No way back

But for that one word, “almost”, David Martin talks a lot of sense and says things that need to be said. In particular, the point about there being no going back on Brexit. This has always been true and one of the things that even those advocating revoking the Article 50 implementation generally failed to acknowledge. The moment the Brexit juggernaut started rolling the place the UK had been disappeared. There could be no going back because there was nowhere to go back to.

Logic would dictate that long and probing consideration should be given to a course of action which not only had profound and wide-ranging implications but which was also irrevocable. Both in terms of planning for Brexit and in terms of voting in the referendum. But that was not the case. As we now know, there had been absolutely no planning for Brexit. The politicians who campaigned for a Leave vote appeared to be as deluded about the true nature of the EU and of the UK’s favourable terms of membership as the consumers of British media propaganda. And, even if factual information had not been swamped by that propaganda so that voters could not readily access it, they were persuasively discouraged from any reflective thought by the simplistic jingoism of the Leave campaign.

Brexit, as far as most Leave voters were led to believe, was both a trivially uncomplicated and a richly rewarding matter. All gain and no effort. People have been falling for that brand of snake oil since the capacity of complex communication made possible the big lie.

One of the most extraordinary things about the whole Brexit farce is the fact that had they actually stopped to think about it or had been obliged to reflect by being asked sensible questions, what many Leave voters actually wanted was the very thing that the UK already had. The UK was, in many ways, the most pandered and appeased member of the EU. (see image above) It enjoyed more exceptions and opt-outs than any other member state. Plus, arguably the best financial deal.

The trouble is that nobody was aware of this. Just as the relentless 50-year campaign of disinformation meant few who voted in the EU referendum knew anything about how the EU actually works, so there was general ignorance about the privileged arrangements that the UK enjoyed. Just as people were encouraged to think of the EU as something monstrous and alien, so they were led to believe that the UK was the put-upon victim in the relationship.

Lies heaped on disinformation heaped on calumny. The UK sold the cow and in return got inedible beans and no magic. No wonder David Martin seems so dejected about it all.



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Johnson’s game

During the 2014 referendum campaign when Better Together / Project Fear was peddling scare stories about Scotland being expelled and excluded from the European Union, one of the reasons I gave for discounting this possibility was the fact that the EU bureaucracy takes a pragmatic rather than a dogmatic approach to such issues. That pragmatism means they tend to be somewhat flexible in seeking to find ways of resolving issues which entail as few complications as possible. Which is why they would all but certainly have opted for the two successor states solution had Scotland voted Yes.

Boris Johnson has evidently learned the lesson of the EU’s pragmatism and flexibility. He took advantage of it to secure the semblance of a ‘new deal’ despite the EU insisting that negotiations were closed. He obviously assumes he will be able to pull off the same trick as regards securing something that can be portrayed as a ‘trade deal’ before the end of the transition period.

There is no way a fully worked-out trade deal can be completed in the time available. Not even if the UK administration was remotely competent. The evidence of Brexit tells us they are anything but that. Johnson is depending on the EU going along with his little ploy just for the sake of not stirring up a crisis.

Expect a rerun of the antics leading up to Johnson declaring that he had squeezed a brilliant new deal out of the EU. The trade negotiations will involve incessant carping about the EU not cooperating and trying to bully ‘poor little Britain’. Meanwhile, the tiniest movement on the part of the EU will be declared a major concession and a triumph for ‘powerhouse Britain’. The British will take exorbitant credit for anything that can be spun as a success by the British media. All criticism will be deflected onto the EU bureaucrats and, if possible, political opponents.

The EU could put a stop to these silly games. But they won’t. That would involve taking a firm stance of the kind that is not compatible with pragmatism.



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The Union is not an option!

Imagine I had the power to decree that your vote only counts if I agree with it. Imagine I had the power to stipulate all that your democratic choices are always conditional on my approval. Imagine I told you this stipulation would be enshrined in the constitution. Would you,

  1. Laugh in my face
  2. Spit in my face
  3. Punch me in the face

While the last of these would surely be considered excessive, and the second socially unacceptable, none of these adverse reactions would be deemed irrational. Generally speaking, it would be considered quite natural that you should forcefully reject such an anti-democratic proposal.

