WHILE a lot of focus has, rightly, gone on Covid-19, there has been other stuff happening at Westminster and this week we suffered a defeat I take particularly personally. By 351 to 252 votes, the UK immigration bill has been approved by the House of Commons. It is spiteful, short-sighted, mean-spirited and utterly against Scotland’s interests. We tried to stop Brexit, we put forward proposals for a differentiated immigration system for Scotland, we tried to highlight how the bill will be bad news for everywhere in the UK not just us, and the Tories united and voted it through.

I’m sick to my stomach. Rights I enjoyed to travel, study and work across a continent of 500 million people have been removed for future generations. There will be something, of course, but it will be worse, and it will be more difficult to access, discriminating against our poorest.

I’ve seen some frustration that we didn’t stop Brexit, or this, and we haven’t delivered independence yet. I get it, I’m more frustrated than most. But tell us what else we could have done, within the law, that would have defeated this, and I’m all ears.

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Scotland voted to stop Brexit, yet because of events elsewhere the Tories have a majority from another place and they have proven this week they’ll vote anything through and then try to blame the consequences on others. What we have in Westminster is, frankly, a guaranteed series of defeats, but it is also a daily reminder of the UK’s democratic deficit and the fact Scotland wants something different. It is that frustration we must get home to people – there’s only one other option, independence. We have done all we could, we’ve tried all we can, and if it comes to it I don’t see what right we have to instruct England on a different course. So that should work for us too. Within the UK, we’re on to a loser.

Not that there isn’t a storage of those who will pretend otherwise, even if their promises become less and less convincing. Look at a vote last week on farming and future trade talks. Agriculture is, of course, devolved, but trade deals on food will have an obvious immediate impact upon us so we were all over it. It is vital, and I would have said beyond argument, that we should not see future trade deals undercut the high standards that our farmers have to comply with here. A race to the bottom is in nobody’s interests, and besides if it is a race to the bottom our guys can’t compete anyway because in global terms our farms are smaller and our climate less amenable to the Argentinas and Brazils of the world.

Some of the Tories get this, and my old MEP colleague Neil Parish, who I worked closely with when he was president of the agriculture committee and now a fellow MP, had put in an amendment to force the UK Government not to trade away our standards. Most Tories united with the government and voted it down including, to their shame, each and every Scottish Conservative. Let us never hear them again pretend they have Scottish farming’s interests at heart. They chose party over constituents and it is there for all to see. Scotland wants something different.

And as we see the detail in the real world of what this Tory immigration bill will mean, we’ll win converts to independence.

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The bill will bring an end to freedom of movement of people, as well as offering no provisions to address pressing issues arising from coronavirus, including visa extensions and the protection of asylum seekers. Families across Scotland face being split apart, businesses risk being drowned in red tape and hundreds of thousands of EU nationals will be stripped of their rights overnight. Not in Scotland’s name. These plans have been condemned by unions, employers and devolved governments, yet they’re going ahead anyway.

There are rough times ahead, precisely because of the arithmetic at Westminster. We all remember the Feeble 50 Labour MPs who Scotland sent south, who failed to stop Thatcherism. I’ll be honest, their precedent is a constant worry for me. But they didn’t actually have an answer to the UK’s democratic deficit. They viewed Scotland as just another part of something else. We don’t. Our answer is independence. Scotland is not just some territory of the UK, it is a founding block of Great Britain and an ancient nation that has been independent for more time than we have agreed to co-operate in the British structure. Well it isn’t working, and by their actions this awful government prove it for us on a daily basis. I’ve said before that I think Scotland will eventually (and hopefully sooner rather than later) have a choice between two unions. The UK, and daily reminders that our votes don’t matter, or the EU, which has proved in how it has Ireland’s back what independence in Europe looks like.

It is going to be frustrating, but we need to remember independence has never been closer.