Everyday, without fail, I am taken aback by the things that are said on social media, by hardline unionists. The self-loathing Scot, is a strange case indeed. Call him what you will, the Vichy Scot, the Quisling, the Britnat, the Scot with Stockholm syndrome, his unquestioning, unshakeable belief in Britain is beyond reason. But why? What happens to cause someone, not just to remain impassive, when labelled a “subsidy junkie” or asked “who’d pay the welfare bill, if Scotland were independent?” by some rabid, right wing zoomer on Question Time, but to view it as a vindication of their slavish devotion to the sclerotic British State?
Going into 2014 independence referendum, I was, and always had been, in favour of the status quo. Nothing good, I reasoned, could come of consigning our 300 year old union to the dustbin of history. However, as the campaign wore on, I found myself increasingly irked, by what I believed to be the belittling of Scotland by Better Together. I then began to question, just why it was, that I was inclined towards ‘no’. The answer was as simple as it was stark. Years of insidious propaganda. From our formative years to the grave, the message is clear, Scotland is too small, too poor and too stupid. Alarmingly, not only had I, like countless others, soaked this up like a sponge, I had never questioned it. Until 2014, I hadn’t even been aware it was happening.
Gradually, the fog lifted. As I recall, it was being told Scotland “can’t have sterling’ that cemented my damascene-conversion. In a matter of weeks, Better Together succeeded in delivering me, an unthinking, dyed in the wool unionist, gift wrapped, to Yes Scotland. The CamCleggiband triumvirate, ably abetted by Broon the Buffoon and Dodgy Darling, were selling a lie. Everything that has transpired since IndyRef, be it the vanishing “Vow”, the unworkable “EVEL” and Brexit has shown it to be so. If I could see beyond Britain’s facade, why couldn’t the self-loathing Scot? Had I not been him?
Not that all self-loathing Scots are the same. There are those, paralysed by greed, who are terrified that they’ll be tuppence ha’penny worse off, in the event of independence. Abject terror of a lighter wallet, is hard to overcome, but it is not impossible. As Brexit bites, the pound in their pocket brigade might just begin to realise, that independence is an opportunity to do things differently. If Scotland, can’t stand on her own two feet, as the “yoonies” would have it, might that be because the Union is holding her back?
Then there are those, who display an irrational, perhaps even pathological, hatred towards nationalists and more specifically, the SNP. They often mistakenly assume, anyone in favour of independence, must also belong to, or at the very least support, the SNP. They’ll tell you that they can’t abide nationalism, full stop. Many can’t or won’t accept that Brexit isn’t anything other than an expression of British-English nationalism. The anti-nationalists will tell you, that the SNP wish to control everything, that they are driven by lust for power. Never mind, that so desperate were the English to “take back control” and to “repatriate power” from the EU, the UK is now headed for the exit door. What, if not lust for power, drove the Goblin Gove, to betray a long time friend and ally, or for the spineless, soulless agitators in the Parliamentary Labour Party to mount a half-arsed coup against Corbyn?
Let’s not forget, the well meaning internationalists, who probably do believe that we are in fact “Better Together”. Sadly, their vision of a socialist, or social democratic nirvana, where we are “all in it together”, is little more than a pipe dream. The Tories are the natural party of power, south of the border. Tory ideology, has governed the UK for the best part of forty years. The Labour Party only succeeded in getting into government, after it had shaken off socialism, and stolen a great many of the Tories’ clothes. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, when Dippy Dugdale tweeted “Scottish Labour is committed to tackling poverty + inequality. You can’t do that with independence”. You don’t know that Kezia! What we do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that 309 years of union, has done damn near hee-haw to rid our society of poverty and inequality. Have Dugdale and her ilk, no ambition for Scotland, no faith in her at all? Are we really expected to wait indefinitely for a bus that’s never coming? Waiting on a nation that seems to revel in class, to deliver social justice, is just plain daft, and Kezia Dugdale must realise that. If she doesn’t, she’s even more out of her depth than I feared.
As with every walk of life, there are the lunatics. You know him, he often loves the Queen, and the colour orange, though by no mean always. He says things like “Theresa May runs the UK, and the UK runs Scotland”. It’s not just that he says things like that, it is that they are said with delight.
He expresses inexplicable, gloating, gleeful, outright joy whenever the Daily Fail or the Daily Ex-Princess reports that Scotland, Sturgeon or Salmond has been “slapped down”. He’ll say Sturgeon doesn’t speak for him. Does he not realise that those who he says do, so deeply despise him?