And yet this is precisely the situation that British Nationalists insist we accept. As a voter in Scotland, you are expected to meekly accept that your vote only counts on those occasions when it coincides with the vote of your counterpart in England. We are told we must accept, without demur, a constitutional arrangement whereby one voter in England can effectively cancel every vote cast by a citizen of Scotland.

Let’s say there are 4,000,000 voters in Scotland. Suppose all of them vote in a binary poll for ‘White’. In England, the corresponding 4,000,000 voters also vote ‘White’. So far, so good. But the 4,000,001st voter in England votes ‘Black’. Instantly, the votes of every single one of Scotland’s citizens are totally discounted. They are rendered meaningless.

Some will respond that this is just the way democracy works. The majority wins. But it is not democracy when the voters in one country can be outvoted by the voters in another.

The 2016 EU referendum was a particularly egregious example of this happening in the real world rather than in the realm of the hypothetical. It was far from the first instance. As far as UK Governments are concerned, Scotland only rarely gets what it votes for. But, because it was as binary as our hypothetical illustration, the EU referendum brought this grotesque constitutional anomaly into stark relief.

This anomaly is very much enshrined in the British constitution. It is often pointed out that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. It would be more correct to say that the UK lacks a formal, coherent constitution. The constitution, such as it is, will be found scattered throughout a huge body of statutes, treaties, conventions and precedents. The Acts of Union are an important – I would contend crucial – component of that dispersed, vague, ambiguous and highly ‘elastic’ constitution.

It is the Union which gives effect to the situation described at the start of this article. It is the Union which creates the circumstances in which Scottish votes only count to the extent that they concur with at least the same number of English votes.

Unionists and British Nationalists will argue that this is no more than democracy in action. The majority wins. The minority is left to suck it up. In the British political system, it’s winner-take-all. If you’re not first past the post, you’re nowhere. But this argument absolutely requires that those making it are able and willing to completely deny Scotland’s status as a nation, as well as the observable reality of Scotland’s distinctive political culture. The grotesque constitutional anomaly embedded in the Union can only be rationalised by regarding Scotland as but a ‘region’ of a ‘One Nation’ British state. Or ‘Greater England’, as it is often called.

By accepting the Union one accepts that Scotland is no more distinct from England than any one of that nation’s counties. One is also accepting that there are (at least) two classes of voter; and that the lesser of these is the Scottish voter. The Union truly is a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty. The Union is a denial of that sovereignty in favour of the sovereignty of a divinely-ordained monarch whose powers are administered by an executive which, to the limited extent that it can be described as having been elected, is the choice of England’s electorate only. Said executive operating under the auspices of a parliament which is massively dominated by England’s elected representatives.

Needless to say, I do not accept any of this. I do not accept the denial of popular sovereignty. I do not accept the sovereignty of ‘the crown in parliament’. I do not accept the democratic legitimacy of a parliament which is neither elected by nor accountable to the people of Scotland. I utterly reject the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

One would expect that, while she would doubtless wish to express the foregoing in her own way, the leader of the Scottish National Party would be in pretty much full accord with these sentiments. But I’m not so sure.

Nicola Sturgeon describes a so-called ‘people’s vote’ as “the only option, within the UK, that would allow Scotland’s democratic wish to remain in Europe to be respected.” She might well have added, “So long as England’s voters agree!”

Why would we want a second EU referendum? Scotland voted Remain. Decisively! Who in Scotland is clamouring for a chance to change their mind? A second EU membership referendum has only one purpose – to afford the people of England a chance to change their collective mind. Why does our vote only count if voters in England ‘ratify’ it?

Why aren’t Scotland’s voters worthy of respect in their own right?

I would be delighted if our First Minister were to explicitly acknowledge the subordinate status of Scotland and its people withing this benighted Union. But I am perplexed and concerned that, by actively supporting the idea of a new EU referendum, she appears to be accepting all the things that I, as a lifelong advocate of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status, categorically reject.

Seeking England’s endorsement of our democratic choice to remain in the EU should not be an option at all for those who wish Scotland to be a normal independent nation once again. If that is the only option “within the UK”, then remaining within the UK cannot be an option. It is time to #DissolveTheUnion.


