And we’re off… As it says on the running strap line at the bottom of the screen on the TV news channels, BREAKING: The United Kingdom. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, but the Scottish Government is to seek approval in the Scottish Parliament for a second independence referendum to be held sometime between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019. Since it can count on the support of both the SNP, who all by themselves outnumber all the Unionist MSPs combined, and the Greens, the vote will most certainly pass. Scotland will get a voice. It will get a voice because Scotland demands one, because Scotland insists on one, not because the British government is disposed to listen to us.
The only people who weren’t expecting another referendum are those who’ve spent the last couple of years in a state of deep denial, insisting that black is white, up is down, that the Vow was fulfilled, and that Alistair Carmichael is a much loved national treasure. So that would be much of the British Unionist establishment and their apologists and those who review the newspapers on Sky News, although to be fair the second of those categories is a subset of the first, those people who’ve been quite certain that Nicola Sturgeon was bluffing and who refused to be budged from their view no matter how much independence supporters tried to educate them to the contrary.
Theresa May is already claiming that the referendum would be divisive and create economic uncertainty, a bit like her Brexit is doing on steroids. An independence referendum is the cure for Theresa’s uncertainty and economic damage, it’s the result of her division. She’s only got herself to blame for provoking Scotland into seeking another vote since she herself has refused to listen, refused to engage, and refused to pay heed to the concerns and views of a country that voted to remain a part of the EU by a considerably larger margin than it voted to remain a part of the UK. Despite the claims of the leave campaign that Brexit would mean significant powers being returned to Holyrood from Brussels, Theresa said at the Tory conference that those powers wouldn’t go to Holyrood, but to Westminster instead. The devolution settlement says that all powers which are not specifically reserved to Westminster are devolved to Holyrood. Theresa May intends to rip that settlement up and unilaterally impose a new one of her own.
If Theresa wants to know what the justification for a second referendum is, she only needs to look in the mirror. Scotland is not facing a second independence referendum because of anything that the SNP or the wider independence movement has said or done. It’s happening because of the failure, the duplicity, and the ill-faith of the British government and the Unionist parties. It’s the intransigence of Theresa May that led to this happening. If she had done what she said she was going to do, to seek a Brexit that worked for everyone, if she’d prioritised her so-called precious Union, if she’d listened instead of doing an impression of a brick wall, there would be no second independence referendum.
Ruth Davidson was on telly, angrily denying that the Scottish Government doesn’t have a mandate for a second referendum. Nicola Sturgeon is always banging on about the constitution, scowled Ruth. That’s bad. Banging on about a second independence is my job, she sulked. Saying that there’s no mandate for a second referendum is a lie, plain and simple. You wouldn’t expect Ruthie to pay much attention to an SNP manifesto, but it quite clearly said in the SNP’s 2015 Holyrood manifesto that they’d seek a second independence referendum if there was a material change in circumstances, and it specifically cited Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will as something that would qualify as a change of circumstances. That’s a mandate. That’s a far clearer mandate than the one that Theresa May is relying on to take the whole of the UK out of the EU and into the hardest faced Brexit possible, despite the fact that much of the Leave campaign was assuring us all the way through the EU referendum campaign that leaving the EU didn’t necessarily mean leaving the single market. The Tories don’t really know what a mandate is though, their more Ukippish tendency think it’s a gay dating app which provokes flooding in Somerset.
Labour are once again opposed to a second independence referendum. Well, as far as anyone can be sure what Labour thinks about anything. Labour’s new slogan is Stronger Together, but they’re neither strong, nor together. At the weekend Jeremy Corbyn said that he wouldn’t oppose a second Scottish independence referendum if one was called, prompting an outbreak of zombie fever amongst the elected members of the Labour party in Scotland. Today he’s opposed again. According to Sky News he thinks it’s wrong to hold another independence referendum so soon, and the Labour party in Scotland will oppose it. Mind you, that’s the same Sky News whose press reviewers were convinced that Nicola Sturgeon was bluffing.
The Lib Dems aren’t happy either. They don’t want another referendum unless it’s another EU referendum. But that’s totally different and not hypocritical at all. Oh no. And Alistair Carmichael isn’t a big liar, Wullie Rennie is a voice of authority, and Menzies Campbell isn’t a zombie.
But the opposition of those who’ve always been opposed to Scotland seeking its own destiny is news in the same way that it’s news that if you plan your journeys using the BBC weather map as a guide, you can get from Stranraer to Aberdeen in fifteen minutes. This time, the stakes have never been higher. If Scotland is foolish enough to vote no a second time, the contempt with which Westminster treated us after the 2014 referendum will be magnified 100 times.
What’s more important than ever right now is that the independence movement, in all its glorious diversity, concentrates on the task ahead and ceases the infighting and backbiting that scarred the phony war that’s just finished. Now it’s the real deal, the real fight commences. Let’s focus our energies on challenging the scare stories and threats of Unionism. Let’s concentrate on building the case for a Scotland that chooses its own path. Let’s create a vision of a better future for a country that deserves better. We have work to do. Let’s get to it.
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