The monkey has spoken, although we are still waiting for the organ grinder. Even though Boris Johnson has still not been bothered to reply to the Scottish Government’s demand for a Section 30 order transferring the power to hold independence referendums permanently to the Scottish Parliament, Alister Jack has squeaked up in return for being tossed a peanut in the shape of an interview on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Show. His boss has far more important things to be getting on with, like recovering from his holiday in Mustique, and avoiding going to the House of Commons to speak about the Iran crisis.
Alister took to the airwaves to announce to Gordon Brewer that there will be no second independence referendum within the lifetime of Nicola Sturgeon. Alister has reinterpreted the definition of generation to mean the lifetime of anyone alive today. We’ve all heard the expression “over my dead body”, but when as Alister just did and said “over your dead body” then that can only be interpreted as a threat. “Over Your Dead Body” is in fact the title of a Japanese horror movie based on a kabuki play in which the leading player uses their influence to get a major part in a drama for a friend even though the role is way beyond his limited capabilities. It all ends very badly and does not go at all as the white faced protagonists intended it. So it’s an allegory for the story of Boris and Alister then.
Not until you’re all dead is a very strange definition of respecting the right of the people of Scotland to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. What Alister is really saying is that he doesn’t think that he should ever have to face another independence referendum at any point during his own lifetime, and then he had the audacity to claim that the Conservatives have a mandate for this strangulation of democracy.
Alister claimed that this imaginary mandate is based upon the Edinburgh Agreement, where it seems that there’s a paragraph written in invisible ink that says that if Scotland voted no then it’s up to the Tories to decide when there can be another referendum. It’s either that or Alister is frantically reaching for a straw to clutch at. Only in his case it’s an invisible imaginary straw that doesn’t actually exist. There is absolutely nothing in the Edinburgh Agreement which puts any limits on when there can be another independence referendum. All it says is that both parties agree to respect the result of the referendum. It says absolutely nothing at all about Scotland not being allowed another referendum even if the winning side doesn’t fulfil the promises and commitments it made to the people of Scotland in order to get the winning result.
The exact wording in the Edinburgh Agreement is as follows. It was agreed that the Scottish Government and the UK government agree that the independence referendum should “deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect.” That’s the line upon which Alister is basing his spurious and frankly ludicrous claim to possessing a mandate for blocking another referendum.
Yet it’s hardly a “fair test” if the winning side in the referendum effectively lied, cheated, and misrepresented itself. All sorts of promises and commitments were made by the Better Together parties during that referendum campaign, and those were the promises and commitments which led voters in Scotland in cast their ballot in a particular way. One of those promises was telling people in Scotland that the only way Scotland could remain within the EU was by voting against independence. We all know how that worked out. Another was that Scotland would be an equal and respected partner in a family of nations. Only it turned out that Scotland was ignored, marginalised and sidelined at every turn during the Brexit negotiations. Another was that the powers of the Scottish Parliament would be enshrined in law and put beyond the ability of any Westminster government to alter without the express consent of Holyrood. Only the British Government sought a Supreme Court ruling which found that the wording in the 2016 Scotland Act putting the Sewel Convention into law could be ignored by Westminster.
It was Westminster which traduced the Edinburgh Agreement. It’s the Conservatives who have not been respecting the result of the 2014 referendum. Respecting a result doesn’t mean cheating and lying to get a win and then demanding that no one can challenge you once your lies are discovered. The Tories are like an Olympic athlete who drugged themselves to the eyeballs on steroids to win the gold and then refused to allow a rematch for the medal and the title after they’d been found out.
Yet Alister’s arrogant cluelessness, his stomping about in a constitutional play that’s way beyond his performance ability, has revealed something important. The traditional Scottish Unionism that was once espoused by Alister’s party is dead. The Tories have killed in for the short term gain of trying to block an independence referendum.
Traditional Scottish Unionism was founded upon the belief that Scotland is not a colony, that it’s a free and willing partner in the UK and remains so because that is the express will of the people of Scotland. Traditional Scottish Unionism held that this was true because Unionists believed that the Union was unchallengeable, that it would last forever, that independence was a marginal view that would never gain traction. As long as it was founded upon that arrogance, Scottish Unionists could tell Scotland and the world that Scotland was no colony, no possession. We were better than that. That’s the fundamental arrogance of unionism.
The rise in support for independence changed all that. Independence is no longer a marginal force in Scottish politics. It’s a very real threat to the privileges and position of the likes of Alister Jack. So the Alisters of this world can no longer afford to indulge the sensibilities of Scotland by claiming that this is a free and voluntary union. The fig leaf has been ripped away. Traditional Scottish Unionism has been stripped of its clothing of partnership, and we see the naked imperial beast underneath. In the next referendum the Alisters will not be able to pretend that this is a debate between Scottish nationalism and British non-nationalism. We can all see now that this is a debate between an arrogant and anti-democratic reactionary British nationalism, and Scottish independence.
Naturally this shocking development representing the death of traditional Scottish Unionism and the reaction to it and its implications was the lead item on BBC Scotland’s lunchtime news. Oh wait. No. The lead story was that we’re getting bad weather in Scotland in the wintertime. But the real storm is the one that’s breaking for opponents of independence. The gales of independence will blow them into oblivion.
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