Whose side are you on?

‘Whose side are you on?’, asks the man famed for nothing more than his resolute fence-sitting. At least Henry McLeish gave us a wee laugh to sustain us we set sail on the subsequent sea of confusion.

Credit where it’s due! He is also careful to refer to “13 Conservative MPs from Scotland”, rather than 13 Scottish Conservative MPs. I would hope – but not expect – that he would exercise similar terminological exactitude when referring to the 7 Labour MPs from Scotland. Or, should the occasion ever arise, the 4 Liberal Democratic MPs from Scotland. Because what we must bear in mind when talking about taking sides is that these are all British MPs. Every single one of them stood on a platform of British nationalism. Not one of them is prepared to honour the democratic choices of Scotland’s people. Each of them is guilty of the same contempt for the will of the Scottish Parliament. There can be no doubt about whose side they are on. They have, individually and collectively, declared that their allegiance is first, last and always to the British state.

By referring to them as “MPs from Scotland”, McLeish appears to be signalling his awareness of whose side they have declared for. Perhaps his question was rhetorical. But, if so, why was it addressed only to the British Tories who managed to get elected in Scottish constituencies? Why does he exclude British Labour and the British Liberal Democrats? If McLeish is being facetious about the allegiance of these British politicians, surely all of them are equally deserving of his barbed enquiry.

Is he also being facetious when he comments, “Once again Theresa May is turning her back on four-nation politics.”? Is this a sarcastic reference to her explicit ‘One Nation’ British nationalism? Or is he genuinely unaware that this is the ideology which now prevails within the British political system? And, again, why does he pick on the Tories? Jeremy Corbyn espouses precisely the same ideology. Indeed, it would be difficult to identify any British politician who doesn’t. Although many might try to deny it – doubtless with all the theatrical indignation at their disposal.

But the most serious sign of confusion comes when Henry McLeish calls on the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and the First Minister to “ruthlessly pursue” the “derailing” and eventual “defeat” of Brexit. That is precisely what they cannot do, and must not attempt. There is no mandate. The people of England and Wales voted to quit the EU. However much that may have been an “act of intense self-harm”, Scotland has absolutely no right to dispute that choice. Our political leaders and institutions must respect the democratic will of those people just as we demand that their political leaders and institutions respect ours. How could it possibly be otherwise?

When we talk about “sides” here we are talking about two mutually exclusive, incompatible and irreconcilable positions. The UK Government is absolutely committed to taking the entire UK out of the EU. The only position available to the Scottish Government is that Scotland must remain in the EU. There is no compromise. There is no fudge. Talk of ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘soft Brexit’ is meaningless distraction. Talk of ‘jobs-first Brexit’ is just inane sloganeering. What we have here is as clear-cut and ‘pure’ a conflict of interest as one is ever likely to find in the generally murky and shifting world of politics.

There is no settlement short of Scotland retaining its existing relationship with the EU – according to the wishes of the Scottish electorate – which will satisfy me. Nor should it satisfy anyone who upholds the principles of democracy – regardless of which party they represent.

The choice is between Holyrood and Westminster. Between Scotland’s inclusive, progressive, democratic political culture and narrow, exclusive, imperious British nationalism. Between the people of Scotland and the ruling elites of the British state.

Whose side are you on?

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5 thoughts on “Whose side are you on?

  1. grizebard

    Yes, poor Henry is desperately conflicted, so his question posed to the “Tories from Scotland” does rather ring hollow, not least because it also studiously ignores his own party’s (non-)contribution as well as that of the FibDems, as Peter helpfully points out.

    The article is quite right. There is no “soft Brexit”. If an agreement of any kind can be reached, which is by no means a certainty, what may transpire is a “slow-mo Brexit”, where the transition is spread over a number of years, if only to prevent sudden mega-jams at customs posts on both sides of La Manche and the pound going into free-fall. The BritNat isolationists hope that somehow everything can be fudged without people noticing all of a sudden. Some ambition, that!

    Since Corbyn Labour is just as committed to an all-UK Brexit as are the Tories, the only logical conclusion Henry can draw from his declared opposition to Brexit (equally as conformant with the clear preference of the people of Scotland as the exact opposite is with the preference of our southern neighbours) is to fully and unequivocally support independence.

    For once it’s really that simple, Henry!

  2. bringiton

    The Scottish parliament is not permanent.
    The Tories are about to change the “most powerful devolved
    parliament in the world” into an assembly with less powers than a parish council,because they can.
    The lies told by Phony Blair and his sidekicks are now being openly exposed and that includes McLeish.
    The fraudulent facade of devolution erected by Labour is about to be blown down by the big bad wolf in London,leaving Scotland where it has always been since 1707,without democratic representation.
    McLeish is about 18 years too late with his concerns.

  3. scrandoonyeah

    Peter, you are definitely on song and McLeish has been singing the same bum note for years and it is beginning to become extremely irritating.

    He should either stand up and accept the reality or sit down and shut the F**k up.

  4. Brian Powell

    Henry has as much substance as a jelly. If the SNP falls then Scotland goes wherever Westminster decides.
    If Labour manage to win the Tories will be back, and Labour is doing pretty much what the Tories propose.
    Neither have a plan for Brexit, just empty rhetoric, the EU will move on and Westminster will go on with political tactics and assure themselves they have down well, but when it dons’t go well they will be looking within the UK for the next scapegoat.

  5. Jockanese Wind Talker

    Henry has a problem.

    He never received a title like Jack McConnell got.

    Probably due to:

    “Henry Baird McLeish PC (born 15 June 1948) is a Scottish Labour Party politician, author and academic who briefly served as the First Minister of Scotland from 2000 until 2001, when he had to resign following a financial scandal, the first major scandal to face the Scottish Parliament since its reincarnation.”

    He fence sits, hoping one day to be elevated to £300 per day Nirvana.

    To do anything else risks never achieving that goal.

    He does however have a few interesting Visiting Professorships to tide him over though.

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