The first thing to be said is that this has nothing to do with them being Tories and everything to do with them being British. I long ago despaired of people learning that when it comes to the constitutional issue making distinctions between British parties is nonsensical. They are all British. They are all parties of the British establishment. They all regard the Union as ‘precious’. They all regard democracy as a frippery to be entertained only so long as it produces the outcome which best suits the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
The British parties – ALL the British parties! – serve those structures of power, privilege and patronage because those structures of power, privilege and patronage serve them. The British parties are built into those structures. They cannot be considered separate from the British state any more sensibly than they can be considered separately from one another.
If The National were the truly Scottish newspaper so many of us want it to be it would not be encouraging the plainly foolish notion that Scotland’s interests might be served in some way by preferring one British party over another. Referring to them by the names they adopt to deceive the gullible is to participate in that deceit. There are British parties. There are Scottish parties. That is the only distinction that matters.
The second thing to be said is that there is absolutely nothing in the slightest bit surprising, far less shocking, in the ‘revelation’ that the British parties plan to boycott a constitutional referendum. The idea that the British parties might at any time or in any circumstances cooperate with a process which put their precious Union in jeopardy is entertained only by the pathologically naive and the incorrigibly malicious. Get this through your heads! If it is a choice between democracy and the Union then British Nationalists will choose the Union every time. And the British parties are ALL British Nationalists. Or we must assume that they are. Because to do otherwise would be pathologically naive or incorrigibly malicious.
Listen to the British parties! Actually listen to what they say! They are not saying they will accept and cooperate with a referendum that they are satisfied is fully democratic. They are saying they will not tolerate any referendum IF it is democratic. Or BECAUSE it is democratic. Or because they fear it MIGHT BE democratic. The search for an arrangement which might win the honest and willing cooperation of the British establishment is a fool’s quest. There is no such arrangement. There is no possibility of such an arrangement. If the British political elite approves a process it can only be because they are convinced they can control it in such a way as to ensure that democracy does not prevail.
We are are told we can’t have a referendum which conforms with internationally recognised norms and the fundamental principles of democracy because the British parties would boycott it. But that is precisely why we must pursue that process. It is BECAUSE the British will not accept a democratic process that we must pursue a process that they refuse to accept. To say that we can only have a democratic process if it is acceptable to those who are fervently opposed to democracy is idiocy verging on insanity.
If recent history is any guide then we can expect only that the Scottish Government will back down in the face of British party threats to boycott a referendum. There is no reason to suppose that Nicola Sturgeon has what it takes to call their bluff and face them down. Instead, we’ll be asked to believe that the entire nature of the British state will be magically transformed by a huge SNP majority in the 2021 election. It won’t, of course.
For democracy to prevail we must be prepared to fight for it.