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Too close to see? – Towards Indyref2…

Too close to see?

Why is it that politicians think they are fully aware what the consequences of Brexit will be – “Brexit will be an absolute disaster for Scotland, cutting average pay by £2000 and resulting in the loss of 80 000 jobs.” – but suppose that the rest of us must actually experience the impact before we become similarly aware? Politicians can figure it out from the evidence available. But voters can’t. We need to feel the pain in order to be motivated to act.

Even if this were true, surely we elect these uncommonly prescient politicians to rescue us from our own stupidity. Surely we expect them to use their powers of analysis and deduction for our benefit. What’s the point of them if they don’t warn us of imminent danger and lead us away from the perils and pitfalls?

But, of course, we are not stupid. For the most part, Scotland’s people are perfectly capable of working out what Brexit implies. At the very least, they know that it is being imposed on Scotland against the democratic will of the people. And they’d have to be sub-couch potato dullards to be oblivious to the blundering incompetence of the British government’s cracked team of Brexit negotiators.

Politicians seem to imagine that we need to have hit the Brexit iceberg and be going down like the Titanic before it dawns on us what is happening. This is both fallacious and insulting. With the exception of a few blinkered ideologues (mainly British nationalists), we all can see that looming iceberg. And we want to avoid it. We sure as hell don’t want to hit it just to prove a point. We don’t relish the prospect of standing on the deck of that sinking ship chanting, “We told you so!”.

Pete Wishart says the Scottish people “will almost certainly want to fully review and consider all their available constitutional options” in the light of Brexit. But what might those options be? The only certainty is that the status quo is not on the table. It is plainly evident, even to those of us lacking the prognosticative attributes of the politician, that the existing devolution settlement is headed for the British nationalist shredder. The British political establishment could hardly have been more explicit in telling us that neither the people of Scotland nor our democratically elected representatives will be permitted any meaningful role in shaping whatever it is that replaces the existing constitutional arrangement. The new arrangement will be imposed on Scotland in the same way that Brexit and austerity are.

So, what are our “constitutional options”? Or, more importantly, what choices will be available to us if we wait until the Brexit process is finalised?

How credible is it that, having unilaterally ripped up the devolution settlement and arbitrarily imposed a new regime without consultation or consent, the British state might still be prepared to accommodate popular sovereignty? Why would anybody believe that, having taken the No vote in 2014 as a mandate to ride roughshod over Scotland’s democratic institutions, ‘One Nation’ British Nationalists will decline to take measures intended to eradicate Scotland’s distinctive political culture?

How likely is it that, having put a massive effort into denying Scotland’s right of self-determination, the British political elite will then have a change of heart?

Given its all to evident ambition to lock Scotland into an imposed political union, we must assume that the British government will use the opportunity offered by quitting the EU to constitutionally redefine the UK. We must expect that they will enshrine in law the ‘indissoluble unity of the British nation’, emulating the Spanish constitution and creating conditions that would make Scotland liable to a British version of the vicious repression currently being visited on Catalonia.

What “constitutional options” will we have then, Mr Wishart? Is it possible that, being so long embedded in the very heart of the British beast, you have lost sight of just how covetous and malicious it can be? Could it be that those of us on the outside see more than you do?

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17 thoughts on “Too close to see?

  1. c avery

    Peter, deeply disappointed in Wishart’s comments. If i read correctly he is advocating that the next referendum be in 2021… after the next Holyrood election? I don’t think they (him and Swinney) understand how churlish the small conservative settler villages are in Perthshire where demonstrative supporters like myself are open to opprobrium and now ridicule. The contradictory irony too… on the one hand i get a flyer from local SNP branch asking me to demonstrate my support for the party and independence and on the other the local politicians are stalling again. I am sick of it.

    There will be no one left to vote for independence come 2021…the EU citizens and the EU will be gone and the populous too feart to face the world without England or the comfort of the EU.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      Don’t get angry! Get active! If Pete Wishart is reflecting a view widely held among the party leadership then it is up to the rest of us to persuade them otherwise. The SNP is a democratic party. The members have real influence.

