A couple of months ago I bought some new lamps for our living room. They’re those ones with the bulbs that change colour controlled from an app on your phone. It’s nice to be able to adjust the lighting according to the time of day or what you’re doing. The lamps were bought online and supplied by a firm in Germany and, while I’m more than happy with my purchase, there was a problem with one of them which necessitated contacting the firm’s customer service department – which I duly did whilst making a further purchase. The problem was quickly and efficiently resolved and the new purchases promptly dispatched. All in all, a painless and hassle-free process.

It occurred to me today to wonder whether my dealings with this company in Germany will be so straightforward in future. Previously, I had been dealing with them as an EU citizen in another EU member state. As from 23:00 on Friday 31 January that will no longer be the case. Any future dealings I have with this company will be as a citizen of what the EU refers as a ‘third country’. Other third countries include Albania and Kosovo. No offence to the people of either of those countries, but I can’t help but feel that going from being on a list with France and Germany to one with Albania and Kosovo is relegation of the kind that football clubs only suffer if they’ve done something too outrageous even for the sport’s governing bodies.

The people of Albania and Kosovo would seem to agree with my perspective, given that both those nations aspire to EU membership. Which, I suppose, puts them towards the top of the third country league, whereas the only country ever to quit the EU must surely languish at the very bottom of the lowest division. On the stroke of 11pm tomorrow, my status changes dramatically. And through no choice of my own.

Of course, it is entirely possible that this change in status will have little or no effect on my dealings with a company in Germany. I just don’t know. And that is bad enough in itself. At the moment, I know exactly where I stand. After tomorrow (Friday), I will be unsure. Today, I know that businesses in Germany and all the businesses in all the countries of the EU must treat me as if I was a citizen of the same country. It’s a reciprocal arrangement that works very well. I have been perfectly content with this arrangement for long enough that I can’t remember what things were like before.

I had no desire whatever to forsake this arrangement. I voted accordingly in 2016. But, because of a markedly different kind of political union, my vote didn’t count. The votes of everyone in Scotland didn’t count. It wouldn’t have mattered if every single one of them had turned out and every single one of them had voted the same way, those votes would have counted for absolutely nothing unless voters in England-as-Britain agreed.

It’s hard, at least for those of us who think about these things, to get one’s head around the enormity of this situation. Because England-as-Britain voted Leave by a 6 point margin, Scotland voting Remain by a margin four times greater counts for nothing. 53% in England-as-Britain is decisive. 62% in Scotland is meaningless. Slightly more than half the voters in England-as-Britain want one thing, so nearly two-thirds of people in Scotland just have to suck it up. There is no way to describe this that doesn’t make it sound any less ludicrously devoid of anything resembling democratic legitimacy.

But it gets worse. Not only am I supposed to accept this affront to democracy and relegation to third country status, I am required to do so without complaint. If I object, I am the one who is being unreasonable and indulging in the politics of grievance. If I suggest that a better arrangement would be one which allows both England-as-Britain and Scotland to have what they vote for, I am castigated and condemned for being a divisive separatist. Tautology aside, this in itself is a slight that nobody with a scintilla of self-respect can be expected to tolerate.

The whole sorry saga of Brexit has – or should have – brought people to the realisation that Scotland’s constitutional dilemma is about more than where our government sits and how our affairs as a nation are managed. It is about the kind of people we are. It is about how we think of ourselves, our communities and the community of communities that is our nation. It is about whether we see ourselves as being a nation at all, or whether we see ourselves as merely a region within a British state where what we are as individuals, communities and country is not something defined by consensus among the people who live here but something imposed on us by an external force which not only cares nothing for our consent, but increasingly seeks ways of expressing its contempt for our democratic will.

Brexit is a distillation of all that is wrong with the Union. But we must never lose sight of the fact that Brexit is only a symptom. The Union is the disease. It is the Union which says such iniquities not only can but must be imposed on Scotland. Such is the very nature of the Union.

What kind of people are we? What kind of people do we aspire to be? What kind of people must we be if we meekly accept being dragged out of the EU despite having voted decisively to Remain. Despite having chosen to have the community of communities that is Scotland be part of the community of European nations.

