Pride and prosperity go hand in hand. Labour supports devolution, but – in spite of Tory failure – in areas where we must be internationally competitive (the economy), and for the sake of national security, our four nations are best served by a united UK.
Stephen Kinnock: Scotland is a great nation with a proud and unique history, and Scottish identity should be valued and cherished. That is why, when the Labour party last came to government, we delivered the devolution settlement and established the Scottish Parliament. But national pride, whether in Scotland or elsewhere, is deeply rooted in national prosperity and security. Economic strength is a foundation stone of national pride and the fact is that this economic strength can be achieved only if the four nations of the UK club together and pool our resources. Together, we are so much more than the sum of our component parts.
Gary Sambrook: The Labour First Minister of Scotland has said that the Union is over. Is it not the case that the hon. Member’s party is too willing to jump into bed with separatists and nationalists, which undermines the very foundations of the Union?
Stephen Kinnock: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Last time I checked, Labour does not have a First Minister in Scotland; I think he must have meant Wales. That is an easy mistake for him to make, I am sure, but I would urge him to be a little more careful next time. The Welsh Government’s position is absolutely clear. We are the party of devolution. We delivered devolution. It is working for the Welsh people, just as it should be working for the Scottish people. We are utterly opposed to independence in Scotland and in Wales.
Britain is still a significant economy and a world power, despite the UK Conservative Government’s botching of the EU trade deal and the weakening of the international relationships that we should be building rather than destroying. The simple truth is that our economic clout and our national security are founded on our unity as a United Kingdom. We are entering an era of great power competition, with threats increasing. The SNP, were it to secure independence, intends to ditch our nuclear defence capability, which would thus undermine the security of the very nation it wishes to lead. Betting the house on rejoining the EU would also be profoundly unwise, given that 60% of Scotland’s export trade is with the rest of the UK, compared with only 19% with the EU.
The reality is that the greatest source of pride and prosperity for the Scottish people will come from rebuilding the economy post coronavirus, delivering jobs, and securing an economy resilient against future shocks.
Alan Brown: On nuclear weapons, allegedly Scottish Labour’s position is that it is against Trident and wants nuclear weapons removed from Scotland, so is Scottish Labour’s position untenable?
Stephen Kinnock: The position of the Labour party is that our commitment to our nuclear deterrent is indivisible and not up for negotiation. What is extraordinary is the position taken by this Conservative Government’s integrated review, which is to increase our nuclear capability by 40% while cutting our armed forces. That has to be the most counterproductive defence strategy that we have seen in recent times, but I digress.
The position of the Scottish National party Government is not what patriotism looks like. After the suffering of the past 12 months, compounded by a decade of Tory incompetence at UK level, now is not the time to roll the dice on a divisive referendum that would be profoundly detrimental to the interests of the people of Scotland and to the post-pandemic recovery. That is what isolationist nationalism would look like.
The Scottish Government are presiding over an education system in crisis, a health service lacking doctors and nurses, and an economy in which 230,000 Scottish children are living in poverty. The SNP’s sole focus should be on improving the lives of the Scottish people. Arguments about a referendum will not get a single Scot back into work, lift a single Scottish family out of poverty or rebuild the Scottish NHS. Scotland deserves better. Scotland deserves a Labour politics whereby our national pride is founded on our shared prosperity and our common purpose. Under the leadership of the inspirational Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour can build that Scotland of the future.