      And it’s not only a matter for the party membership. The entire Yes movement must get behind the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon so as to give them the confidence of a massive popular mandate.

      The SNP did not drag us along on its quest for political power. The people of Scotland pushed the SNP to the vanguard of our quest for independence. We have to keep pushing. We have to push harder.

      1. C avery

        I was in Glasgow declaring my support; sat next to you at the Botanic Gardens… the SNP told us not to go.

        My flags are still up and i’m still in the party and the Yes campaign but we need some proactive not reactive politics from the SNP.

        1. Peter A Bell Post author

          I certainly agree that “proactive not reactive politics” is an idea with great intuitive appeal. But there is a problem. The present British government is exceptionally unpredictable. Which makes it very difficult for the SNP to plan a political strategy. It’s not so much of a problem for British Labour because they and the Tories are like dancing partners. They both move to the beat of British nationalist ideology. Nicola Sturgeon is trying to do her own dance despite this deafening cacophony. A more nuanced and intricate choreography. It’s like trying to do the Dying Swan to the sound of a really bad, but extremely loud, Austrian oompah band.

          What may look like the SNP being excessively hesitant and overly reactive may actually be just a case of the party sensibly keeping its options open. Options are good. In politics, options are gold.

          But the availability of options implies the necessity of choice. At some point, a course of action has to be decided upon. Some options have to be sacrificed for the purpose of moving the project forward. Political decisions must be made.

          I am not at all unhappy that Nicola is taking great care over choosing the moment to formally announce a new independence referendum. Looking back, one can see many occasions where, had she succumbed to the clamour for a firm date, this would have been rendered a very bad decision by subsequent developments. Imagine, for example, that the announcement had clashed with the calling of a snap UK general election.

          And there’s time. The announcement could be held back until next spring or even early summer and still allow ample time campaigning before September 2018. We neither need nor want a long campaign. A protracted campaign suits the grinding negativity of British nationalist propaganda. If the Yes movement gets solidly behind the SNP with an effective campaign a Yes vote can be won in three months.

          The three components of that campaign are:

          Reinforce the fundamental constitutional arguments for independence
          Emphasise the opportunities for independent Scotland
          Attack the Union – make people aware of just how bad it is

          Rather than nipping at Nicola Sturgeon’s heels trying to drive her to make an announcement we would do better to ensure that we are fully geared up for that campaign. Especially the third part. The case for independence has been made. The key to securing a Yes vote is loosening people’s grip on the Union.

  2. bringiton

    I hope you are right Peter but the Cringe is deeply embedded in the Scottish psyche and for many,independence is completely impossible to contemplate.
    Hopefully when the full horrors of Brexit become apparent,minds may shift.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      As I commented elsewhere, when you’re pushed off a high building you don’t have to wait until you land to know it’s not going to turn out well.

      We already know all we need to know. In a very real sense, the outcome of Brexit negotiations is irrelevant. The people of Scotland voted Remain. That’s all that matters.

      It’s not actually Brexit that’s the issue. The issue is that the Union allows the British state to impose Brexit on us. The issue is that the Parliament and government which the people of Scotland elected can be overruled by a clique of British politicians whom the people of Scotland rejected. That issue has existed ever since the Union was foisted on Scotland. Brexit is merely a current and glaring example of the democratic deficit.

  3. stewartb

    “The British political establishment could hardly have been more explicit in telling us that neither the people of Scotland nor our democratically elected representatives will be permitted any meaningful role in shaping whatever it is that replaces the existing constitutional arrangement.”

    Agreed, and Mr Sarwar is now complicit in allowing this to happen. At his hustings today, he tells the world that we in Scotland ‘have no appetite’ to vote in a referendum – we have no wish to have the opportunity to express a view on our future in the EU!

