We do not need to have the duopoly of despair offered by the UK - Tommy Sheppard

Here we go again. Rishi Sunak is now in Downing Street, the tenth Tory Prime Minister since 1955 that Scotland hasn’t voted for. He presents himself as a safe pair of hands after the Truss and Johnson horror show, promising to fix the catastrophic mistakes made by his predecessors.

Of course, these are problems he helped to create as Chancellor when he imposed a hard Brexit, slashed Universal Credit, and raised taxes on ordinary families. Now Sunak plans to impose austerity 2.0 and take a wrecking ball to public services, squeezing household incomes even further, at the worst possible time.

Labour offers little better. Under Keir Starmer’s leadership, the party has the least ambition it has ever had in its 122-year history, saying hardly anything about how it wants to change things. Terrified of suggesting that the wealthiest should pay their fair share of tax; embarrassed to support the trade unions; committed to remaining isolated from Europe. What a choice.

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It’s little wonder that people across Scotland look at this and ask themselves, “Is this the best we can do?”. The answer is increasingly, “No, we can do better than this with the powers that come with being an independent country”.

On Wednesday, Parliament debated “Scottish independence and Scottish economy”. The link was deliberate. Independence is not an abstract argument separate from people’s daily concerns. It is about making things materially better for people and their communities. It is how we deal with the cost-of-living crisis for good.

This theme is developed in the latest Scottish Government policy paper on the economy. It addresses currency, fiscal policy, and sets out proposals for a new national investment fund. The exact policies will depend on what people choose – that’s what independence means.

We could pay a real living wage, end the scandal of extreme low pay for younger workers and scrap anti-trade union legislation. We could have a progressive tax where those who can afford it, pay more. We could support small businesses and ensure the opportunity to make money is combined with social responsibility. We could also make sure that in a country with massive renewable energy potential, the benefits are passed to the people who live here and not global corporations. But none of this is possible without the powers of independence.

These are just some of the reasons why we ask people in Scotland to consider the alternatives. We do not need to have the duopoly of despair being offered in the United Kingdom. We can take matters into our own hands and create a new, better country.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak represents the 'duopoly of despair' of the UK, writes Tommy Sheppard. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

But who gets to choose? Opponents of Scotland becoming a self-governing country continue to have no argument other than “you’ve had your referendum”. But that was nearly a decade ago and the world has changed beyond recognition. If the people want to review that choice, that is their right.

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In other circumstances, the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence might have settled the matter. But that didn’t happen. Last year, people elected a Scottish Parliament with more Members committed to independence than in 2011. That mandate has been disrespected and ignored by Westminster parties. What they don’t realise is that every time they deny the voice of the people, it only gets louder.

Tommy Sheppard is the MP for Edinburgh East and SNP Spokesperson on Constitutional Affairs.