James Millar: Another metropolitan columnist

By Al Harron

It’s rarely difficult to tell the difference between your average metropolitan columnist’s views, and reality. This week’s example comes courtesy of James Millar, who dares to suggest that the conventional wisdom – that a “soft Brexit” is preferable to preserve the United Kingdom – is wrong.

If Theresa May steers the UK out of the EU but retains access to the single market, maybe a bit of freedom of movement it would make many Scots – the majority of whom voted to stay in Europe – think twice before voting Yes to independence.

It’s interesting that Mr Millar suggests that even access to the single market & freedom of movement might not necessarily be enough to prevent a second independence referendum – why else would he say this would make Scots “think twice before voting Yes?” He makes it sound like Indyref2 is inevitable.

It’s the last time I find myself agreeing with him in this article.

After all, they’d be turning their back on some access to the EU for an uncertain future as an independent country who would still have to negotiate it’s way back into the club.

Mr Millar is repeating an old canard from 2014 – that leaving the UK means leaving the EU. Yet there is plenty of reason to doubt Scotland would be leaving the EU at all:

I think probably there will be a ‘Brexit-light’, so Scotland will not leave (the EU), probably Northern Ireland will stay in the union, and probably Great Britain becomes Little Britain.
Hans Jörg Schelling, Austrian Finance Minister, France24, 11th July 2016

If the Scots hurry, become independent before the separation process between London and the Union ends and declare their continued attachment to the community, they could stay in the EU without difficulty by taking the status of the UK.
– EU source, La Libra Belgique, 30th June 2016

Scotland, N Ireland can stay in EU says Merkel ally
Scotland and even Northern Ireland would be welcome to remain members of the EU according to Manfred Weber, a top MEP and key ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, Mr Weber criticised the decision for Britain to leave but added: “On the Scottish level: to go the other way, it is up to them. Europe is open to new member states, that is totally clear. Those who want to stay are welcome in the European Union.”
Financial Times, 24th June 2016

I and my party believe that it would be unacceptable for Scotland to be treated as a normal candidate country should it seek to remain as a member of the EU. It currently implements all EU laws. It manifestly would not need to be reviewed for its standards of governance and ability to implement EU laws. It has a strong administration, a distinct legal system and an absolute commitment to European ideals.
Scotland is strong enough to advocate for itself, but Ireland should be its friend and demand fair play should it seek to remain in the EU.
– Statement by Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil, 27th June 2016

We will support exploring all the options that would allow pro-European Scotland to remain within the EU, as they have clearly voted to do.
Rebecca Harms, Co-Chair of the Greens/EFA Group, The Parliament Magazine, 29th June 2016

It is clear Scotland has voted to remain. I guess it is a boost to independence. If Scotland proposes to become independent we should make sure it can remain in the EU.
Ska Keller, Vice-President of the Greens/EFA Bureau, Evening Times, 9th July 2016

The people of Scotland and the people of Northern Ireland voted with a majority in order to stay. Yes, I would hope that all possibilities or options should be looked at. Maybe there is a way for Scotland to remain.
Ulrike Lunacek, Leader of the European Greens & Vice-Chair of the European Parliament, 20th July 2016

And no less a figure than Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator for Brexit, says that it is Scotland’s decision to stay in the EU – not leave and rejoin:

Whether Scotland retains its membership, or has to rejoin, the EU has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic for Scotland be a part of it.

Never forget that while the SNP may claim to be Scotland’s party it is in fact a single issue movement focused on one goal only – independence.

A party which puts Scottish independence at the forefront of its own constitution is focused on the goal of independence? Huge, if true!

For if there is to be a hard Brexit, Sturgeon would have to sell the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK, joining the EU and being confronted with not just border posts for anyone wanting to travel south but tariffs for anyone wanting to trade with England.

She’d have her work cut out.The UK is a significantly more vital trading partner for Scotland than the remaining 27 countries of the EU. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK outstrip what it sell to Europe abour four to one, and it’s estimated that while 250,000 Scots jobs are tied to the EU, a million more rely on being in the UK.

Mr Millar misses one vital fact: as part of the UK, Scotland has no “trading partners,” because trade & industry is a reserved matter. Scotland cannot “export” to the rest of the UK or to the EU, because Scotland has no control over trade at all. Mr Millar is, intentionally or not, confusing domestic trade (which takes place within a sovereign state) and international trade (which takes place between other sovereign states). In domestic trade, it is the sovereign state’s government which has control – and in the UK, it is the UK Government which decides what goods & services go in and out of Scotland.

