O’Hara says Brexit bus will take Britain off a cliff and Scotland will not be coming along as part of the wreckage
By Bill Heaney
Brendan O’Hara, the MP for Argyll and Bute – and for Helensburgh, Cardross, Garelochside, the Rosneath Peninsula and Arrochar, made an outspoken attack on nationalism – British nationalism – in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The man in the cloth cap, who represents the Scottish National Party in what has for many years been a deeply Conservative constituency with a large number of English residents – including the Royal Navy at Faslane and Coulport – was unusually vocal during Prime Minister Boris Johnston’s weekly question time.
He told MPs: “The Government’s insane, narrow British nationalism may well involve driving the UK off a cliff and seeing what emerges from the wreckage.
“I suppose that in that respect they have just the man at the wheel of the bus [special adviser Dominic Cummings], skulking around between Downing Street and Barnard Castle, but let me tell the House that Scotland is not coming with them.
“This week, I and probably millions of others were left slightly bewildered as the UK Government displayed once again their love of a totally meaningless, utterly vacuous three-word slogan.
“This week’s classic was ‘Let’s get going’. But perhaps, on reflection, as three-word slogans go it is not that bad, because that is exactly what Scotland is planning to do—we are going to get going, we are going to get out of this deeply damaging Union, into a future as an independent member state in a Union of equals with the European Union.
“I honestly believe that Scottish independence is an idea whose time has come, and thankfully there is precious little that Government Members are going to do about it.”
He added: “Democracy is a constantly evolving process—it is not a one-off event. I know that this will be a problem for many Government MPs, but people have the right to change their minds.
“Politicians have the right to bring back ideas for themselves and for the public to decide upon.
“In fact, the Tories’ deputy leader in Holyrood has been beaten more times than my granny’s old carpet, but he comes back time and again, as is perfectly his right so to do.”
Mr O’Hara had a sideswipe at Jacob Young, the MP for Redcar, for “standing there like some kind of imperial overlord telling Scotland that it can only go so far and no further. This Tory Government will not decide Scotland’s future. The people of Scotland will decide Scotland’s future.”
The SNP leader, Ian Blackford MP, congratulated Mr O’Hara on the “thoughtful way he is dealing with these issues”.
He said: “I just want to respond on the issue of Scotland being open [which was raised earlier in the debate] and make it crystal clear that Scotland is open.
“We are an open country; we are an open democracy; and we want people to come to Scotland irrespective of where they come from.”
Mr Blackford added: “We find that there are issues to do with public health that the First Minister is taking responsibility for.
“That is what responsible Governments do. Let me make it crystal clear that, with Scotland now being open for business, people from England are welcome to come to Scotland.”
Brendan O’Hara continued: “Numerous opinion polls since the referendum of 2016 have shown that the desire of Scots to remain in the European Union is strengthening and hardening as time goes by, because not only are they being dragged out the European Union against their will, but it is being done by a Government who are seemingly hell-bent on doing it in the most damaging and reckless fashion possible, including refusing even to consider extending the transition period.
“That is why I firmly believe that Scotland is moving towards becoming an independent nation.
“The debate in Scotland is not now framed in terms of “should” and “could”. More and more, that debate is framed in terms of how and when Scotland becomes an independent nation. The polls bear this out. The highly respected pollster Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said just last week: ‘Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak’.
“That is because, increasingly, those Scots with no particular emotional attachment to the United Kingdom who in 2014, after careful consideration, decided against independence for whatever reason are changing their minds.
“Those Scots who, maybe with a heavy heart but in good faith, decided in 2014 that independence was a step too far and who were perhaps seduced by the idea of being in a partnership of equals or liked the idea of Scotland staying and leading the United Kingdom, who believed the promises that their Parliament in Edinburgh would become the world’s strongest devolved Parliament, or who truly believed that only by sticking with the United Kingdom could their citizenship of the European Union be guaranteed are changing their minds.
“Opinion poll after opinion poll tells us that they are changing their minds in droves.
“That crucial, pragmatic group of people who will look at an issue, weigh up the pros and cons and come to a considered decision based on what is best for them, their families, their communities and the country are increasingly saying that an independent Scotland is the only viable option, particularly when set against the madness they see unfolding here. They are doing it quietly. They will not shout about it.
“Mercifully, they will not go on Twitter and have a fight about it. They will do it, as they have done in the past, by looking at the available options and doing what they honestly believe is the right thing.
“Let us be clear: The United Kingdom, by its actions since 2014, has brought about its own demise. The United Kingdom is the architect of its own downfall.
“Every bit as much as the SNP, under the exceptional leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has been pulling Scotland towards independence, so this Government have been actively pushing Scotland towards the exit door.
“I am sure that in decades to come, scholars and academics will produce theses on the end days of the United Kingdom. They will debate whether this UK Government were utterly incompetent and arrogant to the point of stupidity or whether this was in fact all part of a great Tory plan.
“For what it is worth to students of history reading Hansard decades and centuries in the future, I reckon at the moment that it is probably the former. But I can see how someone could come to conclude that it was the latter.
“If the United Kingdom Government were serious about preserving the Union in 2014, following the narrow no vote in the referendum, they could have decided to make good on their promises to Scotland. If they were serious about preserving the Union in 2015, they could, following the election of 56 SNP MPs to this place, have decided to ensure that in any future EU referendum Scotland’s voice would be heard and Scotland’s decision respected.”
Mr O’Hara went on: “If the Government were serious about preserving the Union in 2016, after every single part of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union, they could have decided that the hard, no-deal Brexit was off the table.
“If they were serious about preserving the Union in 2019, after they lost more than half their Scottish MPs and saw their vote share in Scotland collapse, they could have decided not to indulge in a shameless power grab, trying to seek back the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
“If they were serious about preserving the Union in 2020, having seen Scottish public opinion swing towards independence, they could have rowed back from the brink of Brexit calamity, agreed to an extension period and sought to salvage something from the wreckage that is Brexit.
“But no, the Government did not. Such is their arrogance and misplaced self-assuredness, and so blind and disdainful are they about what is happening across a border that only last week they told us did not actually exist, that they, like zealots, are ploughing on with the project regardless of the inevitable consequences.
“It would even appear that their oft-vaunted precious Union is expendable for the project. If someone is a Scottish farmer terrified at being put out of business when the UK is flooded with cheap, low-grade meat and poultry from America, or a Scottish hotelier tearing their hair out wondering where next season’s workers are to come from, or a Scottish health board worker trying to work out how to recruit in subsequent years EU nationals to work in our health and social care sector, or a young Scot seeking to live and work in other European nations and take advantage of the opportunities that every single person in this room today has taken advantage of, then that is just too bad.
“The bottom line is that their voices do not get to be heard. Their opinions do not get to be counted; their fears and concerns are just not important enough to matter. The only thing that matters to this Government is the project.”