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‘Game is up for the Union’, says Ian Blackford as he calls for indyref2

Ian Blackford added that the SNP is not seeking the Prime Minister’s 'permission' for indyref2

THE “game is up for the Union”, the SNP’s Westminster leader said, as he called for another Scottish independence referendum following his party’s victory in the local elections.

Ian Blackford added that the SNP is not seeking the Prime Minister’s “permission” for indyref2, as the only permission it would need is the “democratic permission of the Scottish people”.

He also called on the Government to deal with the cost-of-living crisis by bringing forward an emergency budget following the agenda-setting Queen’s Speech.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said the Conservatives had suffered a “democratic drubbing” in the local polls, adding it was the SNP’s 11th election victory in a row.

He told the Commons: “Democracy has spoken in Scotland, it has spoken before and it will speak again and again. And all our democratic decisions are saying exactly the same thing: Scotland rejects this Westminster Government, we reject the Tory party and we demand the choice of an independent future.

“The Scottish people know the cost of living with Westminster. We know the price we pay with the Prime Minister and the price of being stuck with a Tory Government we didn’t vote for and it is price none of us in Scotland, not one of us, can afford to pay any longer.”

Intervening, Conservative MP Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) said the SNP had not increased its vote share in eight years, adding that “the game is up” for the party.

Blackford replied: “If the game is up for anybody, or any party, then the game is up for the Tory party and the game is up for the Union and I say to him that he needs to reflect on the fact that the SNP has won the last 11 elections as I said.”

Blackford later added: “We are not seeking the Prime Minister’s permission. The only permission we need, the only permission we will ever need is the democratic permission of the Scottish people. And let’s not forget it’s the people of Scotland who hold sovereignty.”

In last week’s all-out local council polls, the SNP won the largest share of seats across Scotland’s 32 councils, with 453 councillors elected across the nation, compared with Labour’s 282 in second place, and the Tories’ 214 in third.

The SNP also won a majority in one council, Dundee, though 27 Scottish local authorities remain in no overall control.

Elsewhere in the debate, Blackford said that the Government had been “so consumed by the crisis of partygate that they have failed to lift a finger to fight the Tory-made cost-of-living crisis”.

He added: “The very first line of the Queen’s Speech should have been a commitment to bring forward an emergency budget. Where is it? Where is the emergency budget that we need? An emergency budget to tackle now the rising costs of energy, of fuel, and of food.”

Blackford also criticised “harmful” legislation planned in the Bill, including an “attack on devolution” and an “attack on human rights law”.

SNP MP Hannah Bardell (Livingston) was reprimanded for describing the Government as a “shower of corrupt, criminal Conservatives” in the chamber.

After protests from Conservative former minister David Davis, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle reminded Ms Bardell that MPs must use “moderate and tolerant language”.

In one of her first appearances in the Commons after recovering from a stroke, SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire Amy Callaghan criticised the Government for not doing more to address the cost-of-living crisis.

Reading a speech from a lectern provided for her, Ms Callaghan added: “I note with sadness that this is unlikely to change in the year ahead. People are being forced into poverty. I have already noted it is a political choice and one this Government could have set out against plans to rectify today.”

Blackford could be seen congratulating Callaghan after she finished her speech.

After the Queen's speech, charities, campaigners and opposition politicians criticised the lack of any short-term measures to help people faced with soaring costs in their day-to-day lives.

The Prime Minister hinted at future help, using the “fiscal firepower” of the Government.

“We will continue to use all our ingenuity and compassion for as long as it takes,” he told MPs.

“The Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come.”

However, any extra intervention to help with the current strain on household budgets will not be arriving in the next few days, a Downing Street source told the PA news agency.

The Treasury, asked about the Prime Minister’s comments, pointed to the Chancellor saying on Monday that there would be “better clarity on what energy prices will be in the autumn” and how to respond.

Speaking in the Commons, Johnson went on to warn there were limits on how much public money he was prepared to commit to addressing a global economic crisis.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the response to the situation “pathetic”, telling Johnson: “This Government’s failure to grow the economy over a decade, combined with its inertia in the face of spiralling bills, means that we are staring down the barrel of something we haven’t seen in decades, a stagflation crisis.”

With the war in Ukraine raging, the Government’s programme included a series of measures to give the security services extra powers to tackle foreign spies and efforts to influence British democracy.

The package also contains measures aimed at taking advantage of the freedoms offered by Brexit – but there was no legislation to implement the Government’s threat to tear up the deal on Northern Ireland’s trading arrangements, although officials said that remained an option.

But with rising energy bills, inflation forecast to hit 10% and benefits and wages failing to keep up with the increase in prices, the cost of living is set to dominate domestic politics in the coming months.

The Government highlighted the £22 billion package of help with energy bills, tax cuts and other measures already announced.

But its focus is on generating economic growth to help address the issues rather than increasing state support, with the public finances already battered by the billions borrowed to address the pandemic.

“After two years of Covid-19, I know that the last thing people need are further challenges.

“I know people are struggling with their bills and that they are anxious about the future,” Johnson said.

“While we must keep our public finances on a sustainable footing – and we cannot completely shield people from the fallout from global events – where we can help, we will.”

Johnson said the “aftershocks of Covid-19 and the biggest war in Europe since 1945” are causing disruption around the world, with all major economies facing cost-of-living pressures.

“It is right that we continue doing whatever we can to ease the burdens people are grappling with now, supporting the hardest-hit with £22 billion of help to address the cost of living and cutting hundreds of pounds off household bills.

“But we must also remember that for every pound of taxpayers’ money we spend on reducing bills now, it is a pound we are not investing in bringing down bills and prices over the longer term.”

He said the Government’s “top priorities” are growing the economy, making streets safe, and supporting the NHS to clear the backlogs built up during the pandemic.

The Queen’s mobility problems meant she missed the lavish State Opening of Parliament ceremony for the first time in 59 years, with the Prince of Wales delivering the traditional speech setting out the Government’s legislative programme.

The 38 Bills in the package include: – A Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will seek to drive local growth and regenerate towns and cities across England, including by enshrining the Government’s levelling up “missions”.

– The Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill aims to deter companies repeating P&O’s mass firing of staff by giving ports powers to refuse access to ferries not paying the UK minimum wage.

– The sell-off of Channel 4 will be enabled by the Media Bill.

– An Energy Security Bill seeking to transition to cheaper and greener energy, extending the price cap beyond 2023.

– A Bill of Rights that will replace the Human Rights Act.

– Legislation to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

– Measures to ban conversion therapy that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation, although consenting adults can still go through the process.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the Queen’s Speech “does nothing to help the millions of families and pensioners facing soaring bills and eye-watering inflation”.

Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said “this speech was a far cry from what struggling families needed to hear today”, offering “no short-term comfort for parents struggling to feed their kids in the face of rocketing prices”.

Dan Paskins, director of UK impact at Save the Children, said: “The Queen’s Speech was a major opportunity to support those most affected by rising costs and the Government didn’t take it.”

But the Confederation of British Industry’s Matthew Fell said: “Firms looking for the Government to address the cost-of-living crisis by growing the economy will be encouraged by the ambition in the Queen’s Speech.”

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