What kind of people are we if, through timidity, inertia or apathy, we forsake the power to decide how we define our identity? What kind of a nation are we if, for want of political assertiveness, we allow ourselves to be locked into a political union which by its asymmetric nature inevitably and incorrigibly denies our sovereignty?

Part of the kind of person I want to be includes my European citizenship. Part of what I aspire to for Scotland involves being part of the great adventure in post-colonial international cooperation that is the EU. But even if you have little or no sympathy for my attitude to the EU, you must surely share the offence and anger I feel at being denied a choice in the matter. Brexit, like so many other choices made by England-as-Britain, is being forcibly imposed on everyone in Scotland regardless of how they voted in the EU referendum. What matters isn’t your agreement or otherwise with the choice but the fact that it is not your choice. The Union means your choices don’t count, even if they occasionally appear to count only because they happen to coincide with the choices made by people in another country.

I am offended that I can be denied a choice in this way. I am resentful that any part of my identity can be defined by others – and particularly by people whose worldview I regard as grotesque and whose ideology is anathema to me. I am angry that I am about to be stripped of my EU citizenship for no better reason than that a self-serving clique of over-privileged, immature buffoons in England-as-Britain have chosen to seek power by pandering to the basest instincts and prejudices of their electorate.

I am angry that the British political system has given rise to such an unworthy political elite. I am furious that the Union makes me and my country subject to their demented whims.

I’ve had enough. It may be more than three hundred years overdue, but I want my country back. I want my right to choose returned to me that was stolen. I want to be treated with a certain amount of respect. I want others to be treated with at least the same respect. I want to at least have the hope of a better nation. I want an end to the Union. And I want it now!

Part of this article was first published in iScot Magazine Issue 59 Jan/Feb 2020.

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22 thoughts on “Relegated!

  1. Excellent stuff. I feel similarly uprooted from Europe. I lived in Utrecht for many years and still have many contacts and good friends there. Visiting (for) them will now be much more complex of course, but it feels like something is being removed and I am being given a prosthetic identity. Future scenarios do not make me feel good.

    PS. I enjoyed your letter in the paper this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter
    I know what you are watching must pain the soul. All I can offer at times like this is to keep agitating, keep moving forward…and when you can’t anymore hope the path you have made helps someone else pick up that baton.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes and you are not alone.

    The anger will only rise after Friday. There is also mixed feelings of sadness, despair, embarrassment, loss, estrangement, worry.

    I hope that Nicola will make us all feel better come Friday. Seeing the Referendum bill being given Royal Ascent yesterday has restored my hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “I’ve had enough. It may be more than three hundred years overdue, but I want my country back. I want my right to choose returned to me that was stolen. I want to be treated with a certain amount of respect. I want others to be treated with at least the same respect. I want to at least have the hope of a better nation. I want an end to the Union. And I want it now!”

    Me too!

    That was a great read.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said again Peter. My agreement and empathy with your feelings is strengthened by the fact I bought a retirement house in France. That me and my Waspi wife’s future in retirement may be set for us by the sort of buffoons who waved wee butchers aprons in a shameless, crass, abomination in the EU Parliament yesterday leaves me just a tad unsettled.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The votes in Scotland did count, just not in the direction you desired. Without the Scottish leave votes, the result would have been for remain, and we’d not be leaving tomorrow.

    England itself was quite closely divided at 53:47 Leave:Remain, which is why in this instance Scotland did have the possibility of halting Brexit.

    The total in favour of leaving in E+W+NI was 1912370, and 2679513 valid votes were cast in Scotland. so cancelling out the rUK vote would have left 767143 votes to divide between leave and remain, which means that 2295942 (i.e. 383572 + 1912370) remain votes in Scotland would have done it. Or an 86:14 Remain:Leave answer from Scotland would have stopped Brexit.

    The Brexit referendum was not about if Scotland remained in the EU, but if the UK did so. Conflating one with the other is disingenuous.

    As to buying stuff from EU27, that shouldn’t change until the end of the year, as we effectively remain as a non-voting member for transition period. Come Jan 2021, it could well be drastically different.

