Only human

As well as observing that the British government’s “attempt to shift the blame for the Brexit fiasco […] is pathetically transparent”, Nicola Sturgeon might have remarked that it was entirely predictable. The same can be said of just about every aspect of the Brexit debacle. It was all readily foreseeable, if not in detail then at least in outline. Which makes it all the more remarkable that professional politicians failed to see how things would go. When amateur commentators such as myself can see the writing on the wall as clearly as you can see these words, it remains to be explained why the ‘experts’ didn’t. And if those to whom we entrust the conduct of our affairs didn’t see the present blame-shifting exercise coming, what else might they have missed?

I wrote the following around three years ago.

There are a couple of things we can be reasonably sure of amid all the uncertainty of Brexit. All the talk of “soft Brexit” and “transitional deals” will ultimately be exposed as whimsically euphemistic fantasy as the reality of the imposed punitive settlement bites. And blame for the inevitable impact of Brexit will be placed firmly on the shoulders of Johnny Foreigner.

When this happens, British nationalists will be incandescent with indignation that the UK is being penalised for its actions. The anger which should be directed at the British politicians who created the situation will instead be directed outwards against our neighbours. All of which will be disturbingly familiar to those who know a little of Europe’s history.

The Persuaders

(I’m sure others were making similar observations at that time. It would, however, be improper for me to associate them with my views.)

It may be that senior politicians did, in fact, recognise the inevitability of a British effort to blame ‘Johnny Foreigner’ for the travails ensuing from a spectacularly botched project to take the UK out of the EU. Perhaps they knew, but felt it politic not to say too much. What should concern us, however, is whether the decisions taken by our political leaders were affected by lack of foresight and/or reluctance to acknowledge what that foresight revealed.

Perhaps failure to anticipate the ‘blame games’ is not significant. But perhaps it is not the only failure of analysis.

As we watch the Scottish Government and the SNP leadership become ever more deeply embroiled in – and tainted by – the Brexit fiasco, we are entitled to question the judgement which brought them to this place. We may well ask ourselves how different Scotland’s situation might have been if those making the decisions had read the runes aright and adopted a more cynically realistic perspective on the entire Brexit process.

It was certainly possible to see how this process was going to pan out. The following was published on 1 March 2016, some three months before the EU referendum took place.

The dispute about EU membership is really no more than a squabble among British nationalists about how the British state is defined and which clique most faithfully represents the “One True Britain’. At base, it is a dispute between those who see the EU as a tool of British exceptionalism, and those who see British exceptionalism as requiring no such tool, and/or being diminished by it.

In a very real sense, this is not our fight. Given that independence is about extricating ourselves from the British state and ridding ourselves of the impediment of British exceptionalism, Tory bickering over who has the strongest claim to the bedraggled and besmirched mantle of British nationalism is nothing whatever to do with Scotland.

Unfortunately, being yet bound to the British state, Scotland cannot avoid being impacted by this infighting among British nationalists. But we can avoid being drawn into serving the petty purposes of either faction in this squabble. We can keep our eyes firmly on our own purposes and our own interests. We can close our eyes and ears to the blandishments and beguilements and devious pleading of British politicians and concentrate on what is best for Scotland.

EU referendum is not Scotland’s fight

It is reasonable to assume that Scotland’s predicament might have been very different had our political leaders adopted a similar perspective and acted accordingly.

I say all this by way of a wake-up call to those who slavishly adhere to the party line out of a belief that professional politicians must know better than the rest of us what is going on, and how thing will proceed. The truth is that their prescience may be no better than anyone else’s, and their decisions no more than marginally less likely to be informed by faulty analysis.

This is why we must always stand ready to question the choices made by our political leaders. To do so is, not to imply that they are unfit for the role, but to be mindful of the fact that they too can be prey to human error and folly. Even the most astute political operators sometimes get it wrong. Not even the best of us is infallible. To lose sight of the failings and frailties of the politicians we most respect and admire is to lose touch with politics on a human scale.

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5 thoughts on “Only human

  1. In other words don’t be an unthinking disciple to the SNP.

    If we don’t challenge and pressurise our leaders. How can we expect to change their strategy. If they think they are right and everyone will just agree. It leads to complacency and errors of judgement.

    To me the SNP got on the Brexit train for a number of reasons.

    Firstly they thought that this situation would have come to a head in late 2017. Nicola expected to have the referendum in autumns 2018. The problem is that once they got on that train of stopping Brexit they got dragged along with WM delays.

    Secondly Nicola wanted to appear statesman like. She wanted to do all that was necessary to prevent Brexit before having the indy ref. To appear in public to be above opportunism.

    Thirdly she thought if she didn’t campaign for a second EU referendum, it would mean she was against second chances. She wants a second Scottish referendum ,so why would should deny a second EU referendum.

    The flaw in all of the above. Is that Scotland’s voice is lost in the whole Brexit Omni shambles.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “ The flaw in all of the above. Is that Scotland’s voice is lost in the whole Brexit Omni shambles” ain’t that the bloody truth. Actually we have never been allowed a voice.


  2. Mr Bell, I did say that I would not comment again on your site, although I do continue to read it on occasion, but I would like to make this one point:

    (I’m sure others were making similar observations at that time. It would, however, be improper for me to associate them with my views.) – your quote.

    It was only when I read over a comment I made yesterday in reply to a correspondent who was having a wee dig at you that I said that I knew you to be a humane and deep thinking man, and I now realise that I should not have said that. If you, or anyone else, thought that I was conflating my views with yours, I want to make it absolutely clear that was not my intention. Our views are our own and I would not wish to hi-jack anyone else’s or try to conflate theirs with my own. My views are entirely my own, and have been from a tender age. I am my own person, as you are, and if I made a mistake that made you think I was conflating our views, then I apologize from the bottom of my heart. No need to reply.


    1. There seems to have been a misunderstanding. I was merely acknowledging that I was not alone in foreseeing how Brexit was going to unfold even before the EU referendum. I was not referring to your comments here at all. And I’m a little perplexed as to why you got that impression.

      Liked by 1 person

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