THE ACTING leader of the Scottish Conservatives says holding another Brexit referendum would be “divisive” and may not achieve anything as calls for a second public vote continue.
Jackson Carlaw was responding to a recent march in Lerwick in favour of a ‘people’s vote’ on the fate of the UK’s European Union membership.
Carlaw, who is filling in for Tory leader Ruth Davidson while she is on maternity leave, was in Shetland on Thursday and Friday alongside Highlands and Islands list MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston and on their itinerary was a visit to the decommissioning base at Dales Voe.
When asked by Shetland News if he had a message for the Lerwick marchers, Carlaw said he felt that another public vote may not provide any more clarity on the country’s position.
The Shetland march took place on the same day hundreds of thousands of protesters lined the streets of London – while an online petition for remaining in the EU has so far attracted over six million votes.
Carlaw added he was in favour of the UK remaining in the EU when voters took to the polls in 2016.
“I’ve now gone through three referendums in the last decade – one on proportional representation, one on Scottish independence, and one on membership of the European Union,” he said.
“These referendums I supported – I supported them because I accepted that in the usual Scottish and general elections, manifestos across parties didn’t necessarily clearly define those particular issues in a way that it was possible then to progress. The reality is that they haven’t resolved anything.
“The people who haven’t won, haven’t accepted the result. I’ve won two of them and lost one – I lost the European one, I was a remainer – but I’ve decided to accept the result of all three.
“Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t accepted the result of any of these – the only referendum Nicola Sturgeon has ever accepted is the illegal referendum in Catalonia.
“So my view is that having another referendum – what would it necessarily achieve? If it produced another close result, would the result of that be accepted? Supposing it was an even narrower vote next time, would people say ‘oh we need to have the best of three because the tide is turning in one direction or the other’. I don’t think at the end of the day that is the way forward.
“We had a vote, we were very, very clear on both sides of the argument – people said this is it, this is your once in a lifetime opportunity. There’s no going back.
“And I think if you’re going to have any confidence in democracy then you’ve got to stick by that, and so I think our duty is actually to deliver on the result of that referendum.”
The East Renfrewshire MSP was speaking shortly after it was announced that prime minister Theresa May wrote to the European Union to request delaying Brexit again, this time until 30 June.
He admitted he does not think that “anybody can say the process has been a roaring success”, with his party and prime minister coming under fire for failing to achieve consensus on the way forward before the 29 March deadline.
Carlaw, meanwhile, said he appreciated concerns from Shetland Islands Council after it missed out on its full £7.9 million request to the Scottish Government for funding it’s internal ferries.
The council only received £5.2 million in the SNP government’s 2019/20 budget.
“I live in the west coast,” Carlaw said. “I’ve seen the funding that has gone into the ferries and the difference that has made to the island of Arran and some of the west coast islands, and I recognise it must be deeply frustrating that that same level of support hasn’t been forthcoming.
“I’ve seen statements from Mike Russell and others, when he’s been up here, saying it’s all very concerning and I’ll go back and talk to my colleagues. Well, his colleagues are the ones that can do something about it, so I do think that it is time to actually recognise that fair funding is a perfectly legitimate ask.
“It’s actually something that’s been promised and it really is something that should now be delivered.”