Poor Wee Wullie Rennie. He’s terribly upset that a party dedicated to the proposition of Scottish independence won’t rule out independence as an option in order to deal with the assault on Scotland’s democratic wishes that is the Brexit vote. Wullie doesn’t actually have any other ideas on how it might be possible to square the circle of a Scotland that wants to remain in the EU but a rest of the UK which wants to leave it. He’d prefer to live in a fantasy world where he can have a Scotland that remains a part of both the EU and the UK, but he doesn’t have the foggiest idea of how to bring that about. Possibly by magic.
To be fair, coming up with a practical and realistic plan on how to bring it about isn’t Wullie’s job. He’s only the leader of the fifth largest party in the Scottish Parliament. Wullie’s job is to come up with justifications for why there needs to be another EU referendum as soon as possible so the inconvenient 2016 vote can be overturned, but the result of the 2014 independence referendum needs to be set in stone forever. That’s the kind of mental gymnastics which have ensured that Wullie is the leader of the fifth biggest party in Holyrood.