AS I WRITE this column, nearly five and a half million people across the UK have signed a petition calling on Article 50 to be revoked.

The petition, which was started in late February, has become the most popular petition ever submitted to the Westminster parliament.

It illustrates the strength of feeling of people across the country; a strength of feeling that approximately one million people took to the streets of London on Saturday to demonstrate, and a strength of feeling that Theresa May is determined to disregard.

From the very start of this Brexit process, Theresa May has chosen to ignore Scotland; ignore the will of parliament; and ignore the voices of millions of people who deserve to have their say on this country’s future.

Whether under Theresa May’s deal, or a No-Deal, Brexit will devastate jobs, businesses and livelihoods across the UK.

There is little doubt that the prime minister’s handling of Brexit has been an absolute disaster – and, with just days to go, we’re still none the wiser as to what’s going to happen.

The prime minister has failed to acknowledge the massive responsibility she bears for the mess that the United Kingdom is in right now.

She could have changed course after the first defeat of her deal, but she is still trying to force a choice between a bad deal and no deal, which is shameful.

Of course, the logic of Theresa May’s assertion that parliament’s indecision is frustrating the will of the people is to put the issue back to the people and let them decide – if she is confident that the people back her, what’s stopping her?

It’s time to hit pause and put the decision back to the people – with the option to Remain on the ballot paper.

Growing the economy and supporting businesses and jobs is always a top priority for the Scottish Government and I am delighted that the latest GDP figures show the Scottish economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018, higher than the UK rate of 0.2 per cent. Compared to the same period last year, it has grown by 1.3 per cent.

The Scottish Government have provided more than £5billion of capital investment to grow and modernise Scotland’s infrastructure, and a wider package of support to businesses including maintaining a competitive business rates package and providing the most generous package of non-domestic rates reliefs anywhere in the UK. With eight consecutive quarters of growth and record low unemployment – the lowest in the UK – Scotland’s economy continues to go from strength to strength.

In 2018, the chancellor’s autumn budget promised an end to austerity, but the recent spring statement confirmed that the UK Government has once again failed to deliver on that pledge and to invest properly in public services.

Despite the chancellor’s boast that he had £26.6billion-worth of fiscal headroom – up from £15.4 billion in the autumn budget in October – to increase spending and end austerity in 2020-21 while still meeting his fiscal rules, he has chosen not to invest any of that money in vital public services.

Instead, he is holding the money back, depriving our public services of resources and compounding the economic harm of the UK Government’s self-inflicted mess that is Brexit.