Let’s face it, the June 8 election is one few people want or need. I believe there are three reasons why it’s happening. First, Theresa May believes she can crush Labour in England and get a stonking majority. Second, she knows that as Brexit gets messy the Tories will run into trouble. And third, if she waits another two months she may find dozens of her MPs facing charges for breaking election rules.
This election has been called solely for the benefit and convenience of the Conservative Party. It is a clear case of abusing our democratic process for party political advantage and the decision will rebound on her.
But we all have to play the cards we are dealt. So, I’m happy to pick up the gauntlet and am delighted to have been selected by the SNP to fight the Tories in this city.
There’s a nasty streak to Theresa May I hadn’t noticed before. She seems to find criticism and differing views somehow distasteful. Using intemperate language like “crushing” opponents and refusing public TV debates.
Words like division and divisiveness are used in describing the state of politics to suggest that there is something inherently unhelpful, even illegitimate, about dissent and having a different opinion. But allowing and respecting differing opinions is the hallmark of democracy. Wanting to crush and eliminate dissent is a trademark of authoritarianism.
This election offers a scary prospect of the UK lurching further to the right as the Tories turn communities against each other and turn Brexit Britain into a land of greater inequality and intolerance.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that Scotland has a strong team at Westminster to stand up to the Tories and defend our interests. Now, more than ever, we must insist that the people who live here get the final say on the future of Scotland.
For the last two years SNP MPs have ensured Scotland’s voice has been heard at Westminster like never before. We have been the main, sometimes the only, opposition to the Tories. We have fought and won on scrapping the proposed cuts to family tax credits and national insurance hikes for the self-employed and we’ve prevented Scotland’s budget being cut by as much as they wanted. We are still fighting the cuts in support for disabled peopled and the family cap with its odious rape clause which forces women to prove they were raped to get child tax credits.
Can we also be clear on what this election is not about? It is not about a mandate for another independence referendum. The Scottish Parliament elected less than a year ago already has a mandate for that.
I believe there has to be a further referendum. Not now, but when the Brexit deal is known. And not because the people who lost the last one don’t respect the result – but because the people who won have changed the deal.
The UK in the future will be a very different place than the one we voted to stay in back in 2014. And I think when the time comes we should be asked whether the new version is really what we want or whether we can build a better relationship on these islands by taking control of things ourselves.
But this election will be a judgement on Theresa May’s unwillingness to compromise, her refusal to allow differentiated arrangements in Scotland after Brexit to protect our economy and her dismissal of Scottish public opinion.
A vote for the SNP will be a vote to protect Scotland’s interests, and SNP candidates will stand on a platform of ending austerity and investing in our public services.
Electing SNP MPs will also send a strong signal that the future of Scotland – the kind of country we are – should be decided not at Westminster but in Scotland by the people who live here.
Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East