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Old lies


In the run up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, Spain made clear it would resist an independent Scotland’s application to join the EU for fear of fuelling the Catalonian separatist movement.

Ousted Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

This statement in The National is just not true. Whatever Mariano Rajoy said as a favour to David Cameron – doubtless with some quid pro quo involved – Madrid’s official position was much more nuanced. There was, indeed, a fear of “fuelling the Catalonian separatist movement”. But to obviate this possibility Spain took the line that Scotland becoming independent was irrelevant to the Catalonian situation due to the constitutional differences.

This position was spelled out as long ago as 2014 by one of Josep Borrell’s predecessors as Foreign Minister.

Spain’s veto seems unlikely. José Manuel García-Margallo, Spain’s foreign minister, declined to state that Spain would veto Scottish accession when invited to do so. Instead, the Spanish Government has taken the line that the cases of Catalonia and Scotland are fundamentally different because the UK’s constitutional setting permits referendums on secession while the current Spanish constitution enshrines the indivisibility of the Spanish state and establishes that national sovereignty belongs to all Spaniards.

Thinking about it for a moment, rather than accepting the British state’s propaganda or falling into line with the metropolitan media’s cosy consensus, one can readily see how actively opposing Scotland’s entry into the EU would fatally contradict this official position. It would be a tacit acknowledgement that there were parallels to be drawn between to two situations. The very thing that Spain was at pains to deny.

The point, of course, is that this “myth” has not just now been “busted”. The reality is that the myth never had any substance. The claim that Spain would veto Scotland’s membership of the EU was, for all practical purposes, a lie. One of countless lies told by Better Together/Project Fear, the British political parties and the British government.

But these lies are not being newly exposed now. Those lies were known to be lies at the time. The article referred to above was published before the 2014 referendum. There were many more such articles. Most, if not all, of the British Nationalist propaganda had been debunked before Scotland voted.

Many of those who voted on Thursday 18 September were making an informed choice. They had taken the trouble to question the British propaganda. They had made the effort to find the facts – or, at least, better information.

Others opted to make arguably the most significant political choice they will ever make on the sole basis of the lies peddled by the British media. Please don’t ask me to respect those people or their choice. After all, they showed scant respect for Scotland or the democratic process.


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No shortcuts

saltire_euI suppose we take it for granted that people associated with Scotland’s Yes movement will have more respect for the principles of democracy than British Nationalists. Not that this would be difficult. On a daily basis, British politicians – particularly those squatting in the Scottish Parliament – are at pains to demonstrate their disdain for voters as well as their sneering contempt for the institutions and processes of democracy. British Nationalism is anti-democratic. To be a British Nationalist is to believe that political authority derives from the monarch, rather than from the people. And that the exercise of fundamental democratic rights is legitimate only to the extent that the outcome serves the interests of the British state. It is an abiding tenet of British Nationalist ideology that the people are subordinate to parliament.

The concept of parliamentary sovereignty is anathema to the Yes movement. We hold this truth to be self-evident – the people are sovereign. We hold it to be the single most important defining characteristic of true democracy that ultimate political authority is vested wholly and exclusively in the people. We tend to assume that awareness of and regard for the basic precepts of democracy is common to the entire Yes movement. Carolyn Leckie shows why we should, perhaps, be more cautious about that assumption.

Not that I’m saying Carolyn is anti-democratic in the way that British Nationalists are. It’s just that she hasn’t thought things through. She hasn’t asked the important questions about her suggestion that the SNP should “pledge” a post-independence referendum on Scotland’s relationship with the European Union. Most obviously – at least to those of us who relate all policy proposals to the ideals of democracy – she has failed to consider the question of a democratic mandate.

Carolyn chooses to disregard the fact that ‘Independence in Europe’ is the official policy of the Scottish National Party. She appears to attach no significance whatever to the fact that this position has been repeatedly and comprehensively endorsed by the party membership.

