Diversity is our strength with Brexiteers in the driving seat

I know I wasn’t alone in feeling a sense of shock at some of the rhetoric that emerged from last week’s Tory conference. 

In a time of national crisis, a new UK government (which we haven’t elected) has decided to take the opportunity to push a right-wing agenda in an effort to shore up its support. It has pushed xenophobic sentiment to a level that I never thought I would see in mainstream British politics. 

At a moment of crisis, when it should be offering reassurance and unity, the government has instead decided to focus its energy on targeting foreign workers, doctors and students.

Shamefully, it has refused to guarantee the future of EU nationals, many of whom have built their lives here. I utterly condemn the suggestion from Liam Fox that these people’s futures might be put at risk in order to strengthen the UK’s hand in negotiations with EU. 

Last year I was elected to represent my constituents, regardless of their nationality: so it’s my job to continue to support their efforts to seek guarantees about their long term future here. 

It seems that the Brexiteers are now in the driving seat. The Prime Minister has all but ruled out continued membership of the European Single Market. On top of that, she handed over the single potential advantage that the UK had in the coming negotiations with the EU by announcing that Article 50 will be triggered next March. 

Given all the contradictory claims and promises that were made and that many prominent Leave campaigners said we’d stay in the Single Market, the refusal to seek common ground is astonishing. 

As the Fraser of Allander Institute outlined in its report on Brexit last week, a hard Brexit could see Scotland lose 5% of its GDP and 80,000 jobs. As the MP for a region with an economy that requires access to markets for our high quality produce I’m convinced that we have to explore all options to retain our ability to trade within a market of 500 million people. 

The direction of travel that the UK government has chosen is the most extreme in every sense.

Diversity is a strength, not a weakness and we will have to draw on that strength as we deal with the enormous set of challenges that Brexit will bring. I’m proud to be part of a party that is focused on seeking a pragmatic way out of this mess, rather than one that seems more concerned with grandstanding and pandering to UKIP voters. 

At least we have a government in Scotland that is prepared to push back against divisive rhetoric. Last week I was moved to see the thousands of posts on social media from people all of backgrounds celebrating their diverse identities online using the hashtag #WeAreScotland. 

It was a comfort to see the First Minister set out an inclusive agenda, because, whichever way you look at it, a politics that is full of fear and isolation will get us nowhere.