Scottish independence: Tories and Labour have set themselves against democracy over second referendum, but it shall prevail – Tommy Sheppard MSP

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Earlier in the year, I used this column to argue the merits of people in Scotland governing themselves.

That was in the run-up to the May elections, where the issue was central. Since then, I’ve desisted from joining that debate, supporting the SNP Scottish government stance that dealing with the pandemic comes first.

We’re still some way from Covid being in the rear-view mirror. And many are nervous about how the virus will interact with winter bugs. But it does seem to be getting under control.

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I’d prefer to see out the winter before we get into the next independence campaign, but it seems the main Westminster parties want to start now, with both Tory and Labour conferences being used to launch a campaign against us having a say in how our country is run.

So, silent no longer. The first and most obvious place to start is with the results of the recent Scottish Parliament general election. That result supersedes all previous ones. That mandate top trumps any that came before.

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It was clear and unequivocal. Under a proportional voting system, and in record numbers, people elected a parliament with the biggest-ever majority for independence. The new Scottish government sees the SNP and Scottish Green Party working together with an explicit mandate for a new referendum.

Of course, there are still different views on this. But the electorate has spoken. In most cases that would be the end of the matter. However, despite two-thirds of the public agreeing there should be a referendum in this parliament, the main UK parties seem determined to do everything they can to frustrate it.

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The Scottish Parliament election in May resulted in the biggest-ever majority for independence (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)The Scottish Parliament election in May resulted in the biggest-ever majority for independence (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The Scottish Parliament election in May resulted in the biggest-ever majority for independence (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Tories, having difficulty even acknowledging the border, are running a two-pronged campaign against the existing devolution settlement. By any means necessary, they are trying to by-pass our parliament, spending money on high-profile projects stamped with the Union flag.

At the same time, they are using the current crisis to argue that we can only be safe in the strong arms of the Union. The bare-faced cheek of this takes some front.

Observers of this debate will remember the promises made by the Better Together campaign eight years ago. Not just that voting “no” was the only way to remain in Europe, but that independence would lead to higher food prices and soaring electricity bills. Yes, really.

Labour disappoints even more. The democracy deniers seem to strengthen their grip as the party stagnates. Starmer doubles down as the voice of the Union. Any radical idea to reform the constitution – not just Scottish independence, but electoral reform and the House of Lords too – is thrown into the long grass of Gordon Brown’s commission. A place where ideas go to die.

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The Tory and Labour leaderships have set themselves against the will of the people of Scotland.

Unfortunately for them, there is ample evidence of medium-sized countries doing rather well as independent states. They don’t have empty shelves whilst crops rot in their fields. A country with the wealth, natural resources and talents of Scotland could thrive if able to set its own priorities.

So, bring it on. This winter we shall renew our vision for Scotland’s future. The year after next we will let the people decide. Democracy will prevail.

Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East

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