We have known for some time that the new Scottish independence referendum would have to be held before March 2019. We knew as soon as the EU referendum result was announced that #ScotRef would have to be before Scotland was finally dragged out of the EU in imperious disregard for the democratic will of the Scottish people. And we knew the moment Article 50 was invoked that the two-year negotiation period would expire on 31 March 2019.
Brexit falls on All Fools Day – 1 April 2019. How appropriate. And how characteristic of the general ineptitude of the Tory clown troupe currently running the British circus that they couldn’t even work out this unfortunate juxtaposition.
That EU nationals living in Scotland will be denied a vote after that date is highly significant. Not least because such denial is so out of keeping with Scotland’s political culture. But, offensive as this may be to those of a democratic frame of mind, it is not the most pressing reason why the new referendum must happen sooner rather than later.
How much sooner? I have long maintained that September 2018 will end up being deemed the most appropriate time. Nicola Sturgeon has, rightly and cleverly, avoided being pinned down on the scheduling of the referendum. She has declined to link it to a particular date or a specific event. Whatever misleading spin the media may apply, the timing of the referendum is associated only with the point at which the outcome of Brexit negotiations is clear.
In fact, the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is already pretty clear to most of us. But who decides when the that outcome is clear enough? Nicola Sturgeon!. After all the column centimetres and broadcast minutes devoted to speculation and conjecture, the First Minister has effectively said we’ll have the referendum when she says we’ll have the referendum.
All that remains is to work out how much lead time will be required before the point of the UK’s unceremonious departure from the EU. And what other factors affect the timing. Given the amount of goodwill that exists, six months seems to offer time enough for Scotland to sort out an arrangement by which it can remain in the EU as an independent nation. Hence, September 2018. Any later than that seems unrealistic. But if two years is supposedly long enough to untangle the UK from its membership of the EU, six months is a generous timetable for effectively keeping everything the same.
But Nicola Sturgeon has to reserve the option of bringing the referendum forward. And she will delay announcing a date as long as she possibly can. To understand why, we must acknowledge a hard truth about the nature of the British state.
The British state favours democracy only so long as democracy favours the British state.
The British establishment’s ‘reasoning’ goes as follows. Scotland’s independence campaign represents a threat to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. The strength of the Yes movement, combined with the effective political power of the SNP and the authority of the Scottish Parliament creates the potential for the independence campaign to succeed by the democratic route. Therefore, while efforts continue to disrupt the Yes movement, discredit the SNP and delegitimise the Scottish Parliament, the British state must prepare a contingency plan for closing down the democratic route to independence.
The Brexit process requires that the UK be constitutionally redefined. At the very least, it creates an opportunity to do so. It would be foolishly naive, if not fatally complacent, to imagine that the British political elite will not take full advantage of this opportunity to devise a way of locking Scotland into the Union. If nothing else, we can safely assume that they will look to litter the democratic rout with legal impediments and procedural hindrances.
Quite simply, if we don’t have the new referendum by September 2018 at the latest, EU nationals in Scotland may not be the only ones who are not allowed to vote. If the British state succeeds in denying our fundamental democratic right of self-determination, none of us will be voting.Views: 4737
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