Richard Leonard’s speech in the debate on Scotland’s Future

Scottish Parliament

29 January 2020

Presiding Officer, I completely understand that the thought of five more years of a Boris Johnson Government is driving some people to despair, and yet others to anger.

That there is widespread discontent.

But what must be understood in this Parliament in this debate this afternoon is that the people of Scotland do not want another independence referendum anytime soon.

Because they know, the people know and they apply common sense to this question.

They know that we need to think hard and work through Brexit.

And they know that until we do that given the profound uncertainty about the nature and terms of our future economic relationship, our trading relationship and the future social and cultural relationships between the people of the UK and the people of the European Union that a referendum in 2020 makes no sense whatsoever

And that is the proposition that we are being asked to vote on this afternoon. The First Minister herself has said that a second independence referendum should not happen until after Brexit was done.

Well Brexit is not done. And it will not be done in 2020. So where the Government motion talks of a material change in circumstances. But we do not yet know what that material change is.

And however lofty the First Minister’s rhetoric is, she knows, everybody knows that in the end this afternoon she is playing a game.

Because nobody in this chamber really believes that there will be a referendum this year.

I’m not sure that many people in this chamber really believe that there should be a referendum this year

So Members of this Parliament are being asked to vote for what they know to be a falsehood. And many of them are prepared to do it willingly.

This debate today is not an example of a good use of power.

The First Minister claims to be speaking for Scotland. But she is not even speaking to Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon is using this Parliament to speak to her own party, and she is not even telling them the truth.

So it is a rather contemptuous use of power: the power that the government is using this parliament for this afternoon

The Government’s motion is a synthetic political manufacture dressed up as high principle.

It is our duty as members of this Parliament to expose that and to offer leadership on this question.

And it is our duty to represent all of the people, not just to placate an over-agitated political base of activists.

And we know the numbers in the Parliament, and that the Greens will support this motion.

Although I say to the Greens in all sincerity that a return to nationalism at the time of a global climate crisis is a move in precisely the wrong direction.

We should not be putting national boundaries up we should be pulling national boundaries down.

Our objective as Members of this Parliament is to promote the welfare of the people – not just the material welfare, but welfare in the broader sense.

So in our amendment we call on the Government to focus its energies on minimising the impact of the Tories' disastrous Brexit deal.

To double down on ensuring that in the coming months powers are repatriated to Scotland during the Brexit process.

To focus on establishing a new Home Rule principle fit for the twenty first century where in the wake of Brexit all that can be devolved is devolved, and not just to the Scottish Parliament but to local government and to local communities across Scotland.

It is a vision of a modern 2020 Home Rule which recognises that we need to radically redistribute wealth and power by tackling inequalities, rather than simply reproducing them in a separate Scottish state.

So we should redistribute power not just between parliaments, but redistribute power and wealth between people too.

Because that is where the real divisions in our society still really lie.

And that means we must amend and extend the financial powers of this Parliament.

And start to use the powers that we have for planning our economy, building the homes our families need tackling the longstanding challenges of public health, giving hope to our young people, dignity to our pensioners in retirement, meeting the challenges of climate change, of technological change, the caring society, extending democracy into our economy and our communities, and so creating a more tolerant and equal Scotland.

Free from the fear: the fear of poverty the fear of hunger, the fear of homelessness, and the fear of physical squalor amidst these huge inequalities of wealth.

That should be this Parliament’s priority : giving people hope over fear.

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