    As to EU citizenship, there were moves being made in EU27 countries to try and create some form of minimal ‘opt-in’ EU citizenship, the idea being that it would allow one to exercise FOM, and once in an EU state, be treated as a full EU citizen. I don’t know how far that got, or if it will happen.

    But yes, with the current Westminster government Brexit is going to be a painful shit show.

    It will be an interesting 1-5 years, seeing if we do manage to get an independent Scotland. Assuming we do, at minimum I’d expect a referendum on if we should apply to join the EU, and it will be equally interesting to see how such a vote goes.


    1. If you take the Scottish Leave votes out you have to take the Scottish Remain votes out as well. So the result is still Leave. Only if around 63% of Scotland’s Leave votes were switched to Remain would the outcome change. But that didn’t actually happen. You need to remember that. You need to focus on the actual outcome. Not one you’ve made up in your head.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The point is that your claim on the maths is simply wrong.

        “The votes of everyone in Scotland didn’t count. It wouldn’t have mattered if every single one of them had turned out and every single one of them had voted the same way, those votes would have counted for absolutely nothing unless voters in England-as-Britain agreed.”

        That is patently false. Since the number of valid votes cast in Scotland was sufficient to overturn the result. If they had all turned out, and all voted remain, we’d be remaining.

        You’re the one who offered something made up in your head.


    2. You are correct that, in theory at least, the votes of the Scottish electorate could have swung it to pro-EU overall for the UK.

      But surely the point being made in the author’s article is that, if the Union were truly equitable, it should not take an overwhelming vote to Remain in Scotland in order to offset a marginal Leave vote in rUK?

      Of course the latter statement would assume that the United Kingdom is a union of equals which it patently is not so I guess point is moot.

      (Incidentally I think you might want to check the total number of Leave votes for rUK that you quote – I think it is more like 16392420 rather than 1912370 in your piece.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well my only reason to raise it is that the text I quotes weakens the argument.

        The whole article makes a strong argument for its position, and would (IMO) be of greater impact without the final half of the paragraph I quoted. It makes a specific claim which is wrong, and then rather detracts from the stronger argument in the subsequent paragraph.

        So if one is trying to convince undecided voters, rather than simply preach to the converted, that text can break the argument. In reading that, any numerate undecided voter could spot the flaw, and at that point decide the author doesn’t know his stuff, At which point when they get to the next paragraph, with the stronger argument (that in general England can outvote the other nations), they’re already lost.

        As to numbers, what I have recorded for England is:

        Remain 13266996
        Leave 15188406
        Total 28455402

        With 1921410 being the difference between the leave and remain vote. The 1912370 number was the difference in favour of leave across the rest of the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland), excluding Scotland.


    3. So what Scotland voted for didn’t matter?
      We must take the majority vote in England, and get stuffed if we don’t like it?
      The vote might have been about UK as an entity, but in this country, it was Scotland voting for Scotland.
      Also, just s’posing Scottish votes tipped it in favor of remaining with EU.. Do you think the likes of Nigel Farage would have meekly accepted that?
      The UK “Union” would have been over within months.
      But Scotland is expected to take everything it gets?
      Apart from that, we were promised assured, and guaranteed, such a situation as this, wasn’t ever going to happen. And if we stayed within the Union,(UK) our place within EU was absolutely safe.
      To claim, then, that is was not about Scotland, but about UK remaining in EU, is to use a phrase.. “disingenuous”!

      Liked by 1 person

    4. “The votes in Scotland did count, just not in the direction you desired. Without the Scottish leave votes, the result would have been for remain, and we’d not be leaving tomorrow.”

      JB this is not true at all. That is in fact false, if you don’t mind me saying.

      From the figures offered by the BBC on

      You have that the total number of votes for leave in the UK was: 17,410,742
      The total number of votes for remain was: 16,141,241
      The difference between the leave vote and the remain vote was: 1,269,501 more votes for leave than remain.

