Why can’t Scotland have same referendum rights as Northern Ireland? – Christine Grahame

Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement contains a clause saying a referendum on leaving the UK should be held if it appears the majority of people want to be part of a united Ireland, writes Christine Grahame MSP.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 5:00 am
Boris Johnson has so far refused to grant a Section 30 Order. Picture: PA
Boris Johnson has so far refused to grant a Section 30 Order. Picture: PA

After General Election 2019, I’ll start with the final sentence of my last piece: “The choice is straightforward, more of the same or translate this Scottish Parliament into a truly national parliament, voted for by proportional representation and you will at last always get the governments you voted for. Would make a change wouldn’t it?”

Yet again we have a Tory Government which lost the election in Scotland, with just six out of 59 seats and the SNP with 48, Labour with one and the Lib Dems with four. Yet we will have for the next five years (unless we bang the constitutional drum) Tory rule. Where is the democracy in that?

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

Ah but, I hear you say, this was a UK election, live with it. Yet we were told after the 2014 referendum that Scotland was in a partnership of equals. It’s a gey funny partnership, especially as one of the partner nations vows to veto the will of another, which is exactly what Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is doing.

This result is not a one-off. This election continued the narrative of two nations: England and Scotland, one turning Tory blue and the other SNP yellow. So now we have had three results where Scotland has voted and made a firm claim to travelling in a different direction.

Good Friday Agreement

First came the EU referendum, when 62 per cent voted Remain and 38 per cent Leave (every local authority voting Remain). Then came the EU election with six seats up for grabs; the SNP taking three, the Tories one, the Lib Dems one and the Brexit Party one. Now we’ve had the stunning recent victory for the SNP. We also have 63 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to the Tories’ 31.

Yet against all this, Johnson refuses a Section 30 order to allow the ­Scottish Parliament to conduct a ­referendum on the future of Scotland as to whether or not we should be independent. So the leader of a party with just six seats in Scotland can stymie the will of the Scottish ­Parliament – which has agreed in principle to a referendum.

He talks of bringing the nation together. Which nation? The UK is not a nation. England is a nation, Scotland is a nation, Wales a principality and Northern Ireland part of the UK. But check out the Good Friday Agreement which states that “the Secretary of State” should call a referendum “if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland”.

Factor in now that there are more United Ireland MPs than Unionists and indeed that Northern Ireland voted Remain and Boris Johnson doesn’t just need to look north (and by that I don’t mean Manchester) and pay attention and respect to Scotland, but cast his eyes west to Northern Ireland.

Indeed when you look at that statement in the Good Friday Agreement, you wonder how the same test should not apply now to Scotland.

I cannot see how, Canute-like, the Tories can sustain vetoing Scotland having a choice on its own future. Indeed if he is so sure of the Union, why not put it to the test? He thinks he is on a roll, so Boris, go for it.

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