The National:

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer, interviewed on the Marr programme today, made it clear that a Labour Government would not re-introduce free movement with the EU, in a change from his previously stated position. He also underlined that he did not think there was any case for the UK to re-join the EU.

He gave as his reason the fact that an incoming Labour Government would inherit the treaty that Boris Johnson negotiated with the EU, along with an expectation that they would make it work. He further suggested that the last thing anyone would want – including the EU – would be to start again from scratch.

I think some of this is questionable. I also think that he gave his true reason for taking this position when he said: “I’m very conscious of the fact that everything I’m doing, everything the Labour Party is doing, is focused on winning an election in 2024.”

Quite simply, he believes that abiding by the treaty Boris Johnson negotiated with the EU will help Labour win the next election in England.

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He may be right. Essentially his judgment is that a Labour pledge to reverse or significantly alter the Brexit agreement would result in the Tories being re-elected. Is this the right judgment? I cannot say.

The politics of Brexit in England is so different to the politics of Brexit in Scotland that it is very hard to judge something you don’t fully understand.

Let’s acknowledge that, to some extent, Scots were always bemused spectators to the lengthy and bruising Brexit process. We were part of it, but I think most Scottish people never felt fully involved in the emotional dynamics that underpinned it.

Yes, our government and MPs did their utmost to prevent a damaging hard Brexit and worked constructively with UK colleagues to try to achieve this. That was absolutely the right thing to do and it was what Scottish voters expected of them. But, if we are honest, most Scots didn’t really get Brexit and still don’t.

We don’t fully comprehend the emotions that drove the desire to leave the EU, nor why the proposal won majority support. I also suspect we don’t fully comprehend the political fallout from the process itself, and the strength of feeling in England about getting Brexit done.

I am wary, therefore, about judging the Labour leader on political metrics which don’t apply to his thinking. My view is that he is doing what he judges to be necessary in order to win back English voters, which he must do if Labour is to win the next UK General Election. History will decide if he is right.

Most Scots voters will not like what he is saying, this is not surprising. Brexit works directly against Scottish interests and most see it as an act of self-harm which defies rational explanation. However, voters in Scotland aren’t Labour’s target voters. Our views are of secondary importance. This very much reinforces the fact that a UK Labour Government cannot deliver what most of us want.

The electoral arithmetic is obvious. To win a UK election, Labour must win back voters in England. This is how the Union works, it is how it will always work. Scotland’s priorities will never take precedence over the UK’s priorities. That is an inevitable outcome of a Union between a country of five million people and one of fifty five million people.

Brexit throws into stark relief two simple facts. One is that the interests and aspirations of the people of Scotland and the people of England are not identical and, where they come into conflict, the interests of the UK as a whole will always prevail. The second is that the only way that Scotland can pursue its own national interests and aspirations is as an independent country, with the ability to enter into negotiations and treaties in its own right.

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An ever increasing number of people in Scotland have come to understand this – and the lesson of Brexit has been crucial to achieving majority support for independence. It’s time that politicians in the rest of the UK came to acknowledge it too.

Just as it would be wrong for Scots to demand that Keir Starmer, or indeed Boris Johnson, should prioritise the needs of Scotland over and above the wishes of the UK as a whole, UK politicians must understand that Scotland also has a right to prioritise its own needs and to decide whether we wish to become independent and to negotiate a different relationship with Europe, rather than being dragged along unwillingly in the UK’s wake.

Neither of the main UK parties is able to represent what the majority of Scottish voters want on this issue because it is in conflict with what they believe the majority of English voters want.

They must recognise that fact and not only acknowledge but support the right of Scots to decide our own future. Brexit has made a second independence referendum inevitable. The sooner UK politicians accept that, the better.