The self-loathing Scot professes to love Scotland, but how can he? He affords Scotland no dignity,
and wishes nothing but what our dominant neighbour deems fit to dole out, for her. Sometimes, the self-loathing Scot convinces himself that we are indeed, “a family of nations”, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. All too often, he is keen to deny that Scotland should have a voice at all, that there is the UK, Britain and nothing else. I’ll say it once again, the self-loathing Scot is a strange case indeed,
An exercise in futility, is perhaps the best way to describe today’s meeting, involving among others, the three First Ministers of our devolved institutions and the UK’s Prime Minister. We are no further forward, since we know nothing more, of the UK’s Government’s negotiating position (because they’ve yet to agree amongst themselves) on Brexit, other than that it must not be “undermined”. Instead, we’ve been served up another slice of empty rhetoric. Matronly Maggie May, might well say she is “prepared to listen to options”, but we already know this to be meaningless. The Prime Minister and her merry mediocrities, though claiming to be listening what Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster and Carwyn Jones have to say, have little or no intention of paying them any heed. Unless, that is, they wish to say they submit.
Following today’s meeting, the Prime Minister insisted that “it is imperative that the devolved administrations play their part in making it work”, but is that even realistic? Is there a Brexit, bespoke or otherwise, that “works for the whole of the UK”, when what is actually needed, is a degree of “Flexit”. Playing their part, or making it work, which I wonder, does Mrs May think is more important? In playing their part, the principal responsibilities, of the devolved administrations, are to the nations they represent. The Brexit bunch, inside and outwith the UK government, have made it quite clear, that they believe theirs is to the 52%. As for making it work, the Tories can’t even agree amongst themselves just what that involves, yet the Prime Minister seems to believe that “working together” England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can make a success of Brexit. Anything is possible, or is it? What does she even mean by “working together”? Submission from the subordinate nations, I suspect.
It is probably safe to say, that just about everyone agrees that put simply, the “best deal for Britain”, involves the UK having as close to full access to the single market as possible. Achieving this, would go a long way to alleviating the concerns of the devolved administrations, perhaps even neutralising the threat of a second independence referendum, here in Scotland, for the foreseeable future. The question then becomes, just how far are the 27 and the UK willing to compromise on the free movement of people?
Should free movement, prove a bridge to far, in the absence of Flexit, Brexit might well lead to Scoxit. Redoubtable Ruth, Scotland’s foremost unionist and (whisper it) Tory, said today, that “Nicola Sturgeon now needs to engage in a constructive fashion”, does she acknowledge, crucially, so must her masters in London? Saying that the “SNP isn’t going to answer any of the issues thrown up by Brexit by dividing the United Kingdom” seems to suggest that Ruth Davidson, either pretends not to, or doesn’t see the glaringly obvious. The UK is already divided. 52-48. By Ms Davidson’s own logic, it is her own party who are responsible. All nations are divided. Division is why we must suffer politicians, for crying out loud.
The Prime Minister does herself, her government and the UK no favours in ruling out any special arrangements for the devolved nations. Doing so, is indicative of everything that is dysfunctional about this, so-called United Kingdom of ours. Bluntly speaking, the English can’t bear to share or cede control. Control, arguably explains Brexit, every bit as much as anti-immigration. They want the UK to speak with “one voice”, and that voice has to be theirs. The inherent desire to dominate, also goes some way to explaining why the UK’s constitutional arrangements are so haphazard. They’ve been cobbled together, piecemeal, with the sole purpose of retaining as much power to the British(English) State, as they believe they can get away with. It is why they reneged on “The Vow”.
Control is why the UK doesn’t have a proper, written constitution. Control is why the UK does not have a truly federal structure. Control is why our “family of nations” is a lie. Control is why we are England and her colonies. Status, and the desperation to have it, to hang on to it, also plays it’s part. The English, call it the British, if it makes you feel better, are obsessed with status. Status is why they need to be at the “top table” and fret about projecting power and influence across the globe. Status is why they’ve never gotten over the loss of Empire and it is why they can’t bring themselves to be without Scotland. Status, like control, explains Brexit. Britain can’t bear it that Germany’s economy is bigger, and stronger. Nor can the British cope with the fact that they can’t control the EU. Just as in their relationship with the rest of the UK, the English, or British, want to dominate, not to compromise or cooperate.
To state the obvious, none of us knows how events will unfold. However, thus far, all the indications are that the circle can’t be squared. Brexit and the British approach to it, threatens to drive a wedge between the constituent nations that compromise the UK, that is too great to resist. I can’t help but wonder, will post Brexit Britain be a new beginning, or the end for the UK?
