I’m bringing back my bill and hope for more SNP support this time
AS 2023 fades in our collective memory, it’s normal to hope that a New Year will deliver solutions to the myriad challenges still left unresolved. While it’s widely expected that 2024 will be the year of the next UK General Election, what real difference will that make to people’s lives?
An election should herald a time of hope, robust debate, competing visions and ambitious policy proposals, where politicians aim high with the objective of tapping into the mood of the people that believes a better future is possible.
I suspect we won’t experience that at the General Election.
Promising more of the same whoever you vote for is unlikely to inspire voters to pause their TV show and rush to the polling stations. Many of my constituents tell me they are sick to the back teeth of politicians – thankfully they tend to exclude me from that remark but I completely agree with them.
That might sound a bit hyperbolic coming from me – a politician – but I have lived in the real world, had a successful career and I have also grimaced and groaned at the hollow words and empty promises of politicians.
I have also been inspired by true champions of the people such as Alex Salmond (below) and Kenny MacAskill, and I have been devastated by others including Tony Blair who abused my vote for Labour to prosecute illegal wars that millions of us marched against.
The fundamental question we all must ask is, who do we trust? The economy is a mess and you can’t get a fag paper between the policies of Labour and the Tories, who are still trying to out-Brexit each other.
Similarly, neither party’s leader seems to have grasped the public mood on the atrocities being visited on the people of Gaza. How anyone can equivocate, excuse or ignore the human tragedy and allegations of war crimes is beyond me.
In Scotland many of our challenges are undoubtedly bound up in our place in a restrictive Union. However, the Scottish Government also needs to take responsibility for its own failings. From the divisive GRR debacle to their laissez-faire response to Grangemouth’s predicted closure, to their agreement of a fiscal framework that punishes Scotland financially for funding public services, the First Minister is firmly on the hook.
But surely trust can only be gained if you are seen to be transparently truthful? For many people their vote in this election will hinge on whether political leaders are able to answer fundamental questions with candour. But how can you trust anyone on the economy, immigration, international affairs, health and policing if you are unable to say what a woman is?
This year, and for as long as necessary, I will continue to defend hard-won sex-based rights, just as I will stay true to my commitment to secure a route to independence.
On January 16, I will re-introduce my Scotland (Self-Determination) Private Members’ Bill under the 10-minute rule. This is not a second reading – the bill remains unlikely to get one – but with the work Joanna Cherry KC MP has done identifying the conflict with Scots law in the UK Government’s Rwanda policy, it is the only game in town at Westminster with which a constitutional challenge could be accommodated.
I hope to see more SNP names on the face of the bill this time around.
It's also promising that Joanna will use her own Private Members’ Bill slot to advance proposals for a legitimate separation of powers that would divide the role of the Lord Advocate into two separate jobs.
This is a significant, important, and necessary move that stands a real chance of making it on to the statute books. Kenny MacAskill and many others have been calling for this over the past few years so there should be no reason for it not to be embraced across the floor.
As Scottish nationalist MPs, our job is not to dot the Is and cross the Ts of every inhumane Tory policy. We are principally there to work collectively to effect a robust route to independence.
The deepest regret of my time in Westminster is the lack of courage and commitment from those who were entrusted with the responsibility to challenge the UK state head on.
Instead, we’ve had wasted years of watching pantomime proclamations in the chamber and cosying up to those same Tories in the corridors, bars and tearooms. To free us from Westminster, the Alba Party called for a Scotland United pro-independence pact. Sadly the SNP rejected this attempt to bring the independence movement together to instead go it alone.
Any election with 50%+1 support of a Scotland United ticket or pro-independence parties signed up to such a move should trigger a National Independence Convention representative of political and civic Scotland.
Should that convention so instruct, MPs should immediately commence independence negotiations as mandated representatives of the people of Scotland. This is a route to independence that is supported by international charter and treaties.
Scornful voices from within the movement who attack such a proposal really need to reflect on whether their ambition is for Scotland or for themselves.
And, of course, if the independence movement embraces Ash Regan’s (below) proposal for a referendum on the powers of the Scottish Parliament this year we will see focus put back on Scotland determining its own future as opposed to the status quo of Westminster saying no.
A change of Westminster administration makes little or no difference in Scotland. A right-of-centre Labour government led by Keir Starmer might be marginally better than a Tory government led by Rishi Sunak.
But it will still mean new weapons of mass destruction in Scotland and a Westminster government free to drag us to illegal wars and impose on Scotland its failed economic model.
Westminster has failed Scotland. Only independence can ensure we are the guardians of our own future and so this year it’s time for politicians to get back on with the job of delivering an independent Scotland. That is what I’ll continue to do.
(First published in the National, 08/01/2024)