Brexit and independence are paralysing politics and preventing action on health, education and jobs – Ian Murray MP

As the Tories pander to the likes of Nigel Farage over Brexit, the SNP are trying to split Scotland from the Union, which would impose massive austerity on its people, writes Ian Murray MP

By Ian Murray
Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 4:45 pm
Boris Johnson's 'oven-ready deal' over Brexit is looking more like an 'oven-ready no-deal' (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)

Ask most people across the UK what they want their governments to prioritise and you will get the same answers: jobs, health and education.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise once again, and the battle against the virus far from over, these issues matter more than ever.

And yet in Scotland we find ourselves with two governments with a completely skewed sense of priorities.

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This week, for example, with Westminster back following the summer recess, there was a vote on a new Fire Safety Bill. Labour sought to amend the Bill so that it would implement the recommendations from the first phase of the Grenfell Inquiry which was set up following the tragic tower block fire.

The Tories voted it down, with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross among those guilty of a dereliction of duty. Perhaps that shouldn’t be too surprising.

But while the Lib Dems, Northern Irish politicians and even the Welsh nationalists sided with us, the SNP MPs all abstained. Every single one of them. The nationalists’ empty rhetoric about being a progressive party was exposed: borders matter to them more than compassion. The parliamentary Bill may have been an English Bill, but on the Labour benches the constitution doesn’t matter when it comes to a tragedy like this.

And let’s not forget that when they want to, SNP MPs are happy to vote on English laws such as the fox-hunting ban or Sunday trading. Their real priorities have been laid bare for everyone to see.

But even this scandal wasn’t the most shocking moment in Westminster this week. On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland admitted that the UK will break the law by overriding the agreed Northern Ireland protocol following Brexit, reigniting the prospect of us crashing out of the EU with no deal.

Before the last General Election, the Prime Minister promised the British people an ‘oven ready’ deal; it now looks like the ‘oven ready no deal’ we always expected.

The Tories’ priority is not to get the Brexit deal that will do least damage to jobs and livelihoods, but to pander to the likes of Nigel Farage instead.

This could have major consequences for the future of our United Kingdom.

I challenged the Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack on this, given he has previously said that a ‘no deal’ outcome would create damaging uncertainty for the country and that he would never vote for anything that undermined the integrity of the UK.

He must surely realise that the UK Government’s recklessness only benefits those who want to see the break-up of the UK. That’s why the SNP are privately delighted with the latest ineptitude on show from the Tories.

Because the SNP’s priority, as we all know, is dividing Scotland once again. This month, Nicola Sturgeon published her Programme for Government, with the work of government unsurprisingly dramatically impeded by the Covid-19 crisis.

Yet, despite delaying a host of critically important issues, she still found precious space for a second independence referendum Bill.

Not only will that divide communities at the very time we should be working to bring people together, it will eat up resources when all efforts should be on economic and public health recovery from Covid.

In these pages this week, wannabe-SNP leader Angus Robertson said independence will be good for Edinburgh because consulates will become embassies. That is all he has to offer you. No answers to questions of jobs, a new currency or how to plug the £15bn fiscal gap.

Never mind the fact that a separate Scotland would have to impose massive austerity on its people, driving up job losses and hurting the poorest communities. That’s fine because we’ll have more flags on Edinburgh buildings.

The great Nye Bevan, who helped to build our welfare state, once said “the language of priorities is the religion of socialism”.

That’s why I’m proud to belong to a political party that prioritises protecting public health, education, investing in our economy and securing jobs.

It’s time for our governments to rethink their priorities and stop the paralysing constitutional division that benefits no-one.

Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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