On Saturday evening I am doing an event in Stranraer for Richard Arkless who is standing as the SNP candidate in the Dumfries and Galloway constituency. I first met him some years ago, and was delighted to be given the opportunity to do my wee bit to help him win back the seat from the Tories. Richard was elected as MP for the area in the SNP landslide of 2015, but lost the seat to our current Governor General Alister Jack in 2017. He’s hoping to retake the seat, and then the area can be represented by someone who actually gives a toss for local people and local issues.
According to Polimapper UK, 55% of voters in the Dumfries and Galloway constituency voted to remain in the EU. Despite that, Alister Jack has been one of the most vocal supporters of a hard leave, and loud in his support for Boris Johnson’s deal, in the process running roughshod over the wishes of his own constituency. Boris Johnson’s deal is one which gives advantages to Northern Ireland, meaning that it will have closer ties to the EU which Scotland will be deprived of. That’s a real issue in that part of Scotland closest to Ireland and the site of the major ferry crossings between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Thanks to Boris Johnson’s deal, companies will choose to invest and create jobs in Northern Ireland rather than in the South West of Scotland. Alister Jack is just fine with that.
Alister Jack is vocal in his support for leaving the EU, and even refuses to take crashing out with no deal off the table. Such a development would be a total disaster for Dumfries and Galloway, for Scotland, and for the entire UK. But Alister is considerably less vocal in his support for local people and local issues. In the past year he’s spoken in just 4 debates in the Commons, well below average for MPs. In the last year that Richard Arkless was an MP, he spoke in 52 debates, well above average for MPs. There’s only one out of the two who can be bothered to get up onto his feet and speak out on behalf of the people of Dumfries and Galloway. It’s not Alister Jack.
Alister Jack can’t be bothered to speak for the people of Dumfries and Galloway. As Scottish Secretary of State he can’t be bothered to speak for the people of Scotland. But he wants to make sure that the people of Scotland are silenced. He is determined to ensure that the people of Scotland will not be allowed to voice an opinion on the state of the UK, that UK which is a radically different proposition from the one that was sold to us in 2014. The Scottish Conservatives once supported remaining in the EU, now they support leaving. It’s fine for them to change their minds, but they want to ensure that Scotland can’t change its mind about the UK.
Perhaps you have concerns about Scottish independence. That’s fine. Perhaps you will never support Scottish independence. That’s fine too. But this isn’t an election in which the subject of independence will be decided. What this election is about is the nature of the UK. Is the UK really a union of nations? Or is it a unitary state in which the views and voice of Scotland can be cancelled out and silenced by a Prime Minister and a party which Scotland didn’t elect? The Conservatives seek to undermine Scottish democracy, and by doing so they seek to destroy the understanding which has always underpinned Scottish Unionism, the belief that Scotland is a voluntary part of a union of nations.
If you believe that Scotland has an absolute right to choose its own path, voting for Richard Arkless is a no-brainer, even if you do support leaving the EU. If Scotland is to leave the EU, then that must be as a result of a decision made in Scotland and implemented by a government which is concerned to get the best possible outcome for the people of Scotland, not a Conservative government which will cheerfully sell out Scotland’s fishing communities and agriculture in order to win some advantages for the City of London. They did it before in 1974 when Ted Heath sold out the fishing industry, and they will do it again.
If you believe that the UK really is a family of nations, then in this election you must lend your vote to the SNP, because they are the only party who can unseat a Conservative MP who seeks to transform the UK into a prison, and take the UK out of the EU. In this election, the SNP simply seek to assert the right of Scotland to decide its own future. And that’s the fundamental issue here. Scotland can either choose its own future, or it can have its future chosen for it by Boris Johnson and an Alister Jack who can’t even be bothered to get up onto his feet and speak for the people of Dumfries and Galloway in the House of Commons.
The Tories want this election to be about Brexit. They seek a majority in order to impose their own vision of a hard line Brexit which will damage Scotland’s economy, its future, its prospects and will cut us off from Europe. Make no mistake, the Conservatives do not seek to take the UK out of the EU in order to improve employment and consumer rights. They want us out of the EU so that they can complete their transformation of the UK into a tax haven for the superrich, where public services are cut to the bone, and where working people have little or no rights or protection. Expect to see more foodbanks, more homeless people begging on the streets, more kids going to school hungry, more pressures on public services. Expect to see the minority of wealthy people increase their wealth and privilege. Expect to see Scotland treated with disdain, marginalised, and ignored.
Every Conservative MP who we can unseat is one less Conservative who will give Boris Johnson free rein. We’ve already seen the contempt with which he treats democracy and Parliament when he’s the leader of a minority government. The damage and havoc that he can wreak with a majority doesn’t bear thinking about. Unseating the Conservative Scotland Secretary would send the strongest possible message to Boris Johnson that Scotland doesn’t want him, doesn’t want his Brexit, and doesn’t want his racism, his misogyny, and his homophobia. It sends the strongest possible message that Scotland demands the right to decide its own future, and demands a right to have its say on Brexit. Only the SNP can unseat Alister Jack in Dumfries and Galloway. Richard Arkless is one of the good guys, a local man who cares passionately about the area where he was born, brought up, and raises his family. Vote for the good guy. Vote for Richard, and vote to give yourself a voice.
I will be speaking at an event in support of Richard in Stranraer on Saturday. It’s at 7pm in the Coronation Day Centre, Whitsun Avenue, Stranraer. Please come along and meet the dug! I’ll be there too. And as well as copies of my latest book, I will also be presenting a new map – the very first detailed Gaelic map of Galloway ever published. Copies of both the book and the new map will be available for sale on the night, as well as copies of the Gaelic map of Scotland.
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My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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