Jamie Greene is the Scottish Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary.
To say this past year has been turbulent would be an understatement of Berlaymont scale. The British Parliament, and politics in general, is seemingly running from one major constitutional event to another.
As some parliamentarians seek to break the Brexit impasse, others seek to frustrate it. All against the backdrop of a divided, tired, and constitutionally-weary electorate.
It’s been three years since that game changing vote in June 2016, and here we are, yet to leave the political structures of the EU. Firstly, we were due to leave in March 2019, then April, and now October, or – as some argue for – January 2020. Others think we should simply ignore the result.
You can call it the ‘will of the people’ if you like but I’ve been bothered by labels. The Government asked the people a question and they responded. Admittedly it was a close call, the numbers speak for themselves. But one has to ask oneself, why ask a question if you will not act on its response?
Trust in politicians has justifiably been eroded these past three years due to abject failure to enact the instructions of the British people. We are lucky to live in a country that allows referenda and direct democracy. But in trusting the public with these votes, they, in return, trust us to honour those decisions. Trust is earned, and will be earned only if we deliver.
Negotiating our exit from a 40-year political and economic partnership, one which far outgrew its original mandate, was never going to be easy and would require give and take from both sides to come to an amicable divorce arrangement. I personally believe that the Prime Minister’s new proposals are both sensible and pragmatic, and could form the basis of a long-term exit partnership with our European partners.
As a Brexiteer my preference has always been to get a sensible deal that ensures an orderly exit, offers transition to help people and businesses adapt to our new trading arrangements, and establishes a new cooperative framework with our European neighbours. But if that proves impossible then we must be prepared to leave. That is the position of Jackson Carlaw MSP, who currently leads the Scottish Tories, and that is a position I support.
Of course, there will be challenges along the way, but none are insurmountable. I believe that Scotland’s best days lay ahead.
Far from the Nicola Sturgeon’s own brand of ‘Project Fear’, used to depict post-Brexit Scotland in dire straits, I believe that we will thrive. By signing trade deals with the emerging markets of the world and tailoring our own laws to meet our own needs, we can reignite the Scottish tiger which has been subdued for too long. Boost our productivity, grow our economy, and make decisions on our islands and not in Brussels.
The SNP is risible in its confused policy over Europe from fishing rights and free movement to the Customs Union. Scottish Labour changes it view every day of the week, MSP by MSP. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are anything but Democrats. They say, ‘Bollocks to Brexit’, which is really ‘Bollocks to Democracy’.
There are real opportunities for Scotland, just as for the rest of the UK, after we untie the constraints of Brussels. Whether you like Brexit or not, it’s time for a reality check. It’s time we positively embraced Brexit and the opportunities that it will undoubtedly bring to Scotland.
As a party we have perhaps been too timid about Brexit, too afraid to show enthusiasm for it in the face of torrid abuse and negativity. The time has come to articulate our vision for a post-Brexit Scotland. If we continue to shy away from these opportunities we’re not only playing right into Nicola Sturgeon’s division games, but we’re letting down the one million Scots who voted to leave the EU – without whose votes we would have never won that referendum (a fact that is conveniently ignored by the SNP).
I have repeatedly argued that claims that “Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit” is an insult to Scottish votes and our place in our United Kingdom. We voted to remain in the UK, and the UK voted to leave. How can credence be given to the notion that a Leave vote in Southampton is worth more in weight than one in North Ayrshire? That a Brexiteer on one side of the Tweed should have their result respected, but on the other not?
Without showing real leadership on Brexit we’re effectively airbrushing those one million voices out of Parliament. We need to begin reframing the conversation towards what we want from Brexit and what “taking back control” actually means for Scotland.
We aren’t going to beat Sturgeon by apologising for Brexit and we aren’t going to win the hearts and minds of those Scottish leave voters by being passive on Brexit. I want to see a truly ‘Global Scotland’ that helps the UK sign new and exciting trade deals, attracts foreign direct investment, and becomes the most competitive (and fastest growing) economy in the country.
Brexit is not about shutting Scotland off from the world but rather embracing it with open arms. Brexit should not be a conversation about how we survive, but instead how we thrive.
The days of being wee, sleekit and timorous about Brexit are over. So with one final push let’s get Brexit Done!