In decades to come, if Donald Trump hasn’t set off WW3 or condemned us all to the collapse of civilisation due to rampant global warming or appalling hairstyles, historians will look back on 2014 as the great lost opportunity of the United Kingdom. 2014 was the year when the UK narrowly avoided losing one of the two constituent kingdoms which had created the Union and ceasing to be a united kingdom. 2014 was the year when the British establishment could have chosen to ensure that it kept Scotland firmly within the embrace of the British state. But that’s not what happened.
What happened was that the morning after Scotland voted to remain a part of the UK, the UK’s main political parties decided to play party political games. They were going to use their victory as an opportunity to attack the SNP, not treat it as a shot across their bows from a constituent part of the UK that was prepared to give the Westminster parliament one last opportunity to introduce the Scottish home rule that it had promised. But the Unionist parties thought that none of the promises or commitments that the Unionist parties made in order to win the vote needed to be honoured, because they believed that Scotland had no leverage with which to make them comply. They arrogantly ran roughshod over an entire country, and chose instead to slap Scotland in the face. It’s bad enough being slapped in the face, but Scotland got slapped in the face by David Mundell, which is even greater national humiliation than getting your arse kicked by Paddington Bear.
This week Ruth Davidson is in her spiritual home in London, where she’s gone to worship at the feet of her masters and mistresses in the Tory party. Ruth is so influential in the Tory party in Westminster that they think she’s called Ruth Harrison. Possibly because they believe she’s related to Keith Harrison, the Orville the Duck guy. Easy mistake to make, one puppet is much like another and after all Scotland is represented in the UK cabinet by an actual stuffed toy. We all know who is pulling the strings.
Ruth wants to tell anyone who is listening, which is mainly the right wing British press, all how awful that SNP is, for daring to complain about Brexit and how wrong it is of them to point out that being taken out of the EU and into a dystopian future where we’re besties with Donald Trump is not what Scotland signed up for. They’re weaponising Brexit! She cried. How dare they! How dare those vile Scottish nationalists complain that the fact that Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against its will is the exact opposite of what we told them would happen if Scotland voted to remain a part of the UK.
The threat to the Union is real, she said, which when put through a translator for English Tories who have a deaf ear to Scotland really means, “You lot have seriously screwed things up for Scottish Tories and my chances of more photo opportunities with buffalo and dead fish.” And then she added that the SNP is weaponising Brexit.
The only people who have weaponised Brexit are the Tories themselves. They’re hell bent on using the Brexit vote as a weapon which they can use to blow up the tattered remnants of the post-WW2 settlement that gave us the NHS, state pensions, and the social security safety net. The Tories call calling them out for their destruction of social care, the NHS, employment and civil rights, and their mendacious disregard for their own promises to Scotland “cranking up the grievance machine”. Because it’s wrong for us to complain when Tories lie, cheat, and dissemble. It’s even more wrong for us to seek redress. It’s most wrong of all for us to strive for a situation where we can protect ourselves from them.
The new free trading Britain that’s striding the globe doing deals with everyone and anyone, but mainly with dictators and orange skinned xenophobes with incredibly tiny hands, won’t do any deals with Scotland. It’s a sign of just how divorced from reality that the Tory party has become, as Ruth insists that Scotland will face trade barriers with the rest of the UK, her boss insists that the rest of the UK will be able to trade freely with the EU. Britain is leaving the EU so that it can make trade deal without hinderance, except it won’t want a trade deal with Scotland, its largest export market.
Ruth’s threat is far more damaging to the rest of the UK than it is to Scotland. Since Scotland is thinking about leaving the UK precisely because the UK is leaving the EU and Scotland wants to stay, that means that any trade barriers between the rest of the UK and Scotland will also be trade barriers between the rest of the UK and the EU. The Tories can’t have it both ways. But that doesn’t stop them pumping out one message for people south of the border and a different one for those of us to the north of it. Tory propaganda rests upon the belief that the population of Scotland have heads that button up the back.
The Scottish Tory leader promises that the UK is a Union that’s changing, that’s dynamic. She’s got that bit right. It’s changing into a unitary state in which the views and opinions of its contituent nations are trampled over and count for nothng. It’s dynamically pushing Scotland off a cliff and onto the rocks of Brexit. We heard during the 2014 referendum that the UK was changing, that a No vote was a vote for safer faster better change. Instead we got English votes for English laws, second class Scottish MPs, tax powers for Holyrood that the Secretary of State openly boasted were a trap for the SNP, and a Sewell Convention that isn’t worth the legal paper that it’s printed on.
The people who are pushing Scotland off the Brexit cliff are complaining that independence would be a leap in the dark. When Ruth Davidson complains that the prospect of a second independence referendum is a “grim possiblity” she means that it’s a grim possibility that her party might be held to account. Because she’s more than happy with the current situation in which the views and votes of Scotland mean nothing. The only way Scotland will get safer faster better change is to rejoin the family of independent states. That terrifies Ruth more than anything, because a Scotland that decides its own path in the world is a Scotland that won’t go down the path Ruth wants. No wonder she’s terrified. Her Brexit weapon has turned itself on the Tory party and the Union. The Tories weaponised Brexit and it has blown up in their faces.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-14th-feb-2017
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