It’s not even two years since the independence referendum whose date most of us can remember, and here we are, talking about indyref 2. Few can have imagined during the depressing day when Magrit Curran danced and clapped and Conservatives grinned at the death grimace they fondly imagined to be on the face of Scottish state that just a few short months later that the sands of Union would still be tumbling through the hourglass. That rattle we heard wasn’t the jewellery of the Lords as the celebrated their continuing rule over us, it was the death rattle of Union. It’s rattling still.
All of Scottish politics revolves around the independence question. Even the European referendum is viewed through the prism of the independence debate. In an interview on Tuesday with Channel 4, businessman Tom Hunter asked how it was that Nicola Sturgeon could be so opposed to the Union of Parliaments, but so in favour of the European Union. He couldn’t understand it, he said, expressing the wish that someone would put the question to her. It’s a question, or rather a non-question, that supporters of Brexit frequently ask. Not that I’m suggesting Tom Hunter supports a Brexit. I have no idea which way he’s going to vote in June, and to be honest I don’t really care. I’m sure he has an equal lack of interest in how I’m going to vote, which is fair enough.
However the question is most often associated with those who seek an exit from the EU, people whose prime representative in Scotland is David Coburn, and no one is going to confuse him with a deep thinker. It’s perfectly consistent to be opposed to the Union of Parliaments but in favour of the European Union, because the only thing that the two have in common is the word union. Comparing the two is like wondering why someone want to get as far away as they possibly can from an abusive control freak of a partner but they insist on retaining membership of the bingo club and the gym.
The European Union doesn’t set Scotland’s budget. It doesn’t get to tell us how much the Scottish government will have to spend in any given year. Westminster does that. Westminster might have grudging conceded a few tax powers to Scotland, but they still control the purse strings. That’s true despite Huw Edwards’ dubious assertion on Tuesday’s BBC news that the Scottish Parliament is the most devolved legislature in the world.
Strictly speaking, what Huw said is true. Scotland has the most devolved legislature in the world. But then since the entire concept of devolution exists only within the UK, that’s really not saying much. You could just as easily say that Scotland has the most George Foulkesiest and Michael Forsythiest legislature in the world since the pair of them sit in the Lords and still lord it over us. So as a statement of Scottish constitutional strength it is equally true, and equally informative, and certainly considerably more embarrassing. Although, come to think of it, it also explains a great deal about how Scotland is habitually screwed over by Westminster. You won’t find Huw telling you that on the 6 O’Clock News though. I’d rather have the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels than the unelected embarrassments of the Lords.
Saying that Scotland has the most devolved legislature in the world is certainly not the same as saying that Scotland has the most powerful legislature short of independence of anywhere in the world. That’s certainly what Huw was trying to imply. It’s certainly what Scotland’s Unionist establishment would like us to believe. It’s also not true. To pick one example almost at random, Greenland’s legislature has far more control and power than Scotland’s, and there’s only 57,000 Greenlanders. Presumably Inuit people are genetically programmed to self-government. Must be all the fish in their diet. The 5,300,000 inhabitants of Scotland have barely more self-government than a Danish municipality.
But back to Europe. The European Union doesn’t regulate Scotland’s broadcasting. It doesn’t fill our televisions with nauseating hours of sycophantic coverage of how Jean-Claude Juncker loves horses and wildlife even when he’s blowing it to buggery with a twin bore rifle. We have the Westminster controlled BBC and the British royal family for that. Huw knows a lot about that, since he’s one of the main voices of royalist and monarchist sychophancy polluting our airwaves. Honestly BBC, if I wanted to know all about Harry and Will visiting the set of Star Wars or the Queen’s love of horses there’s a very easy way you could tell. I would just have a lobotomy and sit gibbering in my own drool.
The EU doesn’t tell Scotland that we must invade some far away country that most people would struggle to find on a map. It doesn’t tell us that we must have weapons of mass destruction capable of evaporating the entire country based down the road from our largest population centre. Westminster does that. Westminster loves going to war. Punching above our weight, they’re pleased to call it. They like their wars in far away places. It lets them feel important. It’s the viagra for an impotent ex-empire.
This week the Labour party in Scotland have announced, in a piece of window dressing that makes bugger all of a difference, that they’re opposed to the renewal of Trident. That’s all very well and good, but as long as the Labour party in Scotland insists that Scotland must be subject to the Westminster Parliament then they are telling us that Scotland cannot have an opinion on whether we want nuclear obscenities based in our country. Westminster will decide, and Labour’s protests will be token. Then they’ll tug their forelocks and knuckle down. There’s only one way to get rid of Trident for good, and it’s with independence. In or out of the EU, with the UK we’re stuck with it.
The biggest difference is that we can still hope that the EU can be reformed to make it accountable, to make it work in the interests of ordinary working people and not as an instrument of the elites. There is no hope of reforming the British state.
If Scotland was independent we’d have our own voice in Brussels. Right now we have no voice at all. Scotland is represented at a European level by Davie Cameron, and he understands Scotland even less well than Huw Edwards. In just over five weeks we’ll find out whether the UK is going to remain a part of the EU or it’s going to leave. One thing is certain though, whichever way the rest of the UK votes, Scotland is going to remain a part of the EU. The only thing that the EU referendum is going to tell is just how much sand is left in the UK’s Scottish hourglass.
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