As the EU issues the British government with yet another warning that the deadline for concluding a trade deal is fast approaching, here in Scotland our political leaders would do well to consider that this deadline applies to them as well. Of course, we know that the Scottish Government has been all but totally excluded from these crucial talks. As have the other devolved administrations. We also know why. We know that whatever the outcome of these negotiations it will be to Scotland’s detriment. We know that whatever ‘deal’ is struck it will be a settlement that Scotland does not want. We know it will be a deal imposed on us in contemptuous disregard for the democratic will of Scotland’s people. There is no good Brexit deal because there is no good Brexit. There is no good Brexit because there is no Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote against.
We know too that there is something more to the very purposeful, very pointed, very public sidelining of Scotland’s democratically elected representatives. Something more, besides, to the very explicit, almost exaggerated, somewhat theatrical dismissal of the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. Gone is any pretence of respect. No longer so much as formal cordiality. The unconcealed subtext in the whole sorry saga of Brexit has been the message that Scotland doesn’t matter. We are of no significance. We are entitled to no consideration. We are to be disregarded.
This seems to jar horribly with two other aspects of Scotland’s present predicament. One an abiding truth. The other a deceptively pleasing fantasy. The abiding truth is that the British state needs Scotland. The British state itself may not collapse with the loss of Scotland – the structures of power, privilege and patronage have proven their robustness and resilience over many centuries. But what will certainly be seriously undermined if not totally destroyed is the British state’s conceit of itself. Without its annexed northern territory the British state is massively, visibly and undeniably diminished. Without Scotland there is no ‘Great Britain’.
The deceptively pleasing fantasy is that Scotland is on the verge of restoring independence. That independence is ‘ but a step away’ or ‘within our grasp’. At the extreme the deceptively pleasing fantasy shades into the truly demented delusion that ‘independence has never been closer’.
How to we reconcile the new limpidity of the British political elite’s contempt for Scotland with the fact that Scotland is so crucial to the British state and their notions of greatness? Why, if they are as close to losing Scotland and any semblance of global significance, are they so evidently unconcerned. And unconcerned about putting their disdain on display like grouse on the lek?
What does the British political elite know that Scotland’s political leaders are apparently unaware of? How do we explain the stark contrast between British confidence and Scottish complacency?
It will be protested that Scotland’s political leaders have not been complacent. And it is true that they have railed against Brexit and deplored Scotland’s treatment. But what have they done? What tangible, effective action has the Scottish Government taken in response to the British state’s open contempt for Scotland’s people and Parliament? Can anyone point to anything?
We’ve heard – and continue to hear – much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the likes of Ian Blackford MP and Mike Russell MSP about what is happening and demands that it should not happen. Then, when it does happen despite all the thunderous, ponderous rhetoric, we’re told to take comfort in the notion that it having happened will increase demands for a new referendum and independence. Don’t look at what just happened, folks! Look at the polls!
Is it any wonder the British political elite are confident that they have the ‘Scottish situation’ under control? Is it at all surprising that they are so sure they can do what they will with total impunity? What reason do they have to be seriously concerned about the nuisance of democratic dissent in the annexed territories? Who is going to stop them as they wield the power afforded them by the Union and crush that dissent under the tread of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ juggernaut?
The Scottish Government – more specifically an SNP administration – is all that stands between Scotland and something akin to oblivion. It is no exaggeration to say that the British establishment is intent on eradicating everything of Scotland’s identity that they regard as having only inconsequential commercial value. They are openly declaring their intent to end the devolution ‘experiment. They are blatantly seizing powers from the Scottish Parliament and constantly striving – with active complicity of the British media – to delegitimise Scotland’s democratic institutions, undermine our public services and generally denigrate anything Scottish. The British state’s placemen in Scotland are being photographed in front of what they intend to be the new locus of political power in Scotland once the Scottish Parliament has been reduced to a toothless lapdog or abolished altogether.
The aim is to eradicate distinctiveness. The objective is to absorb Scotland into a homogeneous new ‘Great Britain’ just like the old ‘Great Britain’ of their imagining. The intention is that Scotland be bound to this entity by a new ‘Act of Union’, the terms of which will be decided entirely by the British political elite with even less regard for Scotland’s needs, priorities and aspirations than has been shown in the Brexit process. Why should they have regard for Scotland’s needs, priorities and aspirations when Scotland has no needs, priorities and aspirations distinct from those of England-as-Britain?
Even if only a half of the foregoing is accurate, it spells catastrophe for Scotland. Only the Scottish Government in the Scottish Parliament can possibly avert this catastrophe. The British are very evidently confident that it won’t. Is that confidence misplaced? It would certainly appear so.
The deadline for our First Minister to act is approaching just as surely as the deadline for those EU/England-as-Britain trade talks. The deadline is pretty much the same. The EU says October – after which there will not be time to have the agreement ratified by member states. The Boris Johnson regime says talks can be concluded in September, a month before the deadline. But that’s because they don’t really care. These ardent British Nationalists would rather there be no deal than one that they can’t at least portray as being entirely on England-as-Britain’s terms. Not because they are prepared to deal with the consequences of a no-deal Brexit but because they are in total denial about those consequences.
This should worry all of us in Scotland. It should certainly worry any of Scotland’s politicians who are actually concerned to save Scotland from the fate described above. Because the British political elite aren’t only blithely unconcerned about a trade deal with the EU. They are also quite nonchalant about the ‘Scottish problem’. Or at least far less apprehensive than far too many of Scotland’s politicians like to pretend. They sure as hell aren’t panicking, as some claim. They reckon they have contrived the final solution to the ‘Scottish problem’. They think they are unstoppable.
This ‘final solution’ and the UK’s completed exit from the EU on 31 December 2020 are closely linked. Brexit provides the pretext and the opportunity for implementation of the final solution to the ‘Scottish problem’. Which means the deadline for those trade talks with the EU and the deadline for Nicola Sturgeon to act are the same.
We are now mere weeks away from that deadline. The question is, having done so little over the last five or six years for the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence, will our political leaders redeem themselves now? Will they act in time? Will they meet the deadline?
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