Monthly Archives: February 2014



Wow! Last week was some week in the referendum debate. In a crescendo of Westminster politicians telling Scotland ‘ye cannae dae that’, our unionist friends have presented an independent Scotland without currency, EU membership and pensions, which is then separated from the rest of Britain and left to drift off somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic. The only thing missing is the sack cloth, ashes and the plague of locusts.

They say that resource-rich Scotland is not ‘too wee, poor or stupid’, but then, in the next breath they insultingly tell us why we would fail and why we’re uniquely incapable of putting together the workings of state!

Where we will put forward a positive case about building on relationships with our friends and allies as an independent nation they mutter darkly about ‘foreigners’ and seem determined to pursue a nonsensical scorched earth policy that is not just contrary to Scotland’s interests, but is contrary to the interests of the rest of the UK itself.

What Scotland should say in response to this nonsense is to say that we’re not having any of it. We will not be bullied into staying in an unproductive relationship that we don’t want, and we will not have our nation denied what is in fact ours. Let’s insist on a sensible debate about what is in the best interests of both our nations if Scotland becomes independent. This is what the Scottish people want and this is what I believe the people in the rest of the UK want too. The Westminster Tories and their friends in the Labour and Liberal parties desperately want to win this referendum and that is why they are prepared to place these self destructive roadblocks in our way. They will do this because they can.

It all started so promisingly too. The Edinburgh Agreement was a fantastic document of mutual respect. It said that whatever the outcome of the referendum, all sides would work constructively to respect it. Well, that now seems to have been shredded in a Westminster pique. I don’t know if the closeness of the polls has produced this change of tone, but it will not work. Scotland is just not prepared to be bullied into a decision. We will show them that this type of approach will not work with us and they will soon see that in the opinion polls.

We all know that if there is a positive vote for independence there will be the constructive coming together again. The people of Scotland and the rest of the UK will demand it and our friendship and common interest will inform it.

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we put forward our respective vision of the two futures of Scotland on offer and let the Scottish people decide without threats or ridiculous scaremongering? If they are confident of Scotland’s place in the UK surely at least they can do that.

The Speech They Tried to Shout Down

article-1279289-09A38C6A000005DC-578_634x389Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP):
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith), and may I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on ensuring we have this important, but all too short, debate today? May I also say to hon. Members that I will not be taking any interventions? Members of the other parties will get 90% of the time so it is only fair to the people watching this debate that they get the opportunity to hear from the other side.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell):
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that next Tuesday the SNP is in control of Opposition business in this House and that it has not tabled a motion to discuss independence for Scotland?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle):
Order. That matter is on the record and certainly does not need my confirmation.

Pete Wishart:
What a chance; what an opportunity: on 18 September this year we can make the choice to become a self-governing nation once again—to walk tall in the world with national self-respect and dignity like all other normal independent nations do, being responsible for ourselves and blaming no one else for our setbacks. The most exciting thing for me is that our independence will release and ignite a tsunami of energy, creativity and imagination as we get down to the business of building and creating our new independent nation—a new nation according to our Scottish priorities, built on our sense of community, always securing the Government we vote for, pursuing the agenda we want.

We will run an independent Scotland better than the Westminster Tories because of one key and very important fact: we care more about Scotland than the Westminster Tories do—of course we do, and that is why we will run it better. Never again will we have a Tory Government without our democratic consent. We want no more picking on our vulnerable; no more obscenities such as the bedroom tax; no more of Labour’s illegal wars and no more Tory or Labour weapons of mass destruction defiling our beautiful country—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle):
Order. Can I have a bit of calm? In fairness, it has been a good-hearted debate so far, and I know that no one wants to spoil the harmony of the House.

Pete Wishart:
We will ease pretty seamlessly into a new independent status. The day after we secure a new nation, it will be pretty much like the day before, but something remarkable will have happened. All of a sudden, the country will be ours to shape and to determine. If things do not work out, we can change them. We can change them because we have the power of independence. For the first time in 300 years, our nation will belong to us, and nothing could be more exciting and transformative.

It is all down to this choice. If we vote no, we are accepting that this is as good as it gets. This is what we have to settle for. It signals a contentment with Westminster rule and Westminster politicians’ ability to deliver for Scotland.

Mr Weir:
Will my hon. Friend give way?

Pete Wishart:
Of course I will.

Hon. Members:

Mr Weir:
My hon. Friend will no doubt remember, as I do, campaigning in the first referendum on devolution in ’79. We were promised, “Vote no and you will get more powers”, and he will remember what happened. We got absolutely nothing.

Pete Wishart:
I do indeed remember that, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that up because it happened in my constituency. In Perthshire, we have long memories when it comes to these issues.

If we vote no, we will be saying that we approve of Westminster government and whatever future the rest of the UK decides for us. Well, I do not like where the UK is going.

Anas Sarwar

Pete Wishart:
I am not giving way. I do not like where the UK is going at all. I do not have much time, so I will mention just two examples. The first was last week’s appalling Immigration Bill, which would charge visitors to our country fees for health care and turn those who rent houses in the private-rented sector into immigration officers. It is a nasty, pernicious and rotten Bill that is designed to counter the threat of the UK Independence party. We do not do UKIP in Scotland; we barely do Tory. We have a national treasure on the Front Benches; our one and only Tory Member. None the less, we will get that Bill, because this Government took it through on a Labour abstention. I object to my country being dragged into this monstrous race to the bottom between this Government and UKIP about who can be the hardest on those who might want to come and live in my country. Scotland is better than that, yet the Bill was passed. It was passed on the same day as the House of Lords debated our country. I do not know whether you saw that, Mr Deputy Speaker. That bloated, unelected Chamber stuffed full of party placement cronies and donors had the audacity to tell our nation what it should do. Then it also had the effrontery to defile the memory of our war dead and insult the many brave veterans who have served this country with distinction just because they happened to support independence for our nation. One thing we will get with independence is the ability to wipe away that ermine-wearing unelected Chamber from the face of Scottish public life, and our nation will be much better for that. Scotland is so much better than that.

