Borders MPs divided over push for second Scottish independence vote

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s latest push for a second independence referendum has divided opinion among the Borders’ MPs.

Fellow Scottish National Party politician Calum Kerr, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, is backing his party leader’s response to UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s moves to take Britain out of the European Union.

Borders MP David Mundell at this year's Scottish Conservative Party conference earlier this month.

Borders MP David Mundell at this year's Scottish Conservative Party conference earlier this month.

“My party has a clear mandate to take this step. It is entirely consistent with the manifesto commitment that we stood on at last year’s Holyrood election, yet the UK Government has shown nothing but intransigence,” he said.

“I’ve seen this lack of engagement, clarity and planning as the SNP’s frontbench spokesperson on environment, food and rural affairs at Westminster.

“I have witnessed concern across the rural economy about the enormous impact that Brexit could have on our rural way of life.”

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell is unconvinced that Britain’s forthcoming exit from the EU justifies another independence vote so soon after the last one, however.

The Conservative cabinet minister said: “People in Scotland don’t share the SNP’s tunnel vision obsession with independence.

“A second independence referendum would be hugely divisive at the worst possible time.

“The Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland.”

Fellow Tory John Lamont, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, agreed, saying: “The Borders overwhelmingly rejected separation in 2014, and I have little doubt that its opinion has not changed.

“Today’s announcement from the First Minister represents a broken promise to the people of Scotland when she repeatedly said the 2014 vote was a once-in-a-generation event.

“Nicola Sturgeon has chosen the path of further division and further uncertainty. Far from trying to seek a compromise and standing up for Scotland, as the First Minister claims she has been doing, the SNP have been doing everything they can to further their obsession with separation.

“Leaving the EU will present challenges for Scotland, but none of these challenges are tackled by dragging Scotland out of the UK and a market worth four times as much as that of the EU.”

In a speech ahead of the UK Government starting the formal process to quit the EU, Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland stands at a hugely important crossroads.

“On the eve of Article 50 being triggered, not only is there no UK-wide agreement on the way ahead, but the UK Government has not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement.”

“All of our efforts at compromise have been met with a brick wall of intransigence.

“UK membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish Government or with the other devolved administrations, leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit.

“I will continue to stand up for Scotland’s interests during the process of Brexit negotiations, but I will take the steps necessary now to make sure that Scotland will have a choice at the end of this process – a choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit or to become an independent country able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.

“It is important that Scotland is able to exercise the right to choose our own future at a time when the options are clearer than they are now, but before it is too late to decide on our own path.

“By the time a choice comes to be made, there must be greater clarity about Brexit and its implications for us.

“It is just as important that there is clarity about the implications of independence, and there will be.

“We will be frank about the challenges we face and clear about the opportunities independence will give us to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger and more sustainable economy and create a fairer society.

“If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding – completely unilaterally – that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit come what may, no matter how damaging to our economy and our society it turns out to be.

“That should not be the decision of just one politician – not even the First Minister. It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice.”