It doesn’t really matter that UKIP are in disarray, the damage is done. Instead of leading, the Tories have allowed themselves to be led. Led down a very, very dark path indeed. When Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, thinks it’s a good idea to compel businesses to produce lists of foreign workers, we are in a bad place. When David Davies, Tory MP and chair of the Commons Welsh affairs select committee, thinks it is entirely acceptable to force child refugees to undergo dental checks to verify their age, things really are getting grim. When Christian Holliday, a Tory councillor, calls for working towards the UK rejoining the EU to be considered treason, just what has Britain become?
We are now in a situation, where the rabidly right wing press, feels sufficiently emboldened to refer to anyone who dissents from their anti-everything stance as “Whingeing. Contemptuous. Unpatriotic” and to label them “Bremoaners” who wish to “subvert the will of the British people”. I’ve always been deeply suspicious, whenever politicians or the press refer to the “people of Scotland”, or the “British people”. It is (I would hope), a highly transparent, cheap attempt to give the impression that they speak for just about everyone, when clearly, they do not. If the 52% who voted in favour of the UK leaving the EU, are the “British people”, then just who are the rest of us-the 48% who did not?
Those who passionately believe in Brexit, may well be correct to say that parliamentary approval is not needed to trigger Article 50, but I doubt it would even be up for discussion, if it were not for the fact that there is a clear, pro-EU majority in the Commons. Where they are wrong, and profoundly so, is in trying to circumvent Parliament almost altogether, in the Brexit process. They do this, of course, because having won the war, they don’t want to lose the peace. Put bluntly, they are terrified that all their hard work in “pulling up the drawbridge” will come to nothing. I don’t know about whingeing, but I’m certainly contemptuous of their casual racism, general hostility to immigration and indifference to the plight of refugees. Today, I consider myself a Scottish, rather than a British patriot, and the course this crowd have charted only serves to further convince me that the UK is beyond redemption.
To understand just how far to the right Brexit has bumped Britain, you’ve only to take recent pronouncements on the NHS. I had always assumed that the practice of medicine is, and always has been, considered an international endeavour, yet we have the British Prime Minister is telling us that foreign doctors in the NHS, should be regarded as “interim”. In doing so, Theresa May, ostensibly and intelligent individual, is clearly pandering to those of a UKIP mentality. She seems to be saying, “I understand that you’d rather your doctor wasn’t beige, if you’ll just bear with us, once we’ve sorted ourselves out and trained up a few homegrown one’s (assuming Jeremy Hunt hasn’t driven them away), then we’ll send Dr Foreigner home”. What a horrible idea. Does she really believe it? If not, why is she not railing against such nakedly racist stupidity? Why is the Prime Minister not leading, instead of being led?
Does loosing their sense of purpose, explain the disintegration of UKIP, or is it simply that, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, the hard right of the Tory party has awoken from a long slumber, rendering UKIP obsolete? Just a few months ago, it was easy to laugh off ideas such as having pensioners (in the absence of unskilled immigrant labour) pick fruit as lunacy. No longer. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.
Yesterday, the First Minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr, that Maggie May and the Three Brexiteer’s have no mandate for the ‘Full English Brexit’, and that she wants a ‘Continental Brexit’, whereby Scotland, if not the UK, remains in the single market. I’m afraid I can’t agree with Ms Sturgeon’s analysis. Sad though it may be, I believe a ‘Hard Boiled Brexit’ is exactly what England and Wales voted for in June’s referendum.
There are a plethora of pro-Brexit commentators, experts and pundits who tell us that Brexit is primarily about British sovereignty. They insist that Brexit, first and foremost, is about British laws being made in Britain by the British. And they’re probably right. But when you scratch the surface, you discover that taking back sovereignty, or control as the Brexiteers like to put it, has an awful lot to do with regaining control over Britain’s borders. Even if we accept that immigration is secondary to sovereignty, soft Brexit probably involves ceding more of it than hardline Brexiteers are willing to stomach.
Advocates of soft Brexit will say that most people would like for the UK to remain in the single market, or at the very least, secure a post Brexit trade deal with the EU, that retains as much of the benefits of the single market as is practicably possible. However, if asked, you would almost certainly find that many of those same people would like greater control over immigration.
Like it or loathe it, access to the single market comes at a price, and that price is the free movement of people. It is inconceivable, that the EU will allow the British any level of access, that does not involve a corresponding amount of free movement of people. To do otherwise, would surely mean the end the EU as we know it.
