A guest post by Samuel Miller
In the past few weeks of the silly season we’ve seen some pretty weird articles out there folks. There have been twatter spats, reversals, exposures and even whistle stop tours by the perenially confused. Media darlings of yesterday become today’s pariahs and yesterday’s pariahs become today’s media darling. We’ve had snark fests between the UK and EU negotiating teams on the rolling omnishambles which is Brexit and through it all, running like an annoying background tinny whine you can never shut down, the usual pure Essenpee badness is pumped out on permaloop. I’m sure it’s added a few pennies to the meeja’s coffers. I’m also sure it’s given some notoriety and headline space to the odd (very odd) personality, some deservedly and others not so much.
None of which does a single damn thing to allay the fears of Jock and Jeannie public. None of it gives people something concrete to hope for or hold on to. It feeds both rational and irrational fears, making an already bad situation damn near chaotic.
People don’t really ask for much when the poop hits the fan. They only require to be kept informed and that their representatives constitute a safe pair of hands. That they are trustworthy and transparent. That they pass relevant, accurate information on to their employers (that would be us) as soon as is reasonably and responsibly possible and that they act swiftly and decisively when the need arises. What we currently tend to get however, is policy by soundbite, decisive actions and bothersome details to be worked out later. Confusion, I’ve found, is good for central government (especially when they screw up monumentally) and when sold to the masses with a smidge of ‘hold the front page’ panic or some fleg wavy false patriotism? Well that sells copy, attracts readers and viewers for the media. Yay! Win win (sarc natch). Those with their own agenda and an empathy bypass, use the confusion and the manufactured fear to their own political advantage. Pretty certain readers could draw up a fairly lengthy list of their own usual suspects who fit that particular bill.
Bottom line is lots of speculation, opinion and rumour in the mainstream, but very little solid fact. Plenty of pundits telling you what they think other folk are thinking, but no change there then. Only a very rare handful of the UK’s public representatives doing anything in the way of providing notable stability or leadership in what are patently worrying times for people. The only UK leader to have taken direct public and legislative steps in the past year to allay those fears has been Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. (see under Brexit commission, public statements on citizenship and moves to legislate for an independence referendum)
The cataclysmic actions of Westminster government and those of the establishment parties over the space of the past year haven’t exactly helped to be sure. The more misinformation, lack of information and confusion there is? The more fear, frustration and doubt can take a grip and work on the mind.
So far as Scotland’s population is concerned, natural born, new Scots and more particularly the YES movement, where are we at and what should we be aware of? What do we know for sure?
Well first off, we know that we are in completely unprecedented legal and constitutional territory. The results of both referendums and especially the triggering of Article 50 and its ramifications is quite literally a first. The fallout across the board is an unknown and the effects for citizens who are members of multiple unions and nations with decades of accrued rights are in a state of flux. Put it another way. If the politicians, their negotiating teams and all the expertise they can call upon are essentially making the rules up as this unwinds, then everyone’s opinion is at best a guess.
However, in order of appearance: We know that we are currently still part of the UK and the political union, which falls under the category of ‘no shit Sherlock’. As such and so long as we remain party to the political union, our devolved legislature is currently in the process of exiting the European Union. (NOW DON’T ALL SHOUT AT ONCE!)
It cannot be stressed enough that the Scottish government are NOT the government of an independent Scotland. A slim majority, but a majority nonetheless, voted to entrust our futures and loan our full powers to the parliament of Westminster. They cannot act how we would wish and when we would wish it. They cannot act without a specific manifesto mandate or unless under very exceptional change in circumstances such as… a needlessly manufactured constitutional crisis, which Westminster politics duly supplied in 2016. So they did what was in their power to do whilst attempting to ensure that ALL of the public’s concerns and interests were met. Considering the clusterfudge that’s been dropped in their laps? No mean feat. Most, I’d guess, would say impossible.
Logically, the Scottish government, (ANY Scottish government), are legally bound to act in accordance with the nature of it’s devolved legislature, the current devolution settlement (the Scotland Bill) and the parliamentary democracy they have been elected under. They are bound to act in accordance with the results of referendums 2014 and 16 (don’t get me effing started) and the GE/SE results of elections 2015,16,17. Which means yes, they really did have to investigate a Brexit plan which would constitute remaining in both unions and latterly looking at single market access compromise options. (even when those parameters stick in the craw). Does any supporter of self determination like this arrangement? No. It’s safe to say no indy supporter likes or wants this gawdawful arrangement, but it is the way it is and until we can change it, then it’s how the Scottish government are constrained and compelled to act.
So to recap. A commission of experts was set up to explore a means of retaining both unions, access to the single market and retaining the accrued EU rights of EVERY Scottish citizen. The report of this commission’s findings was made into a proposal which Westminster apparently binned out of hand.
Still attempting to square impossible circles, First Minister Sturgeon set two things in motion. A parliamentary vote on the legislation for a second indyref and the forwarding of a compromise position to Westminster on Brexit participation and retaining single market access. The timing of this indyref to be delayed until after the Brexit position of the EU/UK has been clarified, but before ratification. This with the intention of offering Scotland’s citizens a choice on their preferred future. (Yes, I’m aware that some would prefer after ratification, some before and some yesterday, but that’s individuals strategy and this is about what we know.)
Why is the timing so vague? The two year clock most folk thought to be the backbone of A50 talks appears to be lengthening and shortening with every twist and turn for one. That and the result from June’s snap GE gave the SG pause for thought no doubt. The unionist parties fought a no indyref campaign and voted tactically to gain maximum constitutional advantage whilst the SNP fought… well, a general election. The unionist parties threw cash, media and personnel into a single policy campaign which paid limited dividends for them. A miscalculation by the SNP Scottish Government? That’s up to the reader. Regardless, we are where we are right now and that is STILL with an SNP majority in Westminster’s Scottish benches and a pro indy majority in Holyrood and STILL with a government willing to offer their electorate a choice. Will this remain the case after the next Scottish elections? Unkown, (psychic powers and crystal ball predictions come extra m’kay?), but the numbers are in place right now.
For all the imposed constraints and legality, does any of the above mean that the SNP have lost their appetite for, or changed their opinions on, independence? Well no. I don’t really see why it would.
Maybe something worth considering. Politics, when practised properly, isn’t the art of manipulating or forcing public opinion through the bestest marketing campaign and the biggest fibs. It’s not about dragging people anywhere against their wishes. That is the practice of politics which brought the UK to this sorry pass in the first place. It’s the art of persuading and influencing through debate and consensus, trial and error, action and example. Near as I can see, that is what the Scottish government are attempting to do. Persuade through action and example and yes, given the current predicament, that is fantastically frustrating.
So cutting through all the media/policy wonk speculation an indyref is still on that table which Messrs Cameron and Corbyn seem so fond of (timing to be confirmed) and Scotland’s electorate still have an option. If they want it.
Events though, can change all of the above in a heartbeat and make a nonsense of everything that’s happened to date. When it comes to what the the Scottish government should or shouldn’t do? Maybe worth remembering the position they are in and what put them there.