It’s time for Scottish Nationalist Brexiteers to speak up

It’s time for Scottish Nationalist Brexiteers to speak up

On the morning of 24th June, even before the world had time to absorb the result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership, Scotland’s First Minister was all over our television screens, seizing the opportunity to wedge a divide within the UK and to seek another referendum on Scottish independence.

In watching the plethora of media appearances, you would have seen a very distraught Nicola Sturgeon railing against the impending Armageddon of a Leave vote. You would have thought she was taking a leaf out of the George Osborne handbook of political tricks. You would have also thought that, not only was she speaking for her whole party, but that she was speaking for the entire country in her statements that ‘Scotland voted to remain and its voice must be heard’.

You would be forgiven for believing the First Minister’s impressive performances that there was a ‘clear consensus’ across Scotland in favour of abandoning our continued membership of the UK in favour membership of the more remote, distant, abstract and dysfunctional EU. In fact, you could also be forgiven for believing that the 1 million Scots who voted Leave just did not exist.

Nicola’s performances shouldn’t be taken as anything more than that: good acting.

There is no appetite in Scotland for a second independence referendum, let alone independence itself. The hundreds of thousands of unionists who voted to Remain in June feel betrayed that their votes on the EU are being seized on by the SNP in a grubby attempt to bring forward another destructive referendum. Not to mention the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of nationalists frustrated with the First Minister for doing everything in her power to stop the Brexit process. They are outraged that their leader has labelled them “racist”, “xenophobic” or “Tory Brexiteers” for daring to believe that Scotland would be better off outside the EU.

The patience of these nationalists has finally run out. You would have believed, listening to the First Minister, that the SNP group in the Scottish Parliament were united on this issue. But the First Minister’s insistence on denying any possible benefit for Scotland from Brexit has finally made nationalist Brexiteers stand up to be counted. They’ve finally broken the iron grip that the party leadership has had over the voices of its parliamentarians for years.

Leading the charge is Alex Neil MSP. A former member of the Cabinet and a former leadership contender, he is a grandee of his party who has had an unwavering allegiance to his belief in independence. Alex finally came out as a Leave voter with much media fanfare and some political fun poking on our side. He also revealed in the Daily Telegraph that: “There’s a number of my colleagues who have spoken to me privately who did the same. They don’t want to broadcast it. They were betwixt and between and they voted Leave.” Alas it looks as if those members will remain hidden in the shadows, too afraid to deal with the wrath of the party machine, should they step out of line.

Should this really be any surprise to us that SNP parliamentarians may have had the audacity (or rather the hope) to vote to Leave? Of course not!

During the EU referendum, the Scottish Parliament was woefully unrepresentative of the Scottish People. I was among the handful of MSPs involved in the Leave campaign when it came to voting on EU membership. In total, when push came to shove, just 7 MSPs backed Leave: 5%. At the time, not one SNP MSP did, despite almost 40% of Scottish voters backing a Leave vote – including 400,000 independence supporters.

With such strong support amongst nationalist voters for leaving the EU, it shows how unnatural the SNP position on Brexit has been. With 63 MSPs out of 129, the force of sheer statistical gravity means that there were always going to be SNP parliamentarians who backed Brexit.

In the Scottish Conservatives, we had Leavers and Remainers and MSPs were allowed to campaign on both sides. The SNP’s ‘Bashful Brexiteers’ now need to come forward openly and let their constituents know how they voted. SNP MP Mhairi Black has come close, saying that she held “her nose” voting to Remain.

Internally Scottish Nationalists must be incensed. Their leader is telling them that Scotland simply isn’t good enough to run our fisheries, that we’re not good enough to decide our laws without interference from Brussels. Further, the prospect of an independent Scotland re-joining the EU is enough, to use a good Scottish word, to make them “boke”.

So with Nicola’s belligerence, the cracks in the SNP armour are now starting to show. With Alex Neil having courageously broken his silence, it is now time for those SNP MSPs & MPs who backed Leave to stand up for Scotland’s interests and seize the huge opportunities of Brexit for Scotland.