Fantasists like Farage tell us that the EU will capitulate, because we buy more of their stuff than they do of ours (remember when a trade deficit was considered a bad thing?). They won’t, and we’ll still buy their stuff. Apart from anything else, we’re hooked on Audi’s and BMW’s and besides, there’s no British alternative. Even if we still pretend that Jaguar-Land Rover is still British, the chances are they’ll up sticks and leave when the reality of Brexit begins to bite. Who seriously believes that English wine is anything like as drinkable as a French Claret or a Spanish Rioja? The ‘Full English’ it is then.
Nicola Sturgeon would have be quite correct, to say that the UK Government has no mandate to take impose hard Brexit on Scotland. Unfortunately, Scotland opted to remain within the UK, and the UK voted, albeit narrowly, to leave the EU. In no way, does that mean that the UK government has carte blanche to ride roughshod over the wishes of the people of Scotland. It means, that whilst the Scottish Government realises the realities of the situation, so must the UK Government accept that it must meet the Scotland halfway. Now is not the time for absolutes.
There needs to be a compromise, where if Scotland accepts that as a part of the UK, it must leave the EU, then the UK Government accepts Scotland’s wish (are the Scottish people not sovereign?) to remain in the single market, and do everything it can in it’s negotiations with the EU to accommodate that wish. Some will say “it’s not possible” for Scotland (and Northern Ireland?) to remain in the single market whilst the rest of the UK leaves. They’ll say there a constitutional barriers. Perhaps there are, but they can, and should be removed. England may have voted to take back sovereignty, but Scotland is quite happy to share hers, both with the UK and the EU. The Prime Minister ignores this at her peril,
Two governments, one aim. Sort of. Well, not exactly. It is however, true to say, that both the SNP and Tory governments are a little preoccupied with trying to work out how best to withdraw from a union. That they both wish to remain in the union that the other wishes to leave, adds a little spice to the mix.
Maggie May and the Three Brexiteer’s insist, that in withdrawing Scotland from the European Union, whilst preserving the United Kingdom, they are carrying out the will of the 'people’ as expressed in recent referenda.
The difficulty with the Tories’ position should be glaringly obvious. It denies that with regard to EU membership, Scotland has a voice, and it ignores the indisputable fact, that that voice rang out loud and clear, Scotland should remain within the EU. To argue, that since Scotland voted in 2014, to remain in the UK, the collective will of the ‘British people’, in reality, the will of our much larger neighbour (albeit, with a little help from Wales on this occasion), trumps everything, simply isn’t acceptable any more.
It is no longer tenable, where Scotland disagrees on something as fundamentally important as our continued membership of the EU, that we be disregarded. To say that Scotland is a member of the UK, and that the UK voted to leave the EU, just isn’t good enough. The UK is either a family of nations, or it isn’t. It is either a family of nations, or it is England and her colonies. The UK is made up of four distinct nations, two of those nations voted to remain in the EU, two voted to leave. That the UK’s woefully inadequate, dysfunctional constitutional arrangements can’t accommodate this, will not do. A family, where Victorian Dad’s (England) word is law, is yesterday. If this so called family of nations is to survive, it must look to tomorrow.
Should the Prime Minister and her cabinet, prove incapable of thinking outside the box, of producing a flexible, workable solution, that goes some way addresses Scotland and Northern Ireland’s desire to remain in the EU, then it is perfectly legitimate for Holyrood and Stormont to pursue all avenues. A second independence referendum, must therefor be a possibility. You would have thought, that with an unwritten constitution, where profound change, such as devolution and reform of the Lords, have been cobbled together piecemeal, that the great and the good could dream up a compromise, whereby Scotland could at the very least, remain in the single market. Sadly, I suspect that they can’t, or they won’t.
We’ve seen, quite clearly, that the Tories didn’t expect Brexit, most of them didn’t even want it. Now that they have it, they don’t know what to do with it. Article 50, hasn’t been triggered yet, because Theresa May, BoJo and the rest, can’t agree on what it is they want, far less what they think they can get. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government know exactly what it is they want. They want independence for Scotland, and Brexit might provide the means by which they get it. Cynics might say, that the SNP are exploiting the remain vote in Scotland to engineer a grievance with the UK. I prefer to think that the deep fissure between Scotland and England is very real, and that if used wisely, it strengthens the SNP’s cause, as much by happy fate as by design.
Calls from the opposition parties, especially the Scottish Tories, for the SNP to ‘concentrate on the day job’ are deplorable. They want Scotland to be silent, to submit. I would have thought, that doing everything in it’s power to ensure the best possible outcome for Scotland, is very, very much part of the day job. If that means a second independence referendum, then so be it. If that means a second independence referendum, it will be because the Tory government at Westminster has done little, or nothing to protect Scotland’s interests, as per usual.