Ian Blackford tells Scottish MPs: Unite to keep membership of single market
Scottish MPs – across all parties – must now work together to protect Scotland’s place in the single market, writes Ian Blackford
Conference season this year is dominated by one topic: the Tory Brexit mess. The Conservative’s bitter divisions and in-fighting are a dangerous distraction. Meanwhile Labour’s Brexit incoherence culminated in the party’s refusal to have a proper debate at their conference – leading to real anger from delegates who realised it is the single most important issue of the day.
My SNP colleagues and I at Westminster, and at Holyrood, will continue to lead the effective opposition to the Tories to get the best possible deal when the UK leaves the European Union.
Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU is our democratic starting point. The SNP Scottish government have presented a comprehensive set of workable plans to enable Scotland to remain in the Single Market while respecting England and Wales’ decision to leave the EU. So far this has been dismissed for unknown and unexplained reasons by the Tories.
We have had speeches from the embattled Prime Minister at Lancaster House and Florence – but precious little progress. A full 15 months on from the vote and it is clear that the EU are growing impatient and frustrated with the UK’s rudderless, incompetent Tory government.
As the SNP gather in Glasgow we are also presented with an opportunity. A hung parliament, because of Theresa May’s reckless June election, provides MPs from across the political spectrum with a chance to shape the debate about our future relationship with Europe, rather than just submit to Boris and Liam’s hard Tory Brexit.
This new parliamentary arithmetic could be good news for our food and drink sectors, universities, energy industry and financial sector among others, who all rely on the opportunities provided by being part of the EU and in particular – of course – membership of the Single Market. It is easy to see where alliances could be built up and parties could work together in a constructive way.
The leaders of all of Scotland’s political parties represented at Westminster expressed their commitment to the European Single Market both before and after the referendum. Given these commitments, membership of the Single Market is firmly on the table – as a direct consequence of the voters’ decision at the General Election.
If Scottish Labour MPs can bring unity to their parliamentary colleagues on this issue, working with the SNP as the third biggest party in Westminster and the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs there would be a majority in favour of the Single Market.
The prize is the opportunity to help safeguard jobs, opportunities for young people, safeguard the rights of EU Nationals and the rights that we gained as EU citizens. It would also demonstrate a willingness to put party interests to one side for the common good.
Scotland’s MPs – SNP and others - have an historic opportunity to make our mark, lead and save the UK from the cliff edge of leaving the European Single Market. We should grab it with both hands.
Ian Blackford is MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber and the SNP’s Westminster Leader