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MAREE TODD: Little to inspire in race to replace the now former PM

By Contributor

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Boris Johnson is going but will his successor be any better?
Boris Johnson is going but will his successor be any better?

After three years of scandal, corruption and sleaze, Boris Johnson has finally been booted out of Downing Street.

Given what we know of Johnson’s past job history and his reputation, this outcome was predictable but entirely avoidable. Instead of selecting a suitable leader back in 2019, the Conservative party chose to endorse Johnson – a morally bankrupt, self-serving and entitled individual. What followed was a pattern of dishonesty, a contempt for Parliament and a persistent rewriting of the rule book.

Whilst the Prime Minister may have lost a quarter of his government in just a matter of days it was the same ministers, the same cabinet, along with the wider Conservative party, that enabled his behaviour for the years. This includes the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross; whose credibility is also in tatters following his flip-flopping over Johnson’s conduct in office.

From presiding over Brexit, which has placed untold damage on the economy, to becoming the first PM fined for breaking the law, Johnson’s legacy is truly miserable.

And now, we have a leadership contest under way with candidates who inspire little confidence or hope. The frontrunners have failed to set out effectively how they would tackle the big issues, such as the cost of living crisis, climate emergency and child poverty. The race will instead be won on austerity cuts and the hailing of a hard Brexit.

My constituents will also be disappointed to learn no candidate has set out how they will meaningfully counter soaring energy costs. Unsurprisingly, I never received as much as an acknowledgement from the now ex-Chancellor to my letter highlighting the devastating and disproportionate impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on households in my constituency. I intend to raise this again with the new Chancellor.

Given the chaos in Westminster, the First Minister’s statement last month on the next steps to securing an independence referendum was timely. The Scottish Government is proposing that a referendum be held on 19 October 2023. We now await the ruling of the Supreme Court, after the Lord Advocate referred the question of whether a Bill for a referendum on Scottish independence is a reserved matter, because currently this is an unresolved question of law. If the Supreme Court rules a referendum is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, the proposed referendum will definitely be lawful. If that outcome is not secured and the UK government continues to block a Section 30 order (as used for the 2014 referendum), then the SNP will contest the UK general election on the sole question: should Scotland be an independent country?

With the campaign for independence beginning afresh and in earnest, the Scottish Government will continue to set out in detail how we can make the transition to independence. The case is a strong one, and it will be presented openly, frankly and with confidence and ambition.

I appreciate there are differing views on independence but I, along with 71 other MSPs, were elected on a manifesto that committed to a second referendum. That must be respected and continued attempts to block the will of the people will only weaken the UK government’s standing.

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