Worse still, she opts to disregard the fact that remaining a full member f the EU is the settled will of Scotland’s people. We voted 62% Remain, in the best test of public opinion that we can possibly have this side of independence. Carolyin Leckie not only expects Nicola Sturgeon to set aside the democratic will of party members, she wants them to show the same contempt for the electorate as is habitual among British Nationalists. All in the name of political expediency.

I have an alternative suggestion. Instead of pandering to minority Leave voters to the extent of affording them parity of status with the Remain majority, let’s try being honest with them. Let’s tell them that the question of Scotland’s membership of the EU is a settled matter. If they want a referendum on the issue then they are perfectly at liberty to campaign for one after Scotland’s independence is restored.

And if they, or Carolyn Leckie, want to change the SNP’s position on EU membership then they can do it the democratic way. They can join the party, pay their dues, and work through the internal democratic procedures.


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The blinkered Brit

What David Mundell needs to learn is that his inability to comprehend something doesn’t necessarily make it “odd”. The problem may well not be with the concept that is perplexing him, but with his own intellectual capacities.

Mundell’s comments suggest that he makes no distinction between the UK and the EU. Both are political unions. Therefore, to his evidently limited way of thinking, they are the same. Thus, he is left utterly confused by the notion that people might want to end one political union, but preserve the other.

This is not a problem for people who understand the nature of the EU and the UK. But, like other British nationalists, Mundell has no idea what the UK is. He doesn’t understand it,because he has never questioned it. He has never even thought about it. His attachment to the British state is more instinctive and emotional than intellectual and pragmatic.

This is why the anti-independence campaign was no more than that – an entirely negative anti-independence campaign. There was no pro-union campaign. There could be no positive case for the union because, in order to formulate such a case, unionists would have had to reflect on the question of what the union is. And they simply can’t do that.

I doubt if Mundell has any better idea of what the EU is. So it is, perhaps, unsurprising that he can so easily fall into the simplistic folly of equating it with the UK. So, the SNP’s position of independence in Europe is bound to be incomprehensible to the poor soul.

He is not alone. Many people make the same mistake. Those on the Yes side in Scotland’s constitutional debate are generally people who have questioned the whole concept of the political union between Scotland and England. They are the ones who have scrutinised this constitutional arrangement. And they have found it to be profoundly unsatisfactory.

Yes voters are people who think for themselves. They get behind the propaganda and beyond the sentiment and they look at the reality of the union. Pretty much everybody who does this ends up supporting the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

The lever that moves No voters away from their unthinking attachment to the British state is the question that prompts them to start thinking about it. That may well be a different question for each. There is no one ‘magic question’ that will do the trick. But once the barrier of blind allegiance is breached, the process is self-fulfilling. And there is rarely any going back. Once the illusion is broken, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state cannot be unseen.

The political union between Scotland and England is an arrangement that we, the people, had no part in creating or sanctioning. It is an anachronistic, disfunctional, corrupt union which serves none of the people off these islands well.

It is a union which was always intended to serve the purposes of the ruling elites. A union which, in that regard if no other, has not changed one iota in the last three centuries.

It is a union that sucks the human and material resources out of our nation and in return gives us government by parties that we have emphatically rejected at the polls.

It is a union that imposes policies which are anathema to our people. Policies which have been rejected by our democratically elected representatives.

It is a union which, were we being given that option now, not one of us would vote to join.

For all Mundell’s inability to appreciate the fact, there is no meaningful similarity between the UK and the EU. For all its defects – and there are many – it is a modern, democratic organisation. Not perfectly democratic. But the perfectly democratic organisation doesn’t exist.

The EU is, in its essence, a bold and largely successful experiment in post-imperial international arrangements. Politicians and bureaucrats may have buggered-up bits of it. But the fundamental idea is sound. Far more sound than the underpinning concept of the UK – which is, basically, just the latest formulation of the ‘Greater England’ project.

Seeing things as they are dispels confusion. Scotland is a nation. The EU is an association of nations. The UK is more like a cartel dominated by an entrenched clique.

All we seek for Scotland is the right to freely negotiate the terms on which our nation associates with others – be that England, the EU, or any other nation or international organisation. British nationalists are determined to deny us this right. The EU does not. That, if nothing else, is a difference that should be apparent even to a blinkered, dogma-bound unionist ideologue like David Mundell.