Fife councillors reject second Scottish independence referendum

Pic: John Devlin
Pic: John Devlin

Fife councillors have voted to reject another Scottish independence referendum after a heated debate.

It came at the monthly full council meeting on Thursday where  Conservative councillor, Tony Miklinski. proposed a motion that would see “no further Scottish independence referendum for at least a generation” and which called on the local authority to write to the Scottish Government to express that view.

He said: “In September 2014, the Scottish people were asked to vote to decide their future. Alex Salmond told the nation ‘this is a once in a generation opportunity’. They made their voice heard.

“The unionists won and looked forward to getting a break from campaigns, but  the nationalists were never going to accept the result.

“Their core support demanded somehow an excuse be found to ignore the result. Happily for them Brexit came two years later – an issue they recognised as a ‘material change’ and one that urgently requires a second referendum. Scotland was ripped out of the EU and need the warm embrace of the EU to protect us.

“In a televised debate, when asked if the SNP would withdraw the independence referendum if Brexit was cancelled, the answer was no. While the SNP claims it’s all about Brexit, it isn’t. It’s about their refusal to accept the vote.”

His motion  was backed by fellow Tory councillor, Kathleen Leslie.

She said: “We were promised it was once in a generation. Those who voted no respected and recognised it.

“Claims that the UK voting to leave the EU somehow changes that is ridiculous. If it hadn’t been the EU it would have been something else that the First Minister insisted was a referendum trigger.”

Two amendments were put forward to the motion.

The  SNP   stated that the EU referendum was “a material change of circumstances” and that the council should agree “that the  constitutional future for Scotland lies solely with the people who live in Scotland.”

Cllr David Alexander, co-leader,  said: “Scotland is going to become independent, it’s just a matter of when. No one can look after Scotland better than Scotland.

“Not one of the countries who became independent from the UK have ever asked to come back. If we were such a basket case they’d be happy to see the back of us.”

He was backed by Cllr Lesley Backhouse, seconding the motion, who said:  “No more independence referendums is like saying no more general elections. We need the Scots, Welsh and Irish to get out of there and let the English get on with it. We are an EU country. Luckily Scotland has had a Scottish Government over the last 12 years that does reflect how Scotland votes.

“What has the UK Government has done in Fife? Record levels of rent arrears and food bank use – that is not something to be proud of. I’m not proud we’ve had to put £400k to stop holiday hunger, but we have been able to mitigate the worst policies coming out of Westminster.”

A second amendment, from the Labour group, stated: “Council believes that Scottish independence would be economically devastating and it would be the many, not the few, who pay the price. What Scotland needs is transformative investment in local services, health and infrastructure.

“Council further believes that the SNP Government doesn’t have a mandate to request a Section 30 Order and that any request should be refused.”

Cllr David Ross, co-leader added: “I don’t know why we’re debating this here.

“It could be something to do with the fact the mover and seconder are standing in this election. Our position is we believe Scottish independence would be economically devastating and consign us to another 10 years of austerity.”

Cllr Altany Craik  added:: “I spent a great deal of time campaigning for a No vote. I understand the frustration of the threat of another independence referendum.

“If there is an election that provides a mandate for a second referendum than what kind of democracy would we be? Support our union by addressing the hurt in our society. ”

The motion was then opened up to a debate where SNP Cllr Jean Hall Muir said: “For any of us to seek to thwart, to undermine the public makes me want to recoil in horror. To deny any populous the ability to do so is a dereliction of the very position that we as officials hold.” 

Liberal Democrat Tim Brett said: “Have my SNP colleges not learned anything from what’s been going on in the last three years. We were told extracting from EU would be easy but it’s been anything but. We’ve struggled to extricate from EU where we’ve been members for just 40 years. How much difficult will it be to extract ourselves from a union of 300 years?”

Cllr Fay Sinclair (SNP) said: “We keep hearing that we’re not giving people a say for another generation. But it certainly feels like a lifetime away. My campaign to give my children a better Scotland didn’t end after that vote.

“We’re having to spend £10m in Fife every year to close the poverty attainment gap. Fife Council served 90,000 meals during summer. We’re proud of that, but we should be ashamed that it’s needed. If we really want to transform Scotland we need independence.”

A first round of voting saw the first amendment pass with 27 votes, the motion received 10 and the second amendment 25.

The motion was dropped and in a second round of votes the second amendment was passed 32 votes to 27.

Emma O'Neill , Local Democracy Reporting Service