Scottish independence referendum: If unionists were so confident, they would say 'bring it on' – Christine Grahame MSP

So, the starting gun for that promised referendum has been fired: October 19, 2023, or as I call it Democracy Day.

The First Minister made it plain she intended the process to be legal and has asked the Lord Advocate to refer to the Supreme Court the question on whether a Bill for a referendum on Scottish independence would be legal.

Now this is quite technical but very important. The Tories and Labour have made it clear they will not “permit” a referendum. This is interesting territory as, in Scots Law, the people are sovereign not parliament. It is different in England where Westminster is sovereign.

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Remember when the Union was formed, it was two nations coming together as partners not one absorbing the other. That is why when the Queen is in Scotland, she is known as Queen of Scots and not Scotland.

To tease this out further, if the Scottish people indicate they want a referendum then they have a right to one.

In that vein, with 72 MSPs, a majority, elected to the Scottish Parliament on a clear statement that they want a referendum on Scottish independence and with 45 SNP MPs at Westminster to six Tories and one Labour, what other indicator, on a free democratic vote, provides that mandate?

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It is absolutely indefensible for one nation to veto that right to a partner nation but that is exactly what Boris Johnson is doing. A referendum is not a vote for independence itself, just the right to choose.

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Nicola Sturgeon has called a referendum on Scottish independence for October 19, 2023 (Picture: David Cheskin/PA)

Neither is independence an end in itself, it is the route, the means, to a fairer Scotland, free at last from the harsh, unkind policies of Westminster.

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This is a Tory government with only six Scottish MPs which has introduced the bedroom tax (which the Scottish Government does not implement by providing support) and the rape clause (which means a woman cannot claim benefits for a third child unless conceived through rape).

It also cut £20 per week from those receiving Universal Credit (most of which is claimed by those in work). Yes the Scottish Government provides support through free school meals for P1-P5 children, free school clothing, free prescriptions, free travel to pensioners and folk under the age of 22, and our students are not charged tuition fees.

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But there is a limit to helping folk survive this economic storm. The Scottish Government has a fixed budget and cannot borrow (unlike Westminster).

Independence would allow Scotland to re-enter the European Union. Brexit, which 62 per cent of Scots opposed, has cost the UK billions in lost trade.

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No wonder we have the worst inflation of the G7, excluding Russia, which is of course spending its resources on a cruel war in Ukraine. That loss of billions in trade means a loss of billions in tax to support the UK’s ailing economy.

So, of course when the unionists say “now is not the time”, what they really mean is “never”. If Scotland were a third world nation, the UK would be falling over itself to support its democratic right to self-determination, but not for Scotland. If the unionists are so sure of the benefits of the Union, why not shout “bring it on”, not block the referendum.

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Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale