“If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.”
What a wonderful quote, and one that’s particularly relevant as we mark the International Day of Democracy. The speaker of those words might surprise you: they were uttered by former Brexit Secretary David Davis back in 2012.
The Britain of 2012 feels like a very different place to today. It was the summer of the uplifting London Olympics, Donald Trump was still just a TV personality, and the word ‘Brexit’ was only coined for the very first time halfway through the year.
But just four years later, the EU referendum was held – and David Davis was among those clamouring for the UK to leave. Just like in the 2014 independence referendum, it was a day of democracy with millions of people exercising their democratic right to vote.
Unlike the independence referendum, for me the result in 2016 was not the one I wanted. I still firmly want the UK to remain in the EU, and I am campaigning for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal. Critics say this is an attempt to undermine democracy. It is anything but. After all, if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.
Since 2016, it has become obvious that the Brexit which people like David Davis promised can never be delivered. Instead of extra money for the NHS, we are stockpiling medicine; instead of global trade deals we are seeing prices already rising in the shops. Quite simply, the people of the UK deserve a vote on the final deal.
It would be damaging for our democracy if a bad Brexit deal – or worse, a ‘no deal’ scenario – is forced on the British people without receiving their consent. It would be damaging for our democracy if Westminster ploughs ahead with a hard Brexit that nobody voted for. And it would be damaging for our democracy if the government ignores the voices of millions of citizens on the final deal. That’s why there must be a democratic People’s Vote.
As we mark the 20th anniversary of the International Day of Democracy, it’s a timely reminder that democracy is the product of a strong, active and vocal civil society.
At the heart of my opposition to Brexit is its impact on the most vulnerable in society. A ‘no deal’ Brexit would reduce GDP by nearly 9 per cent in Scotland. That has an impact on how much can be spent on public services, such as tackling homelessness – an issue that Cyrenians does incredible work on.
There is another anniversary this year, and that’s the 50th anniversary of the Cyrenians. Over half a century, the organisation has helped people to transform their lives, building an inclusive society where everyone is valued. I would like to sincerely thank the Cyrenians for the contribution they make in Edinburgh and further afield during these difficult times.
15th September 2018