Remember during the heady days of the independence referendum campaign when we actually had a referendum that people were interested in? Scotland is responding to this EU referendum in much the same way as we respond to invitations from Nicholas Witchell to pop along to M&S to get in our supplies for a street party to celebrate the non-achievements of a member of the royal family. We silently turn over and watch something else on telly instead while the piles of bunting and the royal memorabilia are as avidly sought after as an EU referendum leaflet bearing the grinning mug of Boris Johnson.
I’ve never been entirely sure why we are always being called upon to celebrate the royal family, as the royals are extremely good at celebrating their own non-achievements without any input from the rest of us. Very much like Boris Johnson, come to think of it. You only needed to look at the chest-load of medals worn by Prince Edward at his maw’s birthday bash to realise just how good the royals are at giving themselves undeserved pats on the back. He was in the Royal Marines for barely more than a fortnight and he still managed to be awarded more decorations than George Square at Christmas.
During the independence referendum the future of Scotland was the main topic of conversation in pubs, amongst friends, amongst families. People were interested and engaged. The future of the UK whether within or outwith the EU has got people interested and engaged too, but only to the same extent that they are interested and engaged in wondering how it is that Prince Edward managed to accumulate more bottletops on his chest than you’ll find in an entire branch of Oddbins despite having a military career that consisted of turning up for basic training and then phoning his maw in tears. Actually, probably less interest and engagement, if we’re going to be honest.
The reason for the lack of engagement is because this referendum is seen as a bun fight between different factions of the Tory party. On the one hand it gives us the sight of George Osborne attempting to pose as the champion of the poor, which is as convincing as Dracula posing as an advocate for veganism. On the other we have arch-privatisers like Boris Johnson trying to make out that he’s the champion of the NHS, which is like asking John Wayne Gacy for his views on child protection.
It’s not so much that Scots have no interest in the outcome of the referendum, whether we remain members of the EU or are taken out of it is a pretty big deal, but there’s little popular engagement with the campaign in Scotland because people know that however Scotland votes will make little difference, if any, to what happens once the results are in. The vote will be decided elsewhere. Scotland as always gets to sit at the back of the bus while other people argue about which cliff they want to drive it over. That’s what it’s like being Scottish within the UK, powerless to influence your own fate.
Our role in this referendum, insofar as Scotland figures at all, is as another scare for the remain campaign to threaten middle Englandshire with. If the rest of the UK votes to leave the EU but Scotland votes to remain, we could end up with another independence referendum. The truth is that voters in the rest of the UK give as much of a toss about that threat as Scots do about the recent invitation to host a royal themed street party. And that’s what I really don’t understand about Scottish Unionists, they want us to remain a part of a polity in which we’re not only unimportant, but one in which no one cares about us, no one is interested in our opinion, and in which there is in fact considerable hostility towards us.
In this heady mix of utter lack of interest steps Michael Gove, the Tory party’s half man half goldfish, who had to run away to the south of England in order to find people who’d vote to give him a career in politics. Now he’s poked his head north of the border in order to try and gee up the flagging support for a Brexit campaign that’s the bastard offspring of the Tory right and UKIP. In a re-run of the highly dubious promises made by the Better Together campaign during the indyref, Mikeyfish is telling us that in the event of a Brexit Scotland ‘could’ get more powers over immigration which ‘could’ allow families like the Brains to remain in Scotland. The Brain family are facing deportation to Australia because the Home Office changed the scheme which allowed families to remain in the country on work-study schemes, a scheme in which the Scottish government had a limited amount of input.
But we’ve heard all this kind of thing before. Scotland ‘could’ be allowed some powers over immigration in the same sense that Davie Cameron told us that Scotland ‘could’ get devomax if we voted to remain as a part of the UK when he swore blind that nothing was off the table in terms of devolution options.
Scotland ‘could’ get more control over immigration right now, but Mikeyfish and his Tory pals actually took away what little control Scotland had. The Brain family are facing deportation because the Tory run Home Office took away what little leeway Scotland had in considering immigration cases. It has nothing to do with the EU. The idea that a triumphalist British nationalist right that has just won a referendum to leave the EU is going to concede anything at all to Scotland is as plausible as George Osborne’s newly found incarnation as St Francis of Assisi with his vow of poverty and his commitment to the poor. The only vows of poverty you can believe from Tories is that working class people are going to be impoverished. Although to be fair you can also believe that Unionists will vow absolutely anything to Scotland when they’re hoping a vote will go their way, and you can also believe that as soon as they’ve got the vote that they want Scotland will go back to being ignored and sidelined. There’s as much substantive content in Michael Gove’s and Unionist promises as there is in the bubbles from a goldfish’s mouth.
Meanwhile Scotland’s future is uncertain and at risk, and there’s bugger all we can do about it. That’s what we face as long as we’re a part of this United Kingdom.
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