Of course the British political elite is preparing for a Scottish independence referendum! Because they’re not stupid. Unlike our home-grown political elite the Brits know the value of keeping options open. They have a back-up plan. They are preparing for a Section 30 order to be granted.
This may seem counter-intuitive given the starkly anti-democratic rhetoric about NEVER allowing a new referendum. But that stuff is mainly for a particular audience in England which laps up a bit of Jock-bashing. There is a statistically significant overlap between this audience and those who vote for the likes of Boris Johnson. Getting tough with the Sweaties is an easy way for the Tories to keep the knuckle-dragger vote.
The belligerent talk of preventing us from exercising our right of self-determination also panders to British Nationalists in Scotland – including the odious wee rabble calling themselves ‘Scottish Tories’. But this is purely incidental. The British political elite realised long ago that their minions in the north would ‘umbly accept whatever happened to come their way. They accepted Douglas Ross as ‘leader’ didn’t they?
Many on the Scottish side of constitutional divide actually swallow the rhetoric every bit as much as Boris Johnson’s fan club. They are convinced that a Section 30 order will NEVER be granted under any circumstances. One of the things that we learn from our observations of the constitutional debate as conducted on social media is that for a large proportion of those involve nuance is a foreign language. I say this without malice. It’s true of many politicians as well. Including some of the longest-serving SNP MPs and MSPs. For the likes of Pete Wishart ‘nuance’ is allowing that bloggers such as myself might after all be human.
In reality, the nuance in this instance is not all that subtle. It’s actually quite easy to imagine circumstances in which Boris Johnson might do a U-turn on his adamant opposition to a new referendum. Bear with me and I’ll explain.
It’s all about control. The Brits want total control of Scotland. They want total control of the world – or at least the bit that used to be coloured pink on maps. But that ain’t gonna happen. So they concentrate all their control freakery on the annexed territories in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The thing about this kind of control is that even a tiny bit is massively preferable to none. When the Brits offer concessions or negotiations you can be sure it’s nothing to to with conceding or negotiating. When they appear to be backing down it is only because they see control slipping away and are looking for a way to keep however much they can.
Now, imagine a scenario in which the Scottish Government has done or is threatening to do something which will remove control entirely from the British state. Or imagine the SNP has adopted the Manifesto For Independence and has undertaken to assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament if returned to power after the May election. This would cut the British political elite out of the situation altogether. It means that there would be a referendum and – horror of horrors! – this referendum would be entirely made and managed in Scotland with no reference whatever to Westminster. Zero control for the British establishment!
At this point I must crave your indulgence as I quote the aforementioned Pete Wishart. I know! I know! But please bear with me. It might even be worth it.
What about the international community coming to our rescue, I can hear some people gently inquire? Well sorry, not a chance. Could you imagine for a moment turning up to the international community asking for our independence to be recognised when the state we are seeking to leave has had absolutely nothing to do with the process, where there has been no ‘No’ proposition and the whole question has not been properly debated? We would be laughed out of the room.
This is from Pete the Postponer’s dire blog. But I can’t tell you when it was written because the guy doesn’t have wit’s enough to put the date on his insufficiently infrequent offerings. Maybe this is further evidence of his ‘quaint’ disdain for the entire concept of time. But I digress.
You may have gathered that I don’t hold my MP in very high regard. In which case, you don’t know the half of it. I have no regard for him whatever. The quote above illustrates why I have come to doubt the man’s intellectual acuity. Please note how hard I’m trying to avoid calling him an idiot. He doesn’t make it easy, as the quote above makes apparent. I’ll ask you to believe me when I tell you that it is not an isolated instance of idiocy.
Think about this, for example,
where there has been no ‘No’ proposition
What the musing and muttering f*** is this!? We’re talking about a democratic process here. Specifically, Wishart is applying his sharp-as-a-brick mind to the proposal for a plebiscitary election. Needless to say, he’s agin it. It’s not approved by Nicola Sturgeon so must be the work of Satan. Wishart enjoys nothing more than a wee rant against such heresies. Had he been capable of a moment’s reflective thought he’d have realised, as I’m sure most of you did, that it is definitively impossible to have a democratic event with only a single choice. His claim that there would be no alternative proposition to a positive vote in a plebiscitary election is nonsense. You can either vote for the proposition or against. In any democratic exercise it is inevitable that there must be at least two choices. Yes or No. Scottish or British. Democracy or not. Those are the choices.
If the advocates for one or other of these choices chooses not to describe that choice then that is their choice. It doesn’t remove choice from voters. If May’s election is made plebiscitary then the choice will be between voting for a Scottish party in favour of independence or a British party in favour of preserving the Union at whatever cost to the people of Scotland. What more do you need to know?
Now look at this,
when the state we are seeking to leave has had absolutely nothing to do with the process
Let me just remind you that this is a senior SNP politician saying this. A senior figure in the party of independence who finds it impossible to contemplate the people of Scotland exercising their right of self-determination absent the guiding hand of Britannia keeping us right. Wishart purports to want a Scotland where we are in control of everything. But he can’t even get his head around the idea of us controlling our own referendum. Think about that!
And so we come back to the matter of control. Wishart’s appalling disdain for our competence may make it difficult to imagine the scenario I’ve suggested – the SNP adopting the Manifesto for Independence ahead of the election – but I’m asking you to try. If his ‘thinking’ is any guide to the way the party leadership is ‘thinking’ then it’s not going to happen. It’ll be Section 30 or nothing. But for the purposes of this exercise we’re going to pretend that the current SNP leadership is actually providing leadership for Scotland’s cause.
So, the hypothetical SNP has published its hypothetical manifesto which includes a repudiation of the Section 30 process and a solemn undertaking to assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament if returned to government. And the polls suggest it is all but certain that they will be. How might the British government react?
There’s lots of really extreme stuff that they might do like cancelling the election or suspending the Scottish Parliament or declaring the SNP a terrorist organisation and throwing the entire leadership in jail. But let’s discount such madness. Not completely, of course. But just for the purposes of this thought exercise. It’s difficult to make up any story about the insanity of British politics which might be dismissed as going over the top. The Brits are, quite literally, prepared to do anything to keep control of Scotland.
The SNP is threatening that the next Scottish Government will take all control away from the British state. Asserting the competence of the Scottish Parliament in all constitutional matters is effectively a declaration of independence. I can hear Wishart screeching “UDI! UDI! UDI!” while the nurse struggles to get the sedative needle into his arm – or his arse. I fervently hope that the last sound he hears as he slips into a chemically induced and blessedly silent slumber is may voice saying “Yeah! What of it?”. That’s because I don’t suppose any other parliament has the authority to declare independence on our behalf any more that I accept that another nation has the right to deny us independence as a choice of the people.
Faced with the loss of all control the British government is likely – perhaps highly likely – to try to retain whatever control it can. In the face of what the Manifesto for Independence proposes, the best option from their perspective might be to ‘concede’ a Section 30 order. If this is accepted by the Scottish Government, along with the conditions that will inevitably be attached, the British get a significant degree of control over the process. Certainly enough control to delay the process. Possibly enough to be able to sabotage it completely.
That is why the Tories are ‘preparing for a Scottish independence referendum’ despite the anti-democratic rhetoric. It’s all about keeping options open. And keeping control.