There’s an important question to be asked in Scottish politics. Important like it’s important to ask how much life remains in a zombie. That question is, what precisely would it take to get the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland to recognise that Scotland’s best interests would be served by independence, and not by remaining a part of the UK. We got an answer to that question yesterday, and the answer is “nothing at all”.
There are no imaginable circumstances under which Kezia Dugdale and Anas Sarwar would concede that the Union gemme is a bogey as far as Scotland is concerned. Theresa May is taking the UK out of the EU, out of the single market, out of the supervision of the European courts which guarantee our employment and civil rights, and Labour is fine with that. We’re deeply disappointed, said Labour in Scotland, but it’s not an excuse for an independence referendum.
Theresa May could announce that in order to tackle the UK’s eye watering national debt she had decided to sell off five year olds into a life of servitude in the slave army of the extraterrestrial lizard people from Alpha Centauri, and Labour in Scotland would put out a statement saying that they were deeply disappointed that children were being put on spacecraft and sent off to the radium infested dilithium mines of the Cygnus Quadrant, but it wasn’t an excuse for another independence referendum and we should welcome the opportunity that being a part of the UK single market gives Scotland to strike trade deals with our alien lizard overlords.
It would be just another example of what Theresa May called on Tuesday Britain’s proudly internationalist history. Which is an interesting way of describing the slave trade, colonialism, genocide, and imperialism. She chose to present her Brexit speech while dressed in a clown costume, because it’s the only way that anyone could make Boris Johnson seem like a serious statesperson. And she chose well, because today the world is laughing at Britain, the toothless mangy cat that thinks it can roar like a lion. Britain is an embarrassment. There is a justifiable cringe in Scotland, and it’s the cringe that comes from the realisation that these selfish self-serving arrogant fools represent us on the world stage.
The Tories could announce that as a cost saving measure they were replacing the NHS with a wire brush and a bottle of dettol which could be hired for a very reasonable rate simply by calling a premium rate phone line, and Labour in Scotland would put out a statement saying that they were deeply disappointed but it wasn’t a reason for another independence referendum. And then they’d add that it’s important to show solidarity with working people in Birmingham and Bristol by scrubbing disabled Scottish people with disinfectant and poking them with brooms. Showing solidarity with working people in Barcelona or Bonn or Bologna doesn’t occur to Labour, because they’re not nationalists at all. Oh no. They’re British. Nationalism is an affliction of lesser breeds.
Labour’s Scottish leadership doesn’t grasp the difference between solidary and a suicide pact. The UK government is driving their bus with its lying £350 million message off a cliff, and Labour in Scotland doesn’t want us to use the emergency door. Saying that there are no circumstances under which you could possibly conceive of a Scotland which would be better off escaping the nasty and vicious state that the UK is becoming is suspiciously cultish behaviour. Although that may possibly be a typo.
To their credit, at least Labour did support a motion in Holyrood on Tuesday to defend Scotland’s place in the single market, albeit with the caveat that it had to be within the UK. The Lib Dems, who like to present themselves as the most stalwart defenders of Britain’s EU membership, voted against the motion along with the Tories. And so Wullie Rennie’s wee band of bus passengers managed to prove that it is actually possibly to be more hypocritical and duplicitous than the Labour party in Scotland. That’s quite an achievement, like having worse hair than Donald Trump.
The Ruth Davidson Fan Club is desperately hoping we forget that just a few short months ago she was telling anyone who would listen that leaving the EU and the single market would be a disaster for the Scottish economy. But within twenty four hours of the EU vote she was bigging up Brexit as the best thing since a bacon butty. Although we’ll be paying a lot more for those in future as most bacon is Danish and the arse has fallen out the pound. Ruthie’s getting off very lightly in the Scottish media for her 180 degree change of mind, but that’s why she likes tanks, because the turret can swivel in any direction.
We know now that the Unionist parties in Scotland are not remotely interested in what’s best for Scotland. Their loyalties lie with the Westminster parliament. What May presented us with on Tuesday was the absolute worst case scenario for Brexit, and for good measure she foolishly threatened the rest of the EU with an economic race to the bottom that the UK can only lose. We’re heading off a Brexit cliff to smash on the rocks of right wing extremism, and what remains will be left to sink or swim as the rich head for the privatised lifeboats. And this foolish arrogant government has the nerve to demand unity.
Yet still Labour and the Lib Dems don’t want Scotland to examine all and every means of escaping the dystopian right wing neoconservative nightmare that is in store for us. A future in which Scotland will be little more than a glorified English region, stripped of all political significance and bereft of influence or any ability to shape the course of UK politics. It’s a state in which Scottish interests are not considered or even noticed. A state in which Scotland’s role is to allow English nationalists to pretend that their Britishness means they’re not nationalist at all. We’re destined to be the last vestige of a lost empire, a balm to Britain’s post-imperial angst, existing solely to boost the ego of a decrepit state and to reassure it that it still possesses something. Britain is the Norma Desmond of Europe, manically cackling that it’s still great even though the role it can play has got small. If the horrific magnitude of May’s economically catastrophic vision of a hard as nails Brexit won’t shake Kezia or Wullie Rennie out of their red white and blue complacency, nothing will.
Some folk are always going to be a lost cause. We must strive to persuade the less strident and the wavering No voters of last time that this time the disadvantages of remaining a part of the UK far outweigh any risks of becoming an independent country. If you value social democracy, if you treasure public services, if you believe that a country should be run in the interests of the many not the few, if you espouse tolerance and acceptance, if you understand that kindness and dignity go hand in hand, and equality is the lifeblood of a fair and just society, then you have to support independence. The alternative is a future without a state pension, without the NHS, without public services in a down at heel version of a tax haven where most people struggle to make ends meet and must work like slaves in the dilithium mines until they drop dead from exhaustion and age.
Ironically, if we want to protect and defend the positive things about Britain, the NHS, our public services, an open acceptance of difference, an understanding that diversity is a strength not something to fear, we can only do so with independence. The Britain that 2014’s No voters thought they supported doesn’t exist any more. It has killed itself in the fires of hatred and fear. Scotland doesn’t have to follow. Let’s choose a different path.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-18th-jan-2017
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