It is truly encouraging to see a great democratic turnout in Inverclyde where people voted overwhelmingly by a 64% majority to remain in the European Union.
Indeed, Scotland voted to remain in the European Union by 62% to 38%. We voted to protect our place in the world’s largest single market, and the jobs and investment that depend upon it.
We have proved that we are a modern, outward looking and inclusive country and we said clearly that we do not want to leave the European Union.
It is unfortunate that the result in Scotland was not echoed across the whole of the United Kingdom, the UK as a whole voted to leave by 52% to 48%. It is a sign of divergence between Scotland and parts of the UK in how we see ourselves in the world. We are now living in a disunited Kingdom.
Indeed, a number of constitutional questions have been highlighted as a result. There is little doubt that the result of this vote had as much to do with the dissatisfaction of communities who have been affected by decades of neglect and measures of austerity taken by the UK Government as it was with the EU.
The SNP manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election stated that Scotland being taken out of the EU against its democratic will would represent a material change in in circumstances in which Scotland voted for independence in 2014. This is democratically unacceptable.
The SNP was elected on the basis of that manifesto with 47% of the vote – the highest share of the vote in Western Europe. As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has now made clear, the Scottish Government will begin to prepare the required legislation to enable a new independence referendum to take place if and when Parliament so decides.
Of course, this situation was not the desired position that we wanted Scotland or the UK to be in today. However, it is the duty of the Scottish Government to act in the best interests of the Scottish people, and we must explore all options to continue our place in the EU and the single market in particular.
The next few days, weeks, months will be fascinating, intriguing, and perplexing in equal measure. Politics in these islands will never be the same again.
Inverclyde, however, can be proud that it has voted against narrow xenophobia to be part of an open, inclusive Scotland amongst our European neighbours.