‘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?Views: 2566
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