MSP Emma Roddick: Would Scotland want to join the UK if not already in it? She says 'the Tories can whinge, calling decisions about us to be made by us undemocratic but it’s not: the UK just can’t seem to remember what democracy looks like'
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Looking from the outside at a Prime Minister who partied while families and friends died, forced a hard Brexit many Leave-backers couldn’t stand, and who has sought to tear up the human rights laws his government already breached, would Scotland want to join the UK if not already in it? That’s the question I asked this week during a debate brought forward by the party which talks about independence the most: the Scottish Conservatives.
I usually take the opportunity in my column to discuss recent, local issues. But I hope I’ll be forgiven this time for sharing my experience of a very partisan week in the Scottish Parliament; something I’d have loved to hear details about before being elected.
While the current Government gets the most opportunity, opposition parties are also regularly allocated debate time in the Scottish Parliament. Usually, as an SNP backbencher, I only know the portfolio – for example, “Health and Social Care” – and don’t get to see the motion text or debate title until a day or two before. This week, we were told the Conservatives were using their time to discuss something related to Finance and Economy, my Highland colleague Kate Forbes’ portfolio in Government.
I sit on the Social Justice and Social Security Committee but generally try to muscle in on housing, energy, mental health and transport debates alongside the ones relevant to my committee. As I was due to question the Scottish Government on second homes and disabilities this week, I didn’t initially bid for the unknown Finance and Economy debate.
On Tuesday, we learned the motion the Conservatives were putting down: Economic Priorities. They accused the SNP of having the wrong ones – increased funding for our NHS and tackling poverty – but also inexplicably ended with a statement that the Parliament wished for a second referendum on independence to be “taken off the table”. An interesting move, given an independence-supporting majority was voting on the entire motion.
One of my whips was listed to speak in the debate but asked to give her space up to me, explaining she wanted to see me “lay into them”. During the debate, I looked to the side while scribbling notes to see her grinning away and giving a thumbs-up. I messaged my team that I was feeling the pressure.
In the debate, I pointed out people voted for these priorities, for the party offering to direct public spending towards tackling poverty. They wanted healthcare and social security to be priorities. They were not impressed with the Tories’ so-called “economic growth” plans – particularly as we all saw exactly what Conservative economic growth meant during Covid: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
While there is not yet consensus on the answer, the public also voted for parties wanting to ask another question on independence.
The Tories can whinge, calling decisions about us to be made by us undemocratic but it’s not: the UK just can’t seem to remember what democracy looks like.