Question Time: Blackford wins over English voters on Brexit

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford won over English voters on Brexit when he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time yesterday – but he had a hard truth for them on Scottish independence.

Judging by the uptick in Scottish politicians appearing on the show, the producers must have been impressed by recent performances. Understandably so.

Although it’s still a rather humble number appearing on the show’s panels, Blackford last night once again made a strong case for having Scotland‘s voice represented on it.

He embodied the more mature approach to Brexit that the SNP have displayed in the Commons, and for which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has received much praise. The audience very clearly appreciated it.

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Appearing in Bishop’s Stortford, England, he was joined on the panel by Tory MP James Brokenshire, Labour shaddow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, journalist Charles Moore and the Institute for Government‘s Jill Rutter.

For the most part, Blackford was getting a substantial share of the applause for his contributions … though there was one notable exception.

Responding to Tory minister James Brokenshire discussing cross-party support for Brexit, Blackford said: “The Prime Minister hasn’t sought to work with people. And in particular she hasn’t worked with the devolved administrations.

“The Scottish Government has put compromise document in front of the UK Government, one after the other, there’s been no respect shown to the Scottish parliament that voted yesterday against Brexit on a cross-party basis. Westminster hasn’t accepted that Scotland are voting to remain and our rights are being disrespected.

“We were told in 2014 if we stayed in the UK then our rights as EU citizens would be respected and now the UK wants to take us out against our will.

“The problem with the Northern Ireland situation – and I’m very conscious of the good Friday agreement and we must all support that. But the fact is, Northern Ireland is getting a better deal. Northern Ireland becomes a destination in Europe, and that’s to the disadvantage of Scotland. We can’t have that.

“If the only way we can protect Scotland’s interests is to become independent, then I’ll tell you, that’s what we’ll be doing.”

There was a single clap from the audience. Perhaps the penny had dropped? Treat Scotland with this kind of contempt, and we’ll walk away.

WATCH: Ian Blackford just played the rules perfectly at PMQs

Blackford was also clear on the kind of impact Brexit was set to have on Scotland, and that went down with far more applause.

He explained: “We know from the analysis that’s been provided by the UK Government, by the Scottish Government, by many others, that in all scenarios the economy would be poorer under Brexit than it would be under the status quo.

“And I think the responsibility we’ve got as MPs is to be honest with all of you and say okay, however you voted in that referendum in 2016, we now know of the price that’s going to be paid. And quite simply, I don’t believe unemployment is a price worth paying.

“That’s what happened under the Tories with Thatcher. Fraser of Allander have told us that on a no-deal scenario, 80,000 Scots could lose their jobs. They’d be £600 a year, on average, poorer. That is a disgrace that any government is opreopared to sit back and allow that to happen. Staying in is the best option.”

The SNP MP had received much praise earlier on the week for how he played Commons rules to make his true feelings known on Theresa May‘s handling of the Brexit legal advice.

Freed from its constrictions, he fully emphasised how under-handed the Tories were being: “Politicians, and I have to say the Prime Minister in particular, have got an obligation to tell the truth to people, and the Prime Minister stood up in parliament earlier on this week and said it would be temporary – and yet we know from the legal advice where it states the following: ‘International law and protocol would endure indefinitely.’

“There is a world of difference. I got into trouble from the Speaker yesterday. I had to be careful because of the way parliament works. And I did make the point that I did not believe the Prime Minister was not being truthful. I’m going to be quite specific tonight. On the basis of what the law officers told the government, the Prime Minister is lying. She has a responsibility to tell people the truth.”

If only responsibility meant anything to Theresa May…