THE SNP will put down an amendment to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal asking for the power to hold an independence referendum if the UK leaves the EU.
Ian Blackford, the party’s Westminster leader, announced the plan in an interview yesterday saying the people of Scotland should be able to “determine their own destiny” after the country voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
He said: “What we’re going to do is put down an amendment asking for the Government to recognize that Scotland voted to remain.
“We’re also putting down as part of that amendment a recognition that if the UK does leave the European Union that the people of Scotland should be able to determine their own destiny and in particular should have that power to have an independence referendum if we so choose and we’re making reference in that to the claim of right and the debate we had in Parliament in July 2018 that Parliament accepted the motion that sovereignty rests with the Scottish people.
“So we will do what we can to work with other parties to stop Brexit, we have no desire to see Scotland dragged out against its will, but we need to recognise that if that does happen then the people of Scotland have got to determine their own future.”
He added: “There is no such thing as a good Brexit, we know that it’s going to cost jobs, we know that it’s going to impact living standards, we know of course that no deal is absolutely disastrous for the people of Scotland.”
If selected by Speaker John Bercow, MPs will vote on the SNP’s amendment when Theresa May’s withdrawal deal returns to the Commons tomorrow for a second meaningful vote.
May suffered the heaviest parliamentary defeat of any British Prime Minister after MPs rejected her Brexit deal by a resounding majority of 230 in mid January.
The defeat prompted May to seek legally binding concessions from EU leaders on the backstop which keeps the UK in a customs union with the EU so there is no return to a hard border in Ireland whatever the final trading relationship between the EU and UK.
A suggestion made by the European Commission last week – that the UK can leave the customs union unilaterally but that Northern Ireland should remain in it in order to ensure the open border – is opposed by Brexiteers and the DUP, meaning her deal is again highly unlikely to get passed.
With SNP MPs backing the amendment, the SNP say it will mean a majority of Scotland’s MPs support making clear Scotland voted to remain in the EU and recognise the mandate the Scottish Government has to hold a referendum.
The SNP won the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, and the 2017 Westminster election, on an manifesto pledge setting out a referendum would be justified if Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will.
Blackford added: “Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we should not be dragged out of the EU against our will. With less than three weeks left until the UK is due to crash out of the EU, the sovereign right of the Scottish people to choose their own future must be respected.
“Scotland does not have to hit the Tory Brexit iceberg and go down with Theresa May’s sinking ship. If Westminster continues to ignore our wishes and act against our interests, Scotland can forge our own path as an independent European nation.
“The Scottish Government has a clear democratic mandate from the Scottish people, and the Scottish Parliament, to hold an independence referendum. With the majority of Scotland’s MPs also set to recognise that mandate, the Tories must not run scared of democracy.”
During a visit to Glasgow last Thursday Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the Prime Minister would “of course” refuse the Scottish Government permission to hold another independence referendum.
While the Scottish Government could stage another vote on independence, a section 30 order transferring the powers needed to hold such a ballot from Westminster would be needed for it to be legally binding. The First Minister is opposed to a referendum that is not legally binding.
May has said if she loses the vote tomorrow she will give MPs the chance to vote against leaving the EU with no-deal and to request an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process, delaying the UK’s March 29 departure date.
Blackford said the SNP will vote to rule out a no-deal and extend the Article 50 process if May’s deal is defeated. He also said the party supports a People’s Vote on Brexit.
Scottish Conservative MP David Duguid said: “This is another desperate stunt from Ian Blackford and the SNP, and yet further evidence that their only priority is independence. It proves once again that the main goal for the SNP throughout the entire Brexit process has been to try to agitate for a second independence referendum. Their motives are completely transparent, and rather than putting the interests of Scotland first, they’re only promoting their narrow minded agenda.
“Scots decisively voted No in 2014 and the answer is still the same – it’s time the SNP recognized that.”
Kathleen Nutt, Journalist