We know that if we gain control of our own resources and secure all the necessary powers, there is nothing stopping us becoming an economic powerhouse, and that is what we look forward to.

Sir Robert Smith:
The hon. Gentleman is putting an emotional case for independence, but he is not taking on board the wise words of the Governor of the Bank of England who talked about the illusion of independence if an independent Scotland keeps the pound sterling. The voice of Scotland will be taken away from the decisions that will affect its very core monetary policy.

Pete Wishart:
I have had enough of that “You cannae do that stuff”, so I thank the hon. Gentleman. We have a decision to take. It is a choice between negativity and positivity—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker:
I want to hear the hon. Gentleman. It is not fair that you are enjoying yourselves. I want to hear the speech.

Pete Wishart:
We have listened to their speeches with as much respect as possible, but we are shouted down. It seems impossible for Members to listen to the other side of the debate. I do not know why this place thinks that that is attractive. It is a choice between negativity and positivity. No European country has done what we are about to do. As an exercise in democracy, this is huge. This is Scotland’s great choice, because it is a choice between two very different and distinct futures. We can decide that this is as good as it gets, or we can decide to do something much better—to take control of ourselves and to put the nation in the hands of the Scottish people. If we get this chance, this once-in-a-generation chance, we will vote for the positive, because positive beats negative. What a prize there will be when we vote yes in overwhelming numbers. When we go to the polls in September, we will vote “yes”. What a prize there will be—a country of our own.


border450.JPG-e1344986301884This week the UK Parliament passed the immigration Bill. It is a nasty, pernicious, rotten bill that will charge migrants for health services and turn those who rent homes in the private rented sector into immigration officers. Not quite satisfied with that, the Government tabled further amendments  to allow the Home secretary to strip UK citizens of their citizenship and further erode our rights under the European Convention of Human Rights. Not even happy with that, Tory backbenchers wanted to include measures to stop Eastern Europeans in the EU from coming to the UK.

There is now an appalling race to the bottom between this Tory government and UKIP to see who can be the hardest on immigration and I just wonder where it will end. Such was the scale of the unbridled xenophobia of this bill that the Government should just have let Nigel Farage take this bill through from the dispatch box. In a remarkable day on Thursday the Government abstained and counted on Labour to stop their backbenchers passing some of the more barmy (illegal) measures. Then Labour sat on their hands and allowed this rotten bill to become law.

Are we like this in Scotland and is this what Scotland wants?

Well, when asked in an opinion poll last week, the pollsters found very little difference between concerns about immigration in Scotland and the rest of the UK. And, when asked directly, I have little doubt that Scots are concerned about immigration. The Scots are exposed to the same defiant anti-immigrant rhetoric of the right wing press and Nigel Farage is as much an ever present on Scottish TVs as he is south of the border. In Scotland we have exactly the same immigration laws and we are constantly told that they must become even more restrictive to protect us from the various ‘floods’ ‘millions’ or ‘whatever’, of ‘foreigners’ that will erode our way of life. Even ‘Better Together’ has started to chillingly use the term ‘foreigner’ in a similarly pejorative way!

All of this has an impact. But – and it’s a big but – there just doesn’t seem to be the same heat in the debate in Scotland. Scotland is concerned about immigration but we just don’t get excited about it the same way that our friends South of the border seem to do. Last week we found that immigration now tops the UK charts as the issue that most concerns the public, in Scotland it barely makes the top 10. Scotland also does not vote UKIP, the party that has made immigration along with EU exit it’s defining issues. If Scotland really cared as much about immigration it would vote like the rest of the UK for parties that actively campaign on the issue and have made immigration a major part of their programme.

But they don’t. Instead Scotland votes for a Government that couldn’t sound any more different from the UK Tory Government on immigration and we are a better country for that. The difference in how the two Governments see immigration is best demonstrated in their various responses to the annual census of net migration. In Scotland when we see an increase in our population we celebrate the good news. In London it couldn’t make them more miserable. Our debate is also better informed by the contribution from civil society and from practically all of our political community – even Scotland’s right wing press finds it hard to get much traction from the ubiquitous ‘boot them out’ stories.

The Scots are also becoming increasingly aware of our own population and demographic requirements. Only 20 or so years ago there was a real fear that our population would dip below the iconic 5 million mark. There is therefore a greater realisation that our population remains more fragile than south of the border and we have demographic issues that we require to address in the interests of our general economy.

The No campaign want to try and present a Scotland that is little different from the rest of the UK when it comes to immigration and other social attitudes. But just take a look at the UK opinion polls. The combined Tory/UKIP poll is approaching 50% but in Scotland the latest opinion poll found support for the ‘soft on immigration’ SNP at 43%.

The Scottish people have historically always positively accommodated immigration and one of the greatest sayings in Scotland is that ‘we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns’ .Scotland is better than the appalling immigration bill that was passed last week in the UK Parliament, and as an independent country, we will show that to the world