      The total number of votes in Scotland for leave was: 1,018,322

      Therefore, 1,269,501 – 1,018,322= 251,179

      In other words, with the turnout that we had in Scotland during that EU ref, even if ALL the people in Scotland had voted against leave, the result would have not changed. You would need and extra 251,179 votes

      Actually, let’s take a look now at England votes:
      Leave: 15,188,406
      Remain: 13,266,996
      Difference: 1,921,410

      Even if you assume that ALL the votes cast both in NI and ALL the votes cast in Scotland at the turnout we had in that EU ref were for remain, they still would not be able to turn England’s vote around. You would need the THREE nations, to vote unanimously against leave for that to happen. Frankly, that is an impossibility in a referendum because if that situation was ever to happen and 3 nations were ever to vote unanimously in one direction you would seriously have to ask yourself what on earth was ever the motive to hold a referendum in the first place. But I do not recall a single referendum ever in the world where there was an unanimous result as the one you are using as justification. It sounds like an incredibly vacuous argument, to be frank.

      But let’s not digress. The union is a bipartite union of equals, JB. Therefore if you are going to check the real democratic imbalance for Scotland, you have to compare the result in Scotland with the result in the kingdom of England (that means England + Wales + NI). So no, not in a million years, at the turnout we had during that EU referendum, if the kingdom of England voted to leave, Scotland would have ever been able to change that result. That is a democratic deficit of colossal proportions.


      1. Maria,

        I’m not endeavouring to be controversial or pedantic but I believe that JB’s numerical analysis is correct.

        Where I initially found it slightly misleading – and which sparked my original response – was when JB stated “total in favour of leaving in E+W+NI was 1912370”. In fact I presume this was a typing error and he meant to write “NET total in favour of leaving in E+W+NI was 1912370” i.e. the rUK balance after subtracting Remain votes (14480050) from Leave votes (16392420).

        I think you may have made an oversight in your calculations. If I could humbly point out the comparison that should be made is the BALANCE of Leave/Remain votes for rUK with the same NET voting position for Scotland.

        rUK Leave: 16392420 rUK Remain: 14480050 rUK balance: 1912370
        Sco Leave: 1018322 Sco Remain: 1661191 Sco balance: -642869

        If 634752 (62.3%) of Sco Leave voters had switched to Remain the respective totals would be:

        Sco Leave: 1018322 – 634752 = 383570
        Sco Remain: 1661191 + 634752 = 2679513
        Sco balance: 383570 – 2679513 = -1912373

        This new Sco balance of -1912373 (favouring Remain) would now cancel the rUK balance of 1912370 (favouring Leave).

        The result is that the Sco Remain% would have to be 2679513 / (2679513 + 383570) = 85.7% in order to completely offset the rUK vote (of 53.1% pro-Leave), as JB stated in his work. So in theory at least, it would have been possible for Scotland to mitigate rUK’s voting pattern.

        But, as I stated in my original comment, the much more substantive point that Peter was making in his piece was about how ridiculously unfair, unequal and undemocratic the multi-state UK is if it would have taken such a massive landslide vote in one direction in one component (Sco) to offset a knife-edge result for the other side in the other parts (rUK).

        I’m sure we can all agree on the main argument!


      2. @duncanio

        Apologies if I am misunderstanding, but I have looked at the figures again as quoted in the BBC website and forgive me but I think I am correct in the main point of discussion and I think the statement made by Mr Bell is correct too. I am referring to this

        “The votes of everyone in Scotland didn’t count. It wouldn’t have mattered if every single one of them had turned out and every single one of them had voted the same way, those votes would have counted for absolutely nothing unless voters in England-as-Britain agreed.”

        Maybe I am not expressing myself correctly, please accept my apologies if that is the case.

        What I notice is that the figures from the BBC Website do not appear to coincide with the ones you are presenting. I think we may be looking at different figures. Where did you get your figures from?

        The website I am looking at is this

        According to the above BBC website, the difference in the total UK vote between leave and remain is 1,269,501 votes in favour of leave and not 1912370 as stated in your comment. That is close to the difference for England between leave and remain, which is, according to the BBC website 1,921,410‬ .

        I must admit that I do not quite understand the figures (sorry, I can be quite thick sometimes and unable to see what is in front of my nose). I don’t understand why you want to move the difference between the remain and the leave vote in Scotland to “remain” when those votes are already remain unless you are looking at the possibilities under a different turnout.

