Our caring sharing listening and respectful Tory government has announced that it’s going to press ahead with Brexit negotiations without the approval of parliament, and without any meaningful input from Scotland. Scotland’s going to get poured a big bowl of stale Brexit cereal and we’ll be expected to eat it up quietly and do what we’re told. In the Tory fantasy image of the British platoon of nations, Scotland is the morose lance corporal who obeys the orders of the public school educated posh boy.
This week Theresa May held a cabinet meeting to discuss the Brexit negotiations. The British government still doesn’t have a clue about how it’s going to get what it wants, other than demanding it imperiously in a loud voice in the expectation that Johnny Foreigner will jolly well do as he’s told. What they want is for the UK to stop immigration from other European countries, but still to have access to the single market for goods and services, and crucially for British financial companies to have unfettered rights to trade in the EU. The EU has made it very clear that you don’t get one without the other. No free movement of people, no free access of goods and services. As it embarks upon the Brexit negotiations, the UK is going to be in for a harsh lesson in the fact that you don’t always get what you want.
There’s already a hard border between the UK and most of the EU, as asylum seekers in Calais have discovered. Certain Unionist commentators have suggested that there would be a similar border between Scotland and England and this means it’s going to be impossible for Scotland to become independent. After independence, they say, there will be a hard border between Scotland and England complete with immigration controls, passport checks, and burly men of the sort Ruth Davidson warns about.
How else is the poor UK going to prevent hordes of migrants from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia flooding across the Tweed on home made rafts? Scotland will become the go-to destination of migrants seeking access to the UK. Hundreds of thousands of them are going to sail across the Channel, then hike across England to reach Scotland so that they can find a rubber dinghy salesperson in Coldstream and cross back into England again.
Perched as we are in the far north-western corner of Europe and without any land frontiers with any other countries but England and separated from continental Europe by hundreds of miles of stormy North Atlantic, Scotland is geographically ideally placed as a lauch pad into England for migrants from the rest of the world. But only if they can teleport. And if they can teleport then they wouldn’t need to come into Scotland in the first place. The argument that an independent Scotland would be a destination for migrants seeking to reach England is an argument that’s geographically illiterate, but it doesn’t stop the more desperate Daily Mail types from making it.
While Scotland is threatened with barbed wire fences, and body searches by burly men, the Tory government is reassuring the Irish that after Brexit there’s going to be no hard border between the Irish Republic and the UK. Speaking in Belfast on Thursday, the Tories Brexiteer-in-Chief David Davis said that there would be no return to armed checkpoints and border checks along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. He pointed out that there was a Common Travel Area in place between the UK and the Irish Republic for many years before either became members of the EU and that he expected that to continue.
What’s sauce for the Irish goose is sauce for the Scottish gander. The Unionist parties can’t argue that there will be no hard border between the Irish Republic and the UK while insisting that there’s going to be one between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK. Mind you, that won’t stop them from trying it on. And it won’t stop the Unionist media from not pointing out the contradiction in their argument.
We had all this during the last independence referendum campaign, and we’ll have it again during the next one. The usual suspects will scrutinise and criticise every detail of the case for independence, while even the most outrageous claims of the Unionist parties will go unchallenged. Remember Magrit Curran’s claims that she didn’t want independence because she didn’t want her weans to become foreigners? That claim went unchallenged even though everyone who was born a UK citizen would remain a UK citizen even after Scottish independence, and the children of UK citizens also have the right to UK citizenship.
So Magrit’s weans wouldn’t be foreigners to her after all, she’d still have her precious UK citizenship, so would her weans. She’d also have the right to Scottish citizenship, and so would her weans. Mind you, the argument that you don’t want independence because you don’t want your children to become foreigners to you isn’t an argument against independence anyway. It’s an argument that you are desperately in need of family centred therapy and counselling. If your relationship with your kids or other family members is going to be prejudiced because you hold a different passport from them, there’s something seriously astray in the internal dynamics of your own family. No amount of constitutional legislation can help you with that.
But there’s also the wee point that the last bit of these islands to declare independence from Westminster isn’t foreign either. The Ireland Act of 1949 declares that Irish citizens do not count as foreigners under British law. None of this was highlighted when the Unionist parties threatened us with foreign status and with barbed wire fences along the border. The press was quite happy to report the comments of the likes of Magrit without challenge. No matter how ridiculous the claims that were made, they were never examined critically.
That doesn’t just apply to discussions about the border and to the Irish Republic, it applies across the board. If we want to counteract the scaremongering of Unionist parties which are terrified of losing their power and their privilege, we’re going to have to do it for ourselves. Thankfully we’ve learned how to do that, we know how to organise, we know how to dominate social media, we know how to embark on a grassroots movement that reaches into every home in the land. We’ve already started the second independence referendum campaign, and this time we’re ready for them.
Audio version of this blog, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-1st-sept-2016?in=occamshaver/sets/wee-ginger-dug-blogs
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