So there we have it. No more meaningful votes on Theresa May’s Brexit deal can be taken in this session of the UK Parliament without substantial changes. If there was ever any question over Brexit being delayed beyond 29th March then that was answered in rather dramatic style on Monday. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, intervened to establish that there had to be a change to the existing deal – “a new proposition” – before another vote.
It has sent the Tories into a massive tailspin and, if possible, an even deeper constitutional crisis. Although – at the time of writing on Monday evening – there is still a possibility of a no-deal Brexit, it seems more likely that months of uncertainty lie ahead of us. The real potential looms of a long extension of Article 50, the mechanism by which Scotland could be dragged out of the EU against its will.
There is nothing to celebrate from the Speaker’s move though, as Westminster right now is home to a government in chaos. While the Brexit threat continues then the SNP is duty-bound to stand up for the people of Scotland. That is something that almost every Scottish Tory MP – with the honourable exception of Paul Masterton – failed to do in last Wednesday’s Westminster vote to take no-deal off the table.
Shortly after the Speaker’s intervention, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford issued a joint statement with the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, saying that the priority should now be to put the decision back to the people in a second EU referendum with Remain on the ballot paper.The leaders have agreed that “there is no such thing as a good Brexit” and “remaining in that EU is the only way to protect jobs, living standards, public services, the environment and the economy”.
This would seem a reasonable way forward, with the majority of voters in every constituency in Scotland having voted to remain in the EU. Their voices must be heard.
Contrast this shambles with progress by the Scottish Government on the issues that really matter to folk.
For example, in terms of our pledge to drive up attainment in schools, since 2007 under this SNP Government 847 schools have been rebuilt or refurbished, including six in Orkney. We have invested £1.4m in building and refurbishing schools in Orkney since 2007 through the £1.8bn school building programme, Scotland’s Schools for the Future.
In 2019-20, Orkney Islands Council will receive £231,840 from the £120m Pupil Equity Funding, to be spent at the discretion of teachers and school leaders to close the attainment gap. Our increase in free childcare to 600 hours saves families up to £2,500 per child per year in total and our expansion to 1,140 hours will save families over £4,500 per child per year. In 2019-20, OIC will receive £1,273,000 in revenue funding and £0.8m in capital funding to support this expansion.
That’s getting on with the day job.
This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space.