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The Tories last prevailed in 1955


Anyone tuning into Boris Johnson’s recent resignation speech hoping for some display of remorse or self-reflection would have been sorely disappointed. The Prime Minister was left with no option but to quit after a record number of his Ministers resigned.

Johnson took no responsibility for his role in a seemingly unending string of scandals, nor for legislative choices designed to undermine the rights of citizens, the fabric of society and the concept of democracy itself. Instead, he chose to blame the “herd instinct” of party politics for his demise, while expressing faith in the UK’s “brilliant…Darwinian” system to produce the next leader.

His choice of language raised eyebrows, but this ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude, in which public service is secondary to personal ambition and the struggle for individual power, is sadly all too prevalent at Westminster.

It’s telling that the Prime Minister’s colleagues only seemed to decide he was unfit for office after they became tainted personally by his actions, having been forced to defend his falsehoods in the media.

They were happy though to stand by him through the Partygate scandal and the controversy over the funding of renovations to his Downing Street flat.

They remained defiantly supportive even after the Sue Gray report had confirmed that Johnson broke his own Covid-19 laws and then lied to the House of Commons and to the public about it.

Forgive me, then, for harbouring some scepticism about their claims that “principle” and “integrity” were foremost in mind.

Of course, there are some Tory ministers who stuck by Johnson to the bitter end, insisting that the 2019 election victory continued to give him a mandate to lead the UK.

That claim is dubious enough in a purely English context, but it’s on even shakier ground in Scotland, where the Conservatives finished a distant 20 percentage points behind the SNP in that election.

Johnson has always been deeply unpopular here. The month before the Prime Minister’s resignation, 83% of Scots were dissatisfied with his performance with just 12% satisfied.

As the next Tory leadership hopefuls compete to outdo each other with the toughest line against a second independence referendum, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the Conservatives have not won an election in Scotland since 1955.

Whatever your view on the constitution, it is simply not acceptable for these candidates, none of whom have ever run for office here, to deny Scotland a right to choose its own future, or to set some arbitrary timescale after which we can have that debate again.

Democracy does not stand still and conditions have changed beyond recognition since 2014 - remember when we were assured voting No would mean staying in the EU. The people of Scotland elected a Parliament committed to giving them a choice on independence and that should be respected.

The significant and increasing democratic deficit that Scotland faces in the UK is the topic of the latest in the Building a New Scotland collection of papers published by the Scottish Government.

Democracy through Independence, the second document in the series, outlines how the UK Government and Parliament control most of the key levers of power that can address our most pressing challenges.

The Scottish Government spent £100 million in a single year to mitigate the effects of UK Government austerity, but as long as taxation, pensions, welfare and key energy policies remain under Westminster authority, we can’t provide all the support folk need.

Scotland is the only part of the UK where the number of people of working age is expected to fall over the next 25 years. Despite this, the UK Government has consistently rejected calls for the Scottish Parliament to have any powers over migration.

We’re being held back by the UK’s hostile and restrictive immigration system, preventing us from attracting folk who not only enrich our society and culture, but boost our workforce which is struggling with the truly disastrous impact of Brexit.

In the coming months, more of these publications will follow to help people to make an informed choice about the country’s future. You can find these as they’re released on the Scottish Government’s website

As you probably know, an independence referendum has been proposed for 19 October 2023 and the First Minister has asked the Supreme Court to determine whether Holyrood has the power to legislate for this.

If the Court rules that it does not, then the next General Election will be a ‘de facto’ referendum. Either way, the people of Scotland will have their say.

In the interim, we are stuck with Boris Johnson as “caretaker” (a rather absurd notion), until a new Prime Minister is chosen in the autumn.

Where they might contrast in style from their predecessor, they will not diverge greatly in substance. In fact, it seems likely that they will further embrace an isolationist, right-wing ideology that most people in Scotland will find alien to them.

Johnson likes to invoke Darwin, but I know many of us in Leith and the rest of Scotland are deeply alarmed by the evolution of British politics, and we must be given the opportunity to make a different choice. ■

Twitter: @DeidreBrock

The first in a series of papers published under the banner Building a New Scotland

We’re being held back by the UK’s hostile and restrictive immigration system



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