I Quit the Tories Last Year Over Their Silence on Brexit

The failings of the Conservative Government on Brexit, welfare and communities have been laid bare by the defection of Tory MPs to the Independent Group. With a month to go until Brexit, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen resigned from the party, citing the dismal failure of the UK Government to protect citizen’s rights and its disastrous handling of Brexit.

These criticisms echo my own reasons for resigning from the Conservative Party last year. Like them, I feel that the Tories are moving further to the right and becoming less progressive and modern with every new policy. Conservative policies, in particular those relating to the Department of Work and Pensions and welfare, are having a devastating impact on local people and communities.

I resigned because I refuse to support the calamitous decisions this Government is making on our rights, our European citizenship and our welfare system. We all have the right to participate in work, politics and in society on an equal, level playing field. The current UK Government is trying to implement legislation that undercuts our existing human rights and puts a cap on our ambitions.

The “three amigos” have bravely called out the government in the national interest. Yet the Conservatives here in Scotland appear more concerned about their own positions and possible promotions than the welfare of our people. History will judge the actions of individuals who recognise the immense harm Brexit will cause to the people of Scotland but remain mute.

My biggest disappointment in recent weeks has been the deafening silence and inaction from elected Scottish Conservative MPs, MSPs and councillors regarding the despicable behaviour of the UK Government. The Scottish Conservatives claim to belong to a modern, centrist party. I challenge the Scottish Tories to stand up to the right-wing extremists – including the ERG – who have hijacked the party and are actively seek to profit from other people’s misery. Will they act? Or, will they, like Theresa May, simply continue to appease the disaster capitalists of the right?

It is clear that we face an urgent and immediate choice. Do we want to live in an isolated society under a selfish Government that looks for any excuse to not support disabled or vulnerable people and favours the rich? Or an inclusive and supportive society where together, we can work for the removal of barriers to people’s economic, social, and civic inclusion, and to promote our rights, choices and voices, as full and equal citizens?

Here in Scotland we are fortunate to have an alternative to the insular and exclusionary state proposed by the Conservatives. We can take action to protect Scotland’s traditional liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights. It is my firm belief that Scotland is better out of the UK and in the EU because of the values Scotland shares with Europe: welcoming, progressive & outward looking. The increasingly safe and sensible choice, indeed, the only choice, is for Scotland to remain at the heart of Europe, independent and in control of our own destiny.

Published in The National | 25th February 2019