Read my article for the Edinburgh Evening News on the economic catastrophe that is the SNP's Growth Commission. You can also read the article on the Evening News website.
HERE we go again. Just when you thought Nicola Sturgeon might start focusing on the mess she has made of our schools, hospitals, police and transport system, once again she attempts to distract voters by threatening another independence referendum.
The toxic atmosphere of the 2014 referendum still lingers. “Stop talking Scotland down”, “you’re scaremongering”. The tiresome insults are being thrown around again.
The trigger was last week’s SNP “Growth Commission” report, which they sat on for months and are already pretty embarrassed about. At least it’s more realistic than Alex Salmond’s ridiculous 2014 White Paper, now available at all bad joke shops. Among the ‘highlights’ are a ten-year period of deficit reduction (also known as cuts), leading to deeper austerity and less money for already stretched public services.
It suggests an independent Scotland would retain the pound – known as ‘Sterlingisation’ – leaving Scotland with no control over monetary policy and the value of wages, rent and mortgages, and the risk of no lender of last resort. And it openly admits that financial services would leave Scotland and move to England as a result.
I represent thousands of workers in Edinburgh’s financial industries. I’m not going to stand back and allow the SNPs ideological dogma to take away their jobs, just so that we can have a passport with a Saltire on it. So while I welcome the new-found honesty from the SNP that there will be at least 25 years of pain, this is a blueprint for economic catastrophe. And ultimately, the poorest Scots will be hit the hardest.
The Commission’s problem is its starting point – that independence is always the answer. It doesn’t consider why remaining in the UK is clearly the best option. I share Scottish voters’ anger with the current Westminster Government. Nearly a decade of Tory rule has been a disaster. However, the powers of the Scottish Parliament have barely been touched to take Scotland along a different path.
The solution isn’t to tear apart a 300-year-old union just because the current Prime Minister is poor. That’s why I fight so hard for an electable Labour Party that would give voters the alternative our country so desperately needs. I know we achieve more when we work together, which is why I oppose both the SNP’s pursuit of independence and the Tories’ desire for a hard Brexit. Two nationalist ideologies that do nothing to advance our country. We are already facing an economic crisis as a result of Brexit, which could lead to tens of thousands of job losses. Edinburgh is likely to be among the hardest hit cities in the UK but two catastrophic wrongs don’t make a right.
Every political party should be focused on preventing a hard Brexit and securing UK membership of the Single Market and Customs Union as a least-worst Brexit option, not looking to inflict even further damage.
So, yes, I’m angry with the SNP for reigniting the independence debate. But if it wasn’t for David Cameron gambling – and losing – on a Brexit referendum, we wouldn’t be facing this scenario all over again. The Conservatives have given Nicola Sturgeon precisely the grievance she desires and Theresa May simply won’t put the interests of the country ahead of her own party.
And Tory politicians have the barefaced cheek to attack Labour and the Lib Dems on the future of the Union, when it is their own party which is playing with constitutional fire. They are as big a threat to the UK as the SNP and Ruth Davidson’s Tories should be held to account for that.
Scotland deserves better than two nationalist parties fighting to see which can do the most economic damage. Future generations will look back and ask why our discourse was dominated by two things, Brexit and independence. Both acts of self-harm for our country. We need politicians to stand up, be counted and put the country before anything else. It’s not too late. Yet.