This is where I get to say, “Ah telt ye!” Since the EU referendum was announced I have been warning that the British establishment would seek to use withdrawal from the EU as an opportunity to constitutionally redefine the UK; and that this would inevitably be to Scotland’s detriment.
To be fair, you didn’t have to be all that smart to see it coming. The British establishment is desperate for an ‘enduring’ solution to the Scottish problem. Devolution was supposed to keep a lid on Scotland’s aspirations. It was meant to mask the fundamental flaws that make the political union between Scotland and England untenable. Flaws that have lain at the heart of this constitutional lash-up from its inception, awaiting only a time when simmering discontent with the arrangement might find a voice, and a forum in which that voice might be heard.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) was, for decades, the voice of Scotland’s independence movement. The niggling, nagging voice that kept alive the realisation that there was something not right about the Union. That, in fact, there was something very wrong with it. Firstly, there was the asymmetry; a gross imbalance of power which, even in the pre-democratic era, rankled with those possessed of a basic sense of fairness.
Then there was the intractable conflict between the incompatible concepts of parliamentary and popular sovereignty. To put it more simply than might be deemed wise but must suffice for present purposes, the Union represented an affront to something residing deep in the Scottish psyche. Something that was, and is, far from unique to the people of Scotland. But which was directly and noticeably offended by being denied with the imposition of the alien idea of parliamentary sovereignty.
These two things – asymmetry and denial of the sovereignty of the people – sparked a resentment that was never going to dissipate. It would be submerged in times of prosperity and peril. But it would always return. Because the causes would always remain. The SNP became the political agency of those who were not prepared to meekly accept the abiding constitutional injustice of the Union. It is opposed by those who regard that injustice as a price worth paying for access to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
Scotland’s independence movement now had a voice. It needed a forum. That forum was provided when, on 12 May 1999, Winnie Ewing declared,
“The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened.”
From the perspective of the British state, those words were the trigger for chain of unintended consequences. The rise of the SNP with growing awareness of the true nature of the Union; the evolution of a particular form of civic nationalism; the development of a distinctive political culture; the organic blossoming of the gloriously democratic Yes movement, and, perhaps most importantly, the shifting of the locus of Scottish politics from Westminster to Holyrood.
Yesterday, Theresa May declared her intention to put an end to all of this. A politician who has absolutely no mandate in Scotland announced her intention to impose on Scotland the authority of a government that has no mandate here.
Her tone was imperious. Her attitude was arrogant. Her language was confrontational. Her purpose was unmistakeable. Scotland is to be locked into a United Kingdom reconstituted as the embodiment of a British nationalist ideology which is anathema to at least half the people of Scotland.
Ah telt ye!
The only thing that I didn’t predict was the manner of this challenge to Scotland’s democracy and identity. I didn’t foresee that it would be quite so massively unsubtle and brazenly combative. Although, in my own defence, I have lately been voicing concerns that Theresa May seemed capable of any kind of madness. We now know something of the extent of this madness.
It will take some time to properly come to terms with the full implications of Theresa May’s speech. But know this! The implications are profound. The choices facing the people of Scotland are crystallising in a way, and at a rate, that I had not anticipated. I am wary of hasty reactions to major developments. But my immediate response is to welcome this.
If the issue is to be reduced to a choice between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon; between Westminster and Holyrood; between the British state being created by the Tories and the Scotland to which we aspire, I’m pretty sure I know which way most of Scotland will go.
Bring it on!Views: 8969
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