Dugdale: “The Tories have put the future of the UK in danger at every turn”
The full text of Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale’s speech in today’s EU debate in the Scottish Parliament.
Presiding Officer, we live in uncertain times. The social, political and economic order has been turned upside down. It will take many months and years for us to fully grasp the consequences.
But we’ve already seen the collapse in the pound. The fall in the value of companies. Businesses uncertain about future investment. Those whose jobs rely on our access to the EU single market worry what the future holds.
Let me echo what others have said in their message to EU migrants living and working in Scotland. They contribute not just to our economy, but to the society and culture we’ve built together. So let me say to the 180,000 EU migrants that live in Scotland, on behalf of these benches, you are welcome here. 20% of them live here in Edinburgh, a city I have the great honour of representing in this Parliament.
74% here voted to remain, one of the highest results in the whole of the United Kingdom. But I know that there are people in this great city, that despite the support from their neighbours, now feel ill at ease. People who have built their lives here are now feeling unsettled and anxious. So whilst we fight for their rights and against the rise of racism, we must also continue to show them love and understanding.
We must also understand however that there were a million Scots who voted to leave the European Union.
The leave campaign contained some of the worst dog whistle racism and xenophobia I’ve heard in my life. Dog whistles that turned to foghorns whenever Nigel Farage spoke or unveiled a poster. But that does not make every leave voter a xenophobe or a right-winger.
There are working class communities here in Edinburgh and Glasgow, just as there are in Sunderland and Sheffield, who feel powerless and are angry at the establishment. I was at the Glasgow count, I saw boxes in the First Ministers own constituency split 50/50. Here in Edinburgh in the seat I sought to represent, the poorest communities in Niddrie wanted out.
This result, even in Scotland is not as a straightforward as some have sought to pretend. All of us in this chamber have a duty to better understand that, and to listen and act upon what we hear.
But we did not vote in communities, constituencies, towns or even as nations. We voted as one country – the United Kingdom. A country that we as Scots reaffirmed our commitment to just 18 months ago. Millions of Scots want to be part of both unions and that’s why it’s so important that we give the First Minister our support to do everything she can to secure Scotland’s place in the European Union.
So the Labour Party will support the government’s efforts to not only mitigate the worst of Brexit, but to strengthen Scotland’s ties with our European neighbours and allies. The priority must be securing jobs and the rights of workers. And all options for protecting Scotland’s place in the single market must be explored, including a federalised United Kingdom which could see those nations of the UK who voted to remain, retain their membership or achieve associated status.
The Labour Party stands ready to offer assistance where we can to the government, but that support is not unconditional. This Parliament will soon go in to recess and not return for 2 months. It used to be said a week was a long time in politics. A day in British politics just now feels like a lifetime, in that context, 2 months is an eternity. A recall of parliament can’t be ruled out.
So the First Minister may leave this chamber with the faith of these benches to speak to Europe in the best interests of securing Scotland’s future in both the EU and the UK. But that faith can only be maintained by regular communication, involvement and briefings from the government to opposition parties. A faith maintained by a continued understanding that as First Minister, she travels to Europe with a duty to represent Scots that voted both Yes and No, Scots that voted both remain and to leave.
But that faith would be betrayed if the First Minister tries to present our support for this motion as support for a second independence referendum.
On that basis we cannot support the Tory amendment because it removes support for the Government to speak to EU Institutions and member states regarding Scotland’s future. The last line of the Tory motion also says this:
“believes that the challenges of leaving the EU are not addressed by leaving the UK, Scotland’s own union of nations, biggest market and closest friends.”
So let me warn Ruth Davidson that she had better not dare to suggest that Labour’s failure to back her motion is somehow a failure to back the United Kingdom.
I struggle to put into words the anger I feel towards her party at the moment. An anger that’s been building since David Cameron announced English Votes for English laws within minutes of the Scottish Independence Referendum result.
An anger that grew when her party set Scottish voters against English voters in a hugely divisive and disingenuous 2015 campaign.
Anger at a party that forced this EU referendum on a country that did not want it, only to resolve an ego contest in the Tory party. And a Tory campaign in last month’s election that told the nation that all that mattered was whether you were a unionist or a nationalist.
A campaign that had no vision for Scotland whatsoever and boiled down to just two key messages: 1) “You can only trust the Tories to protect the union” – how is that going now Ruth? and 2) That the Tories would offer a “strong opposition”; yet all that they stand opposed to today is giving the First Minister some support to speak to EU institutions about our future.
The Tories have put the future of the UK in danger at every turn and it’s high time they shouldered responsibility for that.
Presiding Officer, the priority of these benches is to focus on the jobs and the economy and make the best of a very bad situation and we’ll support the Government tonight to do just that.