to have a people’s vote, i.e. another referendum. I support this path.

For me that referendum would consist of one question with two answers. The British people would be asked to either ratify the deal negotiated by the PM, therefore binding MPs to vote for it again in Parliament, or to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU once and for all. That for me would give us a clear-cut democratic and realistic route out of constitutional crisis.

Labour favour a general election that I would welcome to remove the Tories. However, I’m ­concerned about what the manifesto would say on the issue of Brexit. Labour would struggle to build a majority in a general election dominated by Brexit. Attempts to appease voters in leave-voting English ­constituencies would result in losses in Scotland and metropolitan ­England. The best path to a Labour government requires a general election where Brexit isn’t the central issue. That’s why my ideal scenario would be a general election and a ­people’s vote on the same day.

Such a plan could produce a Tory Government with a mandate to remain, or a Labour Government with a clear instruction to leave on May’s negotiated terms, neither of which are options available now.

Sure, it’s an outlandish plan, but have you got a better one? Answers on a postcard to Mrs T May, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA.

Proper funding for emergency staff should be our insurance

Figures released last week placed Edinburgh twice in the top 20 most burgled postcodes in the UK.

Homes within the EH4 postcode area, which includes Stockbridge, Cramond and Barnton, were ranked fourth, with EH15, covering Portobello and Duddingston, coming ninth in the UK-wide table for the postcode districts with most contents claims on home insurance policies.

Scotland is among one of the least burgled areas in the UK – unless you live in Edinburgh – and it’s understandable why housebreaking is a persistent concern for many people living here.

Housebreaking has been a particularly sensitive issue in Edinburgh, as dedicated squads from the former Lothian and Borders police force were disbanded when restructured Police Scotland took over.

Hard working local police, however are to be commended, as the force’s own figures indicate that housebreakings are down a fifth on the previous figures, which show a marked improvement.

I’ve written to the Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety and Edinburgh Eastern MSP, Ash Denham seeking assurances for constituents that Police Scotland are getting the necessary funding to combat housebreaking in the city.

I expect the Minister will be concerned about these figures as hot spots exist in her constituency and she has the power as a minister to help improve things locally – although, you don’t need a long memory to recall the buck passing back to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service from the Minister when local Marionville Fire Station was closed last month because there were too few firefighters available to staff the engines.

The responsibility lies with the SNP Scottish Government to invest properly in our emergency services to ensure that they are properly funded and resourced and if Edinburgh can’t be guaranteed that, when the Minister is one of our MSPs, what exactly is the point?

The wee dog with a big heart sums up love and devotion for pet owners

Yesterday was the 147th anniversary of the death of Edinburgh’s most beloved canine companion, Greyfriars Bobby.

I was privileged to take part in this year’s commemorative event at Greyfriars Kirk with my own pup, Brodie, a gorgeous golden cocker spaniel, along with many fellow dog lovers who turn up annually to celebrate the unique and special bond that exists between dogs and their owners. This year’s event was supported by the Dogs Trust and was a fitting tribute and celebration of the continued importance of man’s best friend. As the one o’clock gun sounded, which is said to be the time at which Bobby left his master’s grave each day for a free meal at a nearby café, those gathered observed an outdoor commemorative service which was followed by pupils from George Heriot school laying flowers at Bobby’s headstone.

Today we know it is a scientific fact that dogs not only fill your heart, but can also help it. The physical improvements that looking after a dog can deliver are undisputed. They help keep us fit and active, reduce stress, counter depression and improve people’s social lives.

Edinburgh University have embraced this research recently and now help students to de-stress with therapy dogs, which provide exceptional benefits, including slowing heart rate, reducing blood pressure, calming nerves, regulating breathing and elevating mood – perfect for those struggling with exam stress!

Maybe it’s time for the Scottish Parliament to consider introducing something similar, I know a few colleagues who could benefit.