        What I did was much more simplistic: I moved ALL the leave vote in Scotland to make the assumption that all the people of Scotland had voted remain and prove the point that even if all the votes cast in Scotland in that EU ref were for remain and none for leave, Scotland would have not been able to turn the UK result around and this to me proves the massive scale of democratic deficit Scotland is subjected to in this political union. The main assumption I made is that the turnout was the same as it was in 2016. I must admit that I have not been playing with changes in turnout just yet to see how that would affect.

        Also, the total vote in Scotland was 2,679,513‬ (1,018,322 leave and 1,661,191 remain). In your figures, it is stated that “Sco Remain: 1661191 + 634752 = 2679513”. Forgive me, I think this is incorrect. The sum between 1661191 + 634752 should be 2,295,943.

        Where I indeed made a mistake is in claiming that to turn around the England vote as it was in the EU ref and assuming the same turnout, what would be needed is for all 3 Celtic nations to vote unanimously for remain. This is indeed incorrect. It would be required that all votes cast in Scotland, all votes cast in NI and over 81% of the votes cast in Wales to be pro remain. I think even with those figures, we can safely claim that the democratic deficit in the Uk for the 3 celtic nations and in particular Scotland as an equal partner to the Kingdom of England, are simply enormous and became more than evident in that EU ref.


      3. Maria,

        We are using the same data, although I looked at Wikipedia as the source. (See link on original comment).

        On the Scottish figures I made a typo myself in my presentation of the numbers that you picked up (thanks) – as you say the Scottish total Remain vote after (hypothetical) switchers have been allowed for is 2295943. Taking that Remain volume as a proportion of 2679513 total Scottish voters still comes out at 85.19%.

        The 1269501 that you quote is indeed UK delta in favour of Leave. However, I was quoting 1912370 as being the rUK (E+W+NI only) balance in favour of Leave. It is this net balance of rUK pro-Leave votes that Scottish net pro-Remain votes must offset.


    5. Yes, I should have phrased that better.

      What I had in mind was “delta in favour of leaving in E+W+NI was 1912370”, but changed that to “total” as i wasn’t sure “delta” would have been generally understood.

      I should have thought of the obvious word “difference”, but it did not come to be at the time.

      I have no argument about how difficult it would have been for Scottish voters to achieve such a 86:14 result, just that the maths does not support one part of the piece, and so the piece is stringer without it.

      So if the argument presented in the article is to be reused at some later point, then IMO, that portion should either be omitted, or rephrased.

      I’d suggest omitted, as the subsequent paragraph makes the general (and more effective) argument about how difficult it would have been for Scottish voters to overturn this, and that the only reason it was theoretically possible was due to the result in England being so close.


      1. Maria Carnero – . for some reason I can’t reply to your comment…

        The mistake you’re making is comparing the totals for the whole of the UK, to the votes available in Scotland.

        Instead, one has to compare the votes cast in the UK excluding Scotland, to the votes available in Scotland,

        That is the number I quoted.

        Leave = (Eng + Wales + NI) : 15188406 + 854572 + 349442 => 16392420
        Remain = (Eng + Wales + NI) : 13266996 + 772347 + 440707 => 14480050

        Difference (pro Leave rUK) : 16392420 – 14480050 => 1912370 (A)

        Scotland (Total Valid Votes cast): (Leave + Remain): 1018322 + 1661191 => 2679513 (B)

        Since ‘B’ is larger than ‘A’, Scotland could have swung the result either way.


  7. I wondered what happened to the ’17 million’ that is so oft quoted, there.

    Interesting demographic on the vote leave, the largest NUMBER of people that voted leave is from the south of England:

    Professor Dorling – lecture on Brexit and the end of the British empire.

    It’s been a while since I watched the lecture, but I think it’s quite long, maybe an hour (but is absolutely fascinating). Prof. Dorling is a geography professor I think (and friends with Richard Murphy). The emphasis on the north of England voting Leave by our media is a bit of a misdirection – relevant for constituency votes maybe, but by the actual volume of people (relevant in a referendum) it was very much southern.

    I feel a wee bit resentful too Peter.


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