Yesterday we had the pointless spectacle of a Conservative election manifesto dressed up as a state opening of parliament. None of the measures which the Queen announced were going to be implemented by her government will ever see the light of day this side of a general election. The entire episode was a waste of time and ermine dry cleaning bills. Still, from the point of view of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson it guaranteed him a lot more TV exposure from gushing BBC commentators who were caught up in the flummery than would ever have been possible in a five minute election broadcast that no one paid attention to because they were waiting for Eastenders.
This is the second time within a couple of months that this Prime Minister has used the officially politically neutral head of state as a tool for giving himself a political advantage. At this rate we can expect Prince Philip to drive the Conservatives’ campaign bus during the General Election. Which would be entirely appropriate since it’s going to run over the plebs before taking us all over a cliff.
The measures themselves were the kind of mixture of electoral bribes and right wing dog whistles which we’ve come to expect from Conservative manifestos. Although it is surprising that the Conservatives announced that they are proposing to make photo IDs compulsory for voting. It means that many of them won’t be able to vote themselves. Aren’t vampires invisible to cameras as well as mirrors? Certainly the Conservative party has long since lost the ability to look at itself in the mirror. This may explain much about them. They still imagine themselves as suave and debonair superhumans, when everyone else sees blood sucking undead monsters who still walk the earth even though they belong in the grave.
Meanwhile over in the Guardian, the newspaper’s leader writer gazed upon the sad state of affairs in Catalonia and opined that Nicola Sturgeon is right to eschew the Catalan route and reject an illegal referendum. Unfortunately the leader writer neglected to explain to us mere Caledonians what the UK law is exactly that would make an independence referendum illegal. This is not Spain, there is no constitutional prohibition on independence referendums here. The Section 30 order agreed between David Cameron and Alex Salmond in 2012 did not create a law which provided that Westminster is the only body which can authorise a referendum. It merely provided a political guarantee that neither party would seek to challenge the referendum’s result.
We can only assume that the Guardian meant a consultative referendum being carried out by Holyrood without Westminster’s consent. However this matter has never been tested in the courts. There are good legal arguments as to why such a referendum would in fact be perfectly legal. Whether the court would accept those arguments is very much a moot point. As things stand, the lawfulness of a consultative referendum, which is in essence a glorified opinion poll, remains untested. Those who, like the Guardian’s leader writer, assert that a referendum without a Section 30 order are giving us a political opinion and not a statement of legal fact. Indeed, when newspapers start to prejudge a referendum without a Section 30 order as being illegal, they are guilty of the very inflammation of a delicate situation which they purport to condemn.
Equally the newspaper signally failed to point out that the responsibilities it places upon Nicola Sturgeon should equally fall upon the British government. If Scotland votes, yet again, to reinforce the existing mandate that the Scottish Government already has for an independence referendum, it is incumbent upon the British Government to respect the decision of the Scottish electorate. Because if the British Government doesn’t do so, then the quality of British democracy becomes every bit as questionable as Spain’s.
It’s becoming ever more clear that the rest of the UK is getting to the point where they’d be happy to see the back of Scotland. An opinion poll published this week showed that 55% of voters in England prioritise getting Brexit done over keeping the four nations of the UK together. A further 9% apparently want neither Brexit nor to keep the four nations of the UK together. A whopping 64% of voters in England have priorities which are more important to them than ensuring that the UK is kept together.
Well that must be a big slap in the face for Scottish unionists, to discover that the rest of the UK is just not that into them. England is in love with the vision of itself from the 1950s, when it could still tell itself it was a global power that the rest of the world looked up to. It’s like spending weeks and a fortune courting the object of your affections in the hope of persuading them to go on a date only to discover that you’ve been rejected because they’d rather go out with their racist granddad and listen to him reminisce about the empire.
The increasing lack of enthusiasm for the United Kingdom in the rest of the UK is definitely a development which works to the advantage of Scottish independence. It is a vindication of the SNP’s determination to resist Brexit. When voters in England see that Scotland is standing in the way of what they believe England wants, they are not going to concede that Scotland has a point. They’re going to seek to remove the obstacle. This means that British governments are going to find that there is ever less enthusiasm and energy within England for campaigning to keep the UK together, and makes the circumstances more likely to occur when a British government might see it advantageous not to block an independence referendum in Scotland.
However it also highlights the futility and bankruptcy of Scottish Unionism as a political philosophy. The refusal of voters in the rest of the UK to compromise for Scotland merely throws into stark relief the uncomfortable truth for Unionism that within the UK it’s always Scotland which ends up having to accept a position that it doesn’t want. You cannot realistically talk of a partnership when it’s only the one partner who always has to make the concessions while the other always gets what they want. Scottish Unionism is a one-sided love affair.
Right now, Scotland is caught in a nightmare created by English nationalism. It’s a nightmare populated by Tory vampires, by racist grandfathers who hark back to the days of Empire, and Prince Philip driving us off a cliff. It’s a nightmare that the rest of the UK is not going to wake up from, no matter how much Scotland screams. All we can do is leave them to their bad dreams and wake up to a better Scotland.
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