Britain is continuing its not so stately descent into madness. The thing about collective madness is that when everyone else around you is behaving like a crazy, then that legitimises craziness. That’s how you end up with a situation where Boris Johnson is tipped as next Prime Minister, Nigel Farage is a respected elder statesman, and the Parliamentary Labour party thinks that it can ditch Jeremy Corbyn as a leader and expects the grass roots membership not to immediately vote him back into office again. Polls strongly point to ordinary Labour members doing just that, meaning Jeremy will lead a party where almost 80% of MPs and Labour’s entire cohort of MEPs have voted to get rid of him.
The most surprising thing about this entire disaster is that there are still people who honestly and sincerely believe that Scotland is best served being governed by Westminster. Collective insanity strikes again. Seriously, in a crisis who do you want to govern you? Someone who is trying to find a path out of the crisis, or people who are preoccupied with internal party politics while the country goes to pot around them and the economy goes down the tubes? It’s such a no brainer that even a single celled organism ought to be able to grasp the point.
We’re now several days on from the UK pushing the big red Brexit button, and we’re still no wiser about what’s happening to the country. With the exception of the Scottish Government, no one has a plan for Brexit, and there’s still no prospect of either of the two main UK parties having a plan for Brexit any time soon. Meanwhile the UK media is doing all it can to rubbish the Scottish Government’s attempts to seek some clarity in the mad Boris fog into which the UK has been plunged. The UK has turned into a giant bucket of crabs and the Unionist media will do all it can to pull Scotland back down and keep us at the bottom of the bucket.
Over in Europe, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is naturally indulging himself in his usual sulk at the possibility that an independent Scotland could end up as a member of the EU. It has been reported in the press today that Rajoy has stated that the EU has no right to negotiate with Scotland, and that if the UK leaves the EU then Scotland must leave too. This has been reported by the usual suspects as a massive slap in the face for Nicola Sturgeon, which is a bit like claiming to be surprised that Dracula refused the vegetarian option at brunch.
If Rajoy concedes that a Scotland which is still a part of the UK, and which hasn’t held an independence referendum and decided to leave it, is able to negotiate its own EU membership with Brussels, then he opens the door to Catalonia embarking on its own negotiations with the EU. He’s never going to permit that. If the EU enters into formal negotiations with Scotland under current circumstances, then any sub-state entity could formally negotiate with the EU irrespective of the attitudes or policies of the state to which it belonged. That counts as meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
Much as it pains me to say it, Rajoy has a point here. The EU cannot negotiate potential membership with a Scotland which is still a subsidiary part of a UK which has voted to leave. We cannot be regarded as a potential member state as long as constitutionally we remain a part of another country, moreover a country which has just voted to flounce out of the EU in a massive anti-immigrant huff.
What this means is that if the preferred option of Kezia Dugdale and Wullie Rennie is to come to pass, a Scotland which remains a part of the UK while also remaining a part of the EU, then we’re going to have to rely on a Boris dominated Westminster and a Parliamentary Labour party in meltdown to negotiate that for us. We’ll be held hostage to the fortunes of Westminster parties which are more concerned about their short term party positioning than they are about the fate of the UK. Scotland’s fate comes a very very long way down their list of priorities.
The only potential way in which it could come about would be for a reinvigorated Labour party to fight and win a snap general election on a platform of retaining freedom of movement within the EU even though most of the UK has left Europe. The Tories aren’t going to do that, and the Tories will not concede a Scotland which is inside the EU while the rest of the UK has left. It’s going to be a nasty and bitter general election, and it’s quite likely that a resurgent UKIP will hoover up Labour votes in the working class communities of the North of England and South Wales which voted heavily in favour of leaving the EU during the referendum. We could find ourselves with the nightmare scenario of a UK government formed of a coalition between the Tories and UKIP, with Labour reduced to an ineffective minority, although how different that will be from the ineffective minority they currently consist of is a moot point.
Rajoy’s statement that if the UK leaves then Scotland leaves is more of a threat to the aspirations of those who want a twin track UK half-in, half-out, than it does to those who want an independent Scotland. If Scotland leaves the UK before the Brexit negotiations are concluded, then Rajoy’s objections no longer apply. Scotland will be in the unique position of being a country heading for independence which is already an EU member.
The only option for Scotland to ensure that we retain our EU membership is for us to hold an independence referendum and vote for independence before the UK pulls the Brexit trigger. Then, and only then, will be be able to make our case heard effectively in the corridors of Brussels, and then and only then will Scotland be able to argue that we should be treated as the continuing state in the same way that England and Wales would have insisted they were the continuing state had Scotland voted for independence in 2014. Then the question of vetoes from other EU member states will not apply, although I’ve already argued why Spain would not veto Scottish membership even if we did find ourself in the position of applying to the EU as an entirely new state.
In times of uncertainty it’s vital to act decisively. Westminster isn’t going to do it. Only Scotland can. As the Borisfog lingers, a second independence referendum is the beacon which illuminates the way out.
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