Much like GERS, Scotland’s “trade” situation is only a problem if an independent Scotland decides to do things exactly the same as it did while it was part of the UK – when the mere fact of independence would change things utterly. Scotland’s trade in the UK tells us nothing about an independent Scotland’s trade.

She can’t have another referendum unless she knowns she’s going to win it. For to lose two votes on the same subject – and her draft legislation published last week suggests she’s going for the same question but banking on different arguments – would provide a definitive answer, closing the issue down for a generation for real this time and begging questions not just about what next for the SNP but what’s the point of the SNP.

With Yes still hovering around the 45 per cent mark in current polls Sturgeon needs to add a good 15 per cent before she can consider triggering indyref2.

It’s strange commentators insist that support for independence has not risen given every single poll since the referendum has shown a rise in support, with several even showing an outright majority for independence. Indeed, there have been no less than two polls conducted this year which showed support for independence with double-digit lead figures.

As for the “point” of the SNP, I think that question answers itself.

Why would people vote for a party if they didn’t see a point to voting for them?

Now, some of her supporters point to the last independence campaign when support for the proposition rose from a historic position of around 25 per cent to 45 per cent by polling day. They claim the same can be done again.

But that was a long campaign and Sturgeon does not have the time, never mind the fact that most of the soft Yes vote has been hoovered up now and convincing those that remain will prove much harder.

The original Yes campaign was launched on 25th May 2012 – 2 years, 3 months, 24 days before the referendum. Earlier in the article, Mr Millar said that the First Minister had “a two-hand-a-half year window” between getting Scotland out of the UK, and the UK leaving the EU. Plus, we don’t have to get another 20% – we only need another 6%. Several polls show we’re either very close, or over the line already.

And, according to my Number 10 source, Theresa May knows all this.

That’s why she can dismiss Sturgeon’s bleating. Why she can sit around the Cabinet table with her as she did yesterday and, despite promising respect, actually give her short shrift.

May’s in the stronger position on this one. She’s newly installed, and confident that she can go to the country and win at will.

This is quite shocking – not because it suggests Theresa May has any sort of game plan, but that her game plan is based on completely faulty information. If Theresa May truly thinks that Scotland would have to leave and then rejoin the EU, that an independent Scotland’s trade would continue exactly as it did when it was part of the UK, and that support for independence has remained static since the 19th of September 2014, then all it tells us is that the Prime Minister is building her House of Brexit on a bed of quicksand.

Sturgeon’s overseeing an increasingly tired SNP administration (albeit, like May, there is no credible opposition to speak of). If she doesn’t deliver independence it’s not just her political career but the future of her entire party that would be pitched into the balance.

Mr Millar truly doesn’t seem to understand: for as long as Scotland is not independent, and for as long as there are people who want Scotland to be independent again, the SNP will continue to exist. Independence is now part of the mainstream popular discourse in Scottish politics. The metropolitan commentariat have been boldly predicting the party’s downfall since 2007, and the idea that failing to achieve independence would destroy the SNP was utterly refuted in the years since the referendum. Thinking that anything could stop Scottish independence at this point is wishful thinking on the part of those opposed to it.

Unlike David Cameron, May has no specifically Scottish special adviser and her dismissive tone towards Scotland has led some to speculate that she doesn’t get it or doesn’t care.

Quite the opposite.

If this is Theresa May “understanding” or “caring about” Scotland, then the UK is doomed. The people of Scotland do not look on Theresa May giving Nicola Sturgeon short shrift as a dismissal of the SNP: we look on it as a dismissal of our democratically elected First Minister, who has a far greater popular mandate, and is seeking to represent the wishes of the 62% of Scots who voted for the UK to remain in the EU. It is Theresa May, not Nicola Sturgeon, who imperils her “precious union” by threatening to make Scots choose between the UK and the EU.

It’s entirely possible James Millar does inhabit some strange reality apart from our own, where up is down, right is left, and Gordon Brown is a respected elder statesman. But every point he puts forward which says a Hard Brexit will strengthen the UK is based either on faulty premises our outright untruths. The media of which Mr Millar is a part may agree with him, but it’s a useful reminder as to why the people of Scotland are continuing to turn away from the press in their droves.

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3 thoughts on “James Millar: Another metropolitan columnist

  1. Andy McKirdy

    The problem for all of us who want independence is that this self same Britnat media control the ignorance of a large number of our population, who despite their apathy, lack of knowledge on a whole raft of subjects and their complete ignorance of the true facts surrounding Scotlands wealth and resources have 1 vote each in every election or referendum same as you and me.
    So unless we change that we are still just all talking to ourselves.

  2. Iain Barker

    Please don’t enlighten them as they are well beyond enlightening. I would leave them in the cesspit of their own diarrhoea for all eternity.

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