The Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat is very worried by the opinion poll this weekend showing that support for Scottish independence has risen to 54%. He tweeted that the “end of union would destablise our whole nation and – because of our size – many others. It would leave families in trouble as our economy faltered and undermine our ability to help others. Our allies would be weaker and our enemies stronger.”
“Our nation”. The reason we are where we are is precisely because the Conservatives have treated Scotland not as a nation but as a possession. Our nation, that would be the Scottish nation Tom, is in trouble because our economy is threatened by the Brexit that we don’t want which your party is imposing upon us. If you believe as you claim to believe that this really is a union, then you need to explain why your party has treated it as a unitary state in which Scotland has been incorporated into Greater Englandshire.
It’s a shame that Tom’s party never thought about any of that when it poured petrol on the independence fire with its pursuit of Brexit at all costs, Tom. For the last six years since the first independence referendum the Conservatives have banged on and on about the importance of their precioussssss Union while their actions always undermine support for it. The Tories act as though they believe that people in Scotland won’t notice. All they have to do is to keep telling us how important the supposed union is to them, and they think that they can consistently act as though it’s only the political interests of England that matter and Scotland has to toe the line and do as it’s told. The party keeps antagonising undecided opinion in Scotland and moderate no voters as if it doesn’t expect there to be any consequences. But there are consequences. Scotland is a land of great patience, but it’s not infinite patience. That patience has now worn thin. The Conservatives have only got themselves to blame for that. This is your fault, Tom. Your fault and the fault of every other member of your party of selfish careerists.
You don’t get to demand that your national rights are respected and sovereign by dragging Scotland into a Brexit that it never wanted. You can hardly complain if Scotland turns around and says – well bugger this for a gemme o sodgies. Only you’re a Tory MP so you do get to complain. Hypocrisy is the only thing your party is any good at.
British nationalists – Scotland is a failed backwater and an economic burden with a £12 billion black hole. Also British nationalists – England’s economy and financial stability depend upon Scotland as does global peace and security. In the space of a series of opinion polls that have gone from showing majority support against independence to majority support in favour of it we’ve also gone from Scotland being an economic basket case that’s utterly dependent upon the good graces of the English taxpayer to Scotland is an economic basket case but the rest of the UK will be screwed financially by Scottish independence. There’s an inconsistency there. Still, I’m sure that someone in Scotland in Union will produce a graph about it for Scottish journalists.
Meanwhile Perth MP Pete Wishart has opened up the Plan B debate again by dint of appearing not to understand what the point of a Plan B actually is. He warns that strategies other than persistently asking Westminster for a Section 30 order only to be refused repeatedly would risk leaving Scotland in some sort of constitutional limbo. But that’s precisely where we are with the current strategy of asking Westminster for a Section 30 order. Westminster says no, and in response the Scottish Government says, “Oh OK then.” Then the SNP asks the independence movement to keep doing what it has been doing only to do more of it because just one more mandate to add to all the others will do the trick.
The entire point of Plan B is to break the current impasse. It’s about creating a set of circumstances which forces Westminster to pay heed, because at the moment there is absolutely no downside for Downing Street in refusing to agree to a Section 30 order. The point of a Plan B is to ensure that there are consequences for Johnson and the Conservative government if they refuse to listen to the democratic will of the people of Scotland. The point of Plan B is to force them to the negotiating table.
A plebiscite election, which is one possibility for an alternative to the current strategy of asking nicely for a Section 30 order, is not a de facto declaration of UDI. The point of a plebiscite election is to create sufficient political capital for independence within Scotland and in the wider world that the British Government is unable to ignore it. This is not Catalonia. There is nothing illegal within what passes for the British constitution in a plebiscite election. Winning that election allows the Scottish Government to use it as leverage to force Westminster to the negotiating table, and to use the legitimacy it grants in order to deal directly with third countries and international bodies to get them to put pressure on the British Government to negotiate.
The same applies to a lawful consultative referendum without a Section 30 order. It creates political capital both domestically and internationally which Westminster cannot ignore and which will force it to the negotiating table. Independence which is negotiated with Westminster is not UDI. It’s really that simple.
What does consign Scotland to a never ending constitutional limbo is to keep doing the same thing that we’ve been doing, without ensuring that there are any political consequences for the British Government, and expecting the British Government to act differently. If nothing else changes they will refuse a Section 30 order after the next Scottish elections and we will still be stuck in that limbo Pete warns about.
That said, I do agree that the next Scottish elections need to be fought on the basis of a mandate for another referendum. Not just the SNP but also the Greens and any other pro-independence party must have the demand for an independence referendum front and foremost in its manifesto. The manifesto commitments must be clear and unarguable.
Winning that election creates an undeniable moral and political legitimacy for the Scottish Government to pursue an alternative route to a referendum when it receives the inevitable refusal from Westminster and ensures that soft yesses and the more moderate no voters will support any alternative strategy. It’s vital that we ensure that an alternative strategy has as broad support as possible in order to give it the greatest chance of success. That can be a referendum without a Section 30 order, having tested its lawfulness in the courts. Or it can be a snap Scottish election called in order to provide a mandate for independence that Westminster cannot ignore.
The more that support for independence grows, the more of an incentive there is for Westminster to refuse a Section 30 order, while at the same time there are no consequences for them in refusing. It’s a perfect set of conditions for denying Scotland’s democratic will. That’s what Plan A does. What it does not address is the reality that at some point the intransigence of Westminster will have to be confronted head on.
The only way that Scotland will regain its independence is to be bold, to be brave, and to be imaginative. You don’t change the world by asking nicely. You change it by grabbing opportunity by the balls and squeezing hard. Plan B is a means of grabbing Westminster by the balls and squeezing hard so that they can’t continue to ignore us.
Update: It appears that Pete Wishart is getting a lot of hate on social media from independence supporters who disagree with his views on Plans A & B. This is reprehensible and uncalled for. A difference in opinion about strategy does not make another independence supporter your enemy. Hatred directed toward other independence supporters only plays into the hands of our real opponents. Our issues are with British nationalism and its supporters. Please remember that. They’re the ones preventing Scotland regaining its independence, not other independence supporters with whom you happen to disagree about tactics.
And finally … dogs. Just because.
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