This week’s Budget will be the first since I joined Parliament in June, along with my twelve new Scottish Conservative colleagues, and with it comes a chance to reflect on my first few months in Westminster.
This Budget comes at a momentous time for the United Kingdom, and for Scotland within it. As the Government navigates Brexit and works to secure the prosperous economy that has been hard won over the last seven years, we cannot forget the importance of domestic reform. We need an industrial strategy that will grow all parts of our country, an ambitious plan for housing to help those starting out on their own, and of course, we must secure the future of our precious union of nations.
Some of what will be discussed in the Budget will be devolved, however we cannot just devolve and forget. There is still a huge amount in Wednesday’s Budget that will have relevance for everyone in Scotland. That is why the eleven other new Scottish Conservative MPs and I who sit in the House of Commons have spent much of our brief time in Westminster lobbying for Scottish interests with the Chancellor.
Unlike the SNP, we want to see the union work. And, also unlike the SNP, we have tried to make a constructive case for policy reform, rather than use every issue at Westminster to whip up support for separation.
Furthermore, we are also able to work within the corridors of power – rather than just shouting across the chamber. So on issues like the VAT charge on Scotland’s police force, the result of the SNP’s politically driven centralisation of the Police in Scotland, we have sought to put Scotland’s interests at the heart of Government, and pressed the Treasury to consider the impact on the people of Scotland. Rather than yelling from the side lines, we believe active engagement and representation within the Government will work better than the SNP’s approach.
At the same time, as Scottish MPs, we will not hold back from using our position to highlight the SNP’s failings in government too.
The SNP’s record on the economy is dismal and only goes to show that the party cannot be trusted to work for all of Scotland. Scotland is already the highest taxed part of our United Kingdom, and it is driving businesses away.
But despite this taxation, the Scottish Government has criminally let down the health and education services that should be one of the highest priorities of any government. The children of Scotland are being failed by the Scottish Government, as our country’s schools have fallen in international rankings under the SNP, while England and Northern Ireland continue to outperform in every category. This has resulted in a smaller percentage of Scotland’s most deprived children going to university than in any other part of the UK, despite free tuition, as a generation of students is failed because of flawed policies and a selfish Government.
And that threat of a second, damaging independence referendum continues to hang over Scotland like a storm cloud. We all remember the bitter fight in 2014 that changed the political landscape of Scotland in such a significant way, and the SNP have not allowed us to move on from it.
In parliament in the last few weeks we have twice seen the SNP hang the threat of indyref2 over politicians’ heads if they don’t get their way on Brexit. Rather than engaging constructively and fighting for the very best Brexit deal for Scotland, the SNP just want to use our departure from the EU as an excuse to have their own “Scottish exit”.
Rather than throwing their toys out of the pram, the SNP need to sit down around the table and have a rational discussion about how to get the best Brexit deal for Scotland. The UK is Scotland’s biggest single market, and it would be a serious act of economic self-harm to threaten that stability with threats of indyref2.
My Scottish Conservative colleagues and I are only six months into our new jobs, but we know the size of the task ahead and will be continuing to hold the SNP to account. No party has a monopoly on representing Scotland’s interests, as shown by recent election results, but as new MPs we can fight and, I believe, win for our constituents.
On Wednesday, I will be proud to take my seat on the green benches behind the Chancellor. I will be proud that my colleagues and I have made the case for a strong Scotland in a strong United Kingdom, and that, just months after joining the Commons, we will already be delivering for the people of Scotland.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies