Patrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon want a second referendum on Brexit
Nicola Sturgeon with Brendan O’Hara and Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP MPs for Helensburgh and Argyll and West Dunbartonshire. Picture by Bernie Heaney
By Bill Heaney
Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations and Jeremy Corbyn’s response to it was described as “omnishambles” by Green Party leader Patrick Harvie during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood this week.
Dumbarton-educated Harvie, pictured right, told the Scottish parliament: “Listening to the opening questions from Labour and the Conservatives, we could be forgiven for thinking that the country was not facing the biggest political crisis for generations.
“Perhaps that tells us something about why a Parliament that is dominated by those two parties has brought us to a situation in which the word omnishambles sounds like timid understatement.
“I recognise the First Minister’s position that extending or revoking article 50 is necessary and that a people’s vote is necessary. Those options must be taken.
“Both May’s deal and no deal have clearly been rejected. The United Kingdom Government must be under pressure to accept that.”
He added: “However, the First Minister has also said for a long time that the case for Scottish independence depends on a material change of circumstances.
“Given the level of chaos, there is no single aspect of the circumstances that has not changed beyond recognition since 2016. The First Minister has spoken to the Prime Minister this week. Can she confirm whether she explicitly raised independence and made the case for Scotland’s right to decide about our own future during that conversation with the Prime Minister?”
Backing the campaign for a second referendum, Nicola Sturgeon said Prime Minister May was “well aware of my views on independence. I support independence and think that the sooner Scotland is independent, the better for all of us.”
She added: “On Brexit, Patrick Harvie is absolutely right that the Prime Minister is in the process of driving the whole of the UK off a cliff edge, but right now Jeremy Corbyn is sitting in the passenger seat of the car that is taking the UK off that cliff edge.
“The way in which both the Government at Westminster and the official Opposition have failed to stop this catastrophe from developing is disgraceful.
“There is obviously some water to go under the Brexit bridge over the next few weeks, but let me be very clear: as Patrick Harvie said, the case and support for independence grow with every day that passes.
“Given the catastrophe that Scotland faces in our economy, our society, our living standards, the prospects for the next generation and our reputation in the world, it is essential that the option of independence is open to people in Scotland. When people in Scotland have the ability to choose independence, I believe that the country will opt to be an independent one.”
She added: “It is indeed, extraordinary that, two and a half years since the European Union referendum, there is no more clarity in the mind of the UK Government about the future than there was at the start of the process. With just 10 weeks to go until the UK Government’s self-imposed Brexit deadline, for which it is completely unprepared, surely nobody except the disaster capitalists who are the Brexit extremists can think that time can simply be allowed to tick away. At the very least, extension of the process is surely inevitable now.”
FM Sturgeon said Mr Harvie was “absolutely right” when he said that extension of Article 50 is now essential.
She added: “Theresa May has wasted time. It seems to me that her tactic has been to run down the clock and hope that she can panic people into backing her deal—the one that was rejected in a historic defeat in the House of Commons this week—and that Jeremy Corbyn is happy almost to collude with her in doing that. That cannot be allowed to happen. Article 50 should be extended and I think that, across the UK, the issue of EU membership should go back to the electorate.
“It is then, of course, for all of us who support independence—which certainly includes me and Patrick Harvie—to get out there and make the case. I believe that that case has been strengthened by what has happened in the past two and a half years, and that, if we get out and make that case, people in Scotland will choose to be an independent country and we can get on with building a better future than the one offered to us by the chaos and incompetence of Westminster.”