In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character is condemned to live the same day over and over again. I'm beginning to know how he feels. Since the SNP was elected to government in Scotland in 2011, my political life has been dominated by constitutional politics – first the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, then the Scotland Act 2016, then the EU referendum. Now, following the announcement from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that she will legislate for another independence referendum.
Of course, back in 2014, the SNP described the Scottish independence referendum as a "once in a lifetime opportunity". But things are different now; Brexit, claims the First Minister, has changed things. And of course she's right, Brexit has changed things. It's made Scottish independence even less desirable than it was before. Let me be clear: I didn't vote Remain at the EU referendum for it to be used as a false mandate by the SNP to justify another independence referendum.
Because if Brexit has shown us anything, it's that even threatening to wrench yourself from a longstanding union and thriving single market is bad for your economy. Since 23 June, the pound has dropped to its lowest rate against the Dollar in over 30 years, the IMF has downgraded the UK's growth prospects, and a leaked Treasury paper estimates that leaving the EU could knock £66bn off the UK's GDP. The Fraser of Allander Institute has estimated that Brexit could reduce Scotland's GDP by billions and cost up to 80,000 jobs. Meanwhile, business confidence has wavered, with firms understandably chary about investing in such an uncertain climate.
This should all serve as a warning, and the last thing we need is the additional uncertainty that another Scottish independence referendum would create. Calling a referendum would not just be a dereliction of duty – the SNP Government should instead focus on addressing the myriad and growing problems in our NHS, schools and public services – it would be an act of economic self-harm even more reckless than the UK Government's perverse willingness to pursue a "hard Brexit".
If Brexit has shown us anything, it's that even threatening to wrench yourself from a longstanding union and thriving single market is bad for your economy.
On Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon cited access to the single market as one of her red lines. If this is cast away in the Brexit negotiations, she says, another independence referendum is inevitable. The Scottish Government are right to prioritise unfettered access to the single market: it's worth £11.7bn to Scotland in export trade and supports 250,000 jobs. However, access to the UK single market is worth considerably more to Scotland. It accounts for £49bn in export trade and almost 1 million jobs depend on our links to the UK. The idea that the correct response to losing free access to the former is to jeopardise free access to the latter is politically nonsensical and economically illiterate.
Moreover, the economic and fiscal backdrop for an independent Scotland is even bleaker than in 2014, when the SNP comprehensively lost the economic argument. In addition to Brexit, oil revenues have plummeted, contributing to a fiscal deficit of around £15bn – more than double the UK's as a percentage of GDP. The only thing saving Scotland from having to make further swingeing cuts to public spending – over and above those the SNP Government is already making – is the fiscal union with the rest of the UK. Yes, Brexit raises questions about Scotland's future; however, independence is not the answer.
The Scottish Government are right to prioritise unfettered access to the single market: it's worth £11.7 billion...but access to the UK single market is worth considerably more to Scotland
The SNP has spoken a lot about mandates, claiming the fact Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU affords carte blanche to call another independence referendum. But if the result of the EU referendum was a license to action, what of the result of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, in which the majority of Scotland voted Remain in the UK? Looked at objectively, the Scottish Government has a dual mandate – to keep Scotland in the UK and maintain our relations with the EU. You cannot pick and choose which mandate you honour.
The argument against another referendum isn't solely predicated on elections and economics. There's also the human factor – what is best for Scotland. If the evidence of recent years has taught us anything, it's that referendums can be bitter and divisive, causing rifts and schisms that can take years to heal. The last thing Scotland needs now is more division. We in the Labour Party will always believe that there is more that unites than divides us. And that is the principle we will fight to uphold.
Sadly, Scotland is caught between a Tory Government arguing against the EU and for the UK, and an SNP Government arguing against the UK and for the EU. They are both wrong. We cannot endlessly pursue this path of polarised politics. That is why Scottish Labour wants Scotland in the UK with a close and productive relationship with the EU. We will do everything possible to secure this.
Ian Murray is Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South