    The implication of Sarwar’s view seems to be that we in Scotland, including our own Parliament, should just wait around until the Tories in Westminster decide our fate for us – or wait until Labour finally decides on its EU policy and then, perhaps, wins a GE, sometime. Is leaving it up to politics in England to decide for Scotland the new Labour concept of ‘solidarity’?

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      On the constitutional issue, at least, it is pointless to differentiate between – or among – the British parties. They all adhere to precisely the same British nationalist line. They chant in chorus, “The Union at any cost!”.

      The overarching division in Scottish politics is between Scotland’s inclusive, outward-looking, aspirational civic nationalism and this narrow, isolationist, inward-looking, reactionary British nationalism. Scotland cannot make progress until the constitutional issue is resolved. And it can only be resolved by restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      When people say there is insufficient support for independence at this time they tend to forget that there is no active campaign for independence at the moment. While the British nationalist anti-independence campaign has never let up, the Yes campaign has merely been ticking over.

      Campaigning isn’t a matter of waiting until the polls are favourable. Campaigning is about moving the polls. It is about persuading people. It is about changing perceptions and attitudes.

      The Yes movement is geared up and poised ready to undertake this task. We only await the word from Nicola Sturgeon. In many ways, the timing of the announcement is more critical than the actual date of our new referendum. I trust Nicola Sturgeon and those around her to make the right decision on that.

      One of the most significant factors that she and her advisers will take into consideration has to be confidence in the overwhelming support of the Yes movement. We can debate the matter of the best time to hold that new independence referendum. But, for the sake of the independence project, we have to assure Nicola that she has our full support whatever date she chooses.

  4. Duncan Clark

    I’m not sure I agree with your analysis here Peter.
    1: I’m sure Pete Wishart sees the dangers in waiting till after the next HR election.
    2: if the Scottish populace can work out for themselves that Brexit will be a disaster and don’t need it to hit to feel the damage,how come there has been no shift in the polls for a change to the constitutional arrangements i.e. Suppprt for Indy? Similarly, who come in GE 2017 suppprt for SNP went down and suppprt for unionist/ Brexit supporting parties went up?

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      If Pete Wishart is aware of the consequences of failing to secure a Yes vote before the British government unilaterally alters Scotland’s constitutional status within an indissoluble and indivisible British nation, then he has a strange way of demonstrating this awareness.

      We must, however, bear in mind that Pete was speaking in a personal capacity. While he is, deservedly, a highly influential figure within the SNP, he was not offering a statement of party policy or hinting at the Scottish Government’s intentions. We should be mindful that this is serious politics. It is perfectly possible that Pete was merely flying a kite to test reaction. Time will tell.

      It is a grave mistake to read too much into the 2017 UK general election results. The outcome can be interpreted in many ways, depending on your prejudices and how things are weighted. It would be just as valid to say that the SNP’s status remained unchanged by the election. The loss of seats can be explained as an inevitable correction to the extraordinary landslide in 2015. Making comparisons dubious, at best.

      This correction could also explain a large part of the decline in the SNP’s vote. The remainder might be put down to it being a snap election for which the party was not particularly well prepared. BTW – This is less of a problem for the British parties as their campaigns barely change from one election to the next, while the SNP is always held to a higher standard and must offer something fresh each time.

      But The SNP still won. It still holds the majority of Scottish seats. It still holds more seats than all the British parties combined. It is still the third largest party at Westminster. Pete Wishart is still chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee.

      By all of these meaningful measures and more; all the things that the party and its supporters hailed most enthusiastically in 2015, May’s snap election changed absolutely nothing for the SNP.

      Which is not to say the SNP should disregard the result. But I’d be surprised if cool heads in the party are as eager as some to echo the woefully negative narrative churned out by the British state’s propaganda machine.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      All these activities are vital. Even if they do no more than keep things ticking over. The Yes movement has to be highly visible to counter British nationalist claims that the independence campaign is lagging..

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