Having won an EU referendum on the basis of preserving the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament, Brexiteers are now doing a happy dance at the news that MPs aren’t going to have a say on Brexit after all. Our entirely unelected Prime Minister has announced this week that she’s going to press the Brexit button without going to the bother of getting the consent of Parliament after all. According to legal advice, the referendum result is the only authority required.
A Scotland which voted to remain a member of the EU by a much larger margin than it voted to remain a part of the UK isn’t doing a happy dance because our MPs will have no opportunity to voice their protests or influence the Brexit negotiations, even though we’ve got a much better sense of rhythm than Nigel Farage. Although to be fair there are arthritic dads at weddings with more rhythm than Nigel. Scotland’s MPs will not be able to make Scotland’s case for remaining a part of the EU, nor to argue for the admittedly distant prospect of a Scotland that can remain a part of the EU while also remaining a part of the UK.
The reason for the announcement is to pull the rug out from under the Labour leadership contender Owen Thingummy who has been arguing that Brexit can be blocked by a vote in Westminster. With a tiny majority, the Conservatives can’t be certain that some of their more EU inclined MPs, and they do exist, might vote with the opposition or abstain.
So because of a short term party political difficulty, the arch-Unionist party has yet again grievously weakened the Union that they claim to defend. It’s all about short-termism and putting the interests of the party before the interests of the country with Westminster. It always is, it always has been. It was Cameron’s short-termism that got us all into this mess to begin with, and now May is repeating the same shoddy tricks. And this is the bunch of chancers who know nothing about Scotland and who care even less who tell us that they can govern Scotland better than people who live in this country and love it.
But we shouldn’t be too upset. In order to get Theresa May out of the short term difficulty that there’s a majority of pro-remain MPs in Westminster, our Tory masters have now established the principle that a referendum result is binding and cannot be contradicted by Westminster. They’ve also taken another step towards ruling out definitively any possibility that Scotland might be able to do the so-called reverse Greenland, a dance step requiring far more rhythm than Westminster possesses, and stay in the EU without a second independence referendum. All the Strictly Come Dancing appearances in the world by Labour politicians won’t teach them the deftness of foot they require to pull that one off.
May’s decision to go ahead with Brexit without bothering with a Parliamentary debate brings another Scottish independence referendum closer. Without any ability to argue for a special deal for Scotland allowing us to preserve our EU membership within the UK, the only way that we can remain an EU member is by becoming an independent country. And since the Tory government has just decided that the result of the EU referendum is binding and it doesn’t require parliamentary consent in order to go ahead with Brexit negotiations, then it’s going to be far more difficult for them to argue that negotiations following a Yes vote in a future Scottish referendum can be blocked by Westminster.
The Scottish Government’s long awaited Initiative for Independence is going to begin next week. Between now and sometime before the Brexit negotiations conclude, independence supporters from the SNP, the Greens, RISE, Labour supporters who are pro-indy, and non-party groups need to address the shortcomings in the previous campaign for independence, and build cross party support for a Scotland that decides its own place in the world.
Right now we’re in a phoney war. Brexit hasn’t started yet, and a second independence campaign hasn’t begun either. As the real consequences of Brexit begin to be realised, as businesses seek to relocate to EU countries, as agriculture and other sectors see the end of EU subsidies, it’s going to become easier to make an economic argument for an independent Scotland. That’s vital, because Better Together chose to fight the last independence campaign almost entirely on economic grounds. They did that because the political, cultural and social arguments for independence were unanswerable last time, and that’s even more the case now. There’s no longer a strong Labour party in Scotland that’s going to be able to do the Tories’ job for them and hide a reactionary and conservative union behind the fig leaves of promises of progressiveness. After they won the indyref in 2014 the fig leaves were dropped and we saw the pricks beneath.
Now it’s independence supporters who will be able to argue that it’s independence which will preserve and create jobs, it’s independence which provides security, and it’s remaining a part of the UK that will cause uncertainty and job losses. It’s independence which is the outward looking and internationalist choice, it’s remaining in the UK which is the narrow parochial nationalism. The arguments of the last independence referendum campaign will be stood on their head.
Meanwhile each and every promise and commitment which is made by the Unionist parties in the next referendum campaign can be countered by the simple statement – but you said that the last time and it turned out to be a lie. Preserving our EU membership? A lie. The most powerful devolved parliament in the world? A lie. Ship building on the Clyde? A lie. Scotland being a valued and respected part of the UK? A big fat ugly lie. The Unionists demand that the result of 2014 must be respected, but they demonstrate no respect for the people of Scotland.
The next independence referendum is going to be a stark choice between a progressive outward looking Scotland that wants maintain its connections with the rest of the world, and a reactionary Conservative party with minority support in this country which harks back to a nostalgic golden age of a Britain that never existed. We can have the fantasy of the Tories, or we can have a reality that we build for ourselves. That’s the choice that’s going to face Scotland. We can remain under the thumb of those who have no respect for us, or we can have the self-respect to do things for ourselves. If Scotland wants respect, we’re going to have to take it. That’s what the next referendum is really about. It’s a question of respect.
Audio link to this blog post, courtesy of @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/a-question-of-respect-28th-august-2016
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