I see people are at last waking up to the constitutional implications of Brexit. Talk from Michael Gove of creating a legally defined internal market in the UK has prompted a flurry of panicky criticism from the likes of Scotland’s Constitution Secretary, Mike Russell and outraged condemnation from columnists such as Ruth Wishart. Apparently, there is a serious threat to the devolution settlement involved in the UK’s slapstick departure from the European Union. It seems the British political elite is intent on exploiting Brexit as an opportunity to undermine the Scottish Parliament. It seems that while the unquestionably and inevitably dire economic consequences of this economic vandalism were obvious to one and all, the equally certain and unavoidable constitutional implications somehow got missed. Who knew?
Well, everybody? Or at least anybody who wasn’t too distracted by the all too credible accounts of economic catastrophe to think it through. Even when the EU referendum was still no more than an ominous prospect and the term ‘Brexit’ was not yet on everybody’s lips, the fact that quitting the EU would cause constitutional as well as economic upheaval was glaringly obvious. But, as always, the spotlight fell on the latter while the former was afforded almost no attention. When I say “always” I am, of course. thinking of the 2014 referendum campaign. A constitutional issue all but totally obscured by a thick smog of economic disputation.
There are reasons for this. Whenever established power is talking about something it’s wise to ask what it is that they are avoiding talking about. And when established power is looking for something a topic that serves to obfuscate, they turn to economics. Three things make economics ideal for the purposes of generating a propaganda smoke-screen. Firstly, the sheer volume of material available. Cross the economists’ collective palm with enough silver and they will churn out an utterly bewildering mass of charts and graphs and statistics and reports and analyses and forecasts. More than enough to bury any subject that established power would prefer to keep off the agenda.
Secondly, economics is the go-to topic for scare-stories and doom-mongering. Rosy pictures are also available if required. But Jeremiads are the economist’s speciality. Bad news is headlines. Good news is ‘and finally’. And when politicians have little or nothing to offer then their only resort is to paint the alternative as worse.
Thirdly, nobody understands it. Economic arguments can be as arcane as you want. And if people begin to get a handle on the intricacies you can always introduce more. This is great if you want people to switch off or if you want to portray opponents as too stupid to grasp the ‘science’. Having made things too massively complicated for people to be able to discern the facts you’re seeking to conceal, you can then make yourself a popular hero by ‘clarifying’ and ‘simplifying’ the economics – a process which involves omitting the facts you’re trying to conceal.
So the constitutional implications of Brexit didn’t get much of a look in. Constitutional politics is dismissed as not being about real life in the real world. As if economics was! Those rights and freedoms are all very well, but will you be paying more tax? That’s the important question. Why are you fretting about democracy when people are homeless and hungry? It’s nice to have aspirations, but they just aren’t economically viable. We have to make the hard choices. There is no other way!!!
But those constitutional implications were always there. When I explained my support for Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, economics didn’t get a mention. Not that I was unaware of the economic issues. I just didn’t attach much significance to them. The economy is like the weather. It’s considerably less predictable and no more controllable. There are periods of sunshine and spells of rain. You have to get through them. That’s all.
Neither did I explain my support for Remain by great enthusiasm for the EU. I am conscious of the benefits it has brought to a Europe previous blighted by bloody and seemingly incessant conflict. I’m aware of its failings. It’s a human contrivance. I don’t expect it to be perfect. I’m content if it sort of works for the most part.
By far the biggest part of my personal argument for a Remain vote was my concern for how the established power of the British state would exploit the chance to redefine the UK for the purposes of a British Nationalist agenda. I knew for certain that they would not miss the opportunity. The UK was redefined on joining what was to become the EU. It seemed obvious that it would have to be redefined again on leaving. Having just been given a fright in the independence referendum as well as having their hive mind focused by the electoral successes of the SNP, it seemed obvious that the British establishment would be intent on doing whatever was required to preserve the Union.
And so it has transpired. It’s no surprise at all. Why would it be? We were told! Only a year ago, since discarded Scottish Secretary David “Baron Snackbeard” Mundell was banging on about “UK-wide common frameworks”. A term which at the time I warned should send a chill down the spine of anyone who placed the smallest value on Scotland’s distinctive political culture. Or, for that matter, our democracy.
If only that elephant in the room had been brilliant orange and decked with sleigh-bells and fairy-lights! Maybe more people would have noticed it.
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15 thoughts on “Who knew?”
Time to gtf out of Dodge!
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Aye! Prior to the EU referendum.
I was made aware of it by yourself and others.
In addition, forgive me I forget their names, a Swiss chap who heads up the European treaties dept and a German female who writes up the treaties were interviewed on RT explaining all the actions if their was a leave vote win.
Very important , of course they were never on Engerlish MSM.
Not forgetting, what was it?
111 treaties that should go to Scotland are being routed through the Engerlish
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The hijacking of devolved powers is just the tip of the iceberg. By this time next year Holyrood could have less real power than the ‘UK Government in Scotland’.
I was aware of it, too, probably by reading your blog. I’ve been telling people ever since, most of whom said it would never happen, and a couple of them were SNP MSP’s!
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I think a lot of people were aware of the constitutional implications of Brexit. It’s just that the economic argument was so all-pervasive it almost totally drowned out any discussion of anything else. It was the same when I first started condemning the Section 30 process and Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the British state’s ‘gold standard’ trap. I’m sure others were doing likewise. But it’s easy to feel like a lone voice when those others are so few and far between.
Not that I have a problem with being a lone voice.
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Many of us were, like you, well aware of the constitutional crisis coming due to Brexit. We have been vocal about it too. The ‘power grab’ is, as you say just the tip of the iceberg. The actions of the UK gov following the Scottish Brexit Bill tells you all you need to know about how they intend for this all to go. What concerns me is that many in the YES movement can see this but our elected representatives seem blind to it all. The gradualists seem to think we can potter along for x number of years eventually gaining indy at some unfixed point in the never never. What do they seriously think the British State is going to be doing in the meantime? Removing powers left right and centre until Holyrood is literally nothing more than a talking shop, and bypassing Holyrood so that they can at the same time reduce the Barnett consequentials. I’m sick to death of the SNP MPs ans MSPs whinging about this that and the other and doing sweet FA about it. I still haven’t forgiven them campaigning on a ‘Stop the Tories Stop Brexit’ message in the GE.
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I’ve noted the strange phenomenon to which you refer. It’s as if the entire concept of time gets left out of their thinking when they’re talking about the constitutional issue. Truly weird!
The danger though is surely that if the SG were to suddenly make too radical a move, they might lose the support of the middle-of-the-road voter, or at least so they fear? But if the polls are to be trusted this danger seems to be diminishing day-by-day. All the same I’m glad I don’t have choose the time to jump.
On a more positive note, I’m sure an Indy Scotland would come out a wee tad better than something that “sort of works for the most part” 🙂
I hear this fear voiced a lot. It came up at an SNP meeting this evening. But the consensus appeared to be that the feartie Teasers were less of a concern than they once might have been and that any who did bale would be more than offset by people being inspired by some action at last.
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So at last the tide is turning … 🙂
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(I arrived late on that thread so may as well post it here so as not to waste it!)
As far as I know, the UK Parliament could pass legislation to allow the UK Government to implement at any time, the emergency power of allowing all the members of that Government and its opposition party, the House of Lords and all policitians in the rest of the UK, to come to Scotland and require all women and men to come out and submit to their sexual advances.
And considering the supine Royal Assent gave its signature after a 600 mile horses and cart trip by Rees-Mogg to Balmoral, to the actually unlawful prolonged Prorogation of the House of Commons, only for it to be dashed by Cherry and Co in the Inner House of the Court of Session after appeal of an earlier hearing in the Outer House that went against them, for the Inner House ruling overturning the ruling in the Outer House to be upheld UNANIMOUSLY in the UKSC – it seems to me that such a clearly unlawful Act actually could progress through the sneering House of Commons, the presumptious and gleefully hand-rubbing Lords, and the supine Royal Assent with Rees-Mogg racing on his penny-farthing to Windsor to get the Queen’s signature.
However, such an Act could sit there gathering mould and pestilence, right up to the point that the UK Government implements its “emergency” power and we hear this proclamation with bells and Commissioners through streets and rural roads and pathways of Scotland:
“Bring out your women and men”.
The SNP still have not grasped the magnitude of Brexit and it’s overall constitutional implications apart from Joanna Cherry which is bemusing. I can only assume speaking out about this has been outlawed by the hierarchy unless the party is full of incompetents which is concerning in equal measure. Lets face facts; Covid 19 has been a blessing to the SNP in terms of highlighting the failings of Westminster although it appears as though there is no will to capitalise on this. Why ?? The dithering will lead to violence in the end; that is for certain so they are doing nobody any favours waiting for Independence to appear out of a hat. Fortune favours the brave! The EU membership issue is also something they will just not entertain. I’m undecided on membership as I see the success of Iceland and Norway who manage just fine without full membership but I recognise the benefit and drawbacks of freedom of movement and full integration. There just seems to be no critical thinkers in the party at the moment which doesn’t inspire confidence.
I find it hard to disagree with the gist of what you say. I am reliably informed that change is afoot. Although I see no external indications that the party leadership is even aware of the mood outside their bubble, I am assured that the heat is reaching them. I think we just need to keep on making it hotter while never losing sight of the fact that the Yes movement needs the SNP every bit as vice versa. It would be a tragedy if we destroyed each other rather than our mutual foe.
Unfortunately it’s had to result in heat as it was going nowhere. The stars have aligned for an aggressive push to Independence but it appear they will only make the move after we have left the world’s largest trading block with no trade deals? It’s dangerous and lazy if i’m honest.
Strange that you’ve rarely, if ever, got anything to say about “our mutual foe”, rather just keep on running down Nicola Sturgeon / the SNP. Just another silly wee man with a big ego who thinks he knows better than, and more so … more than, the First Minister of Scotland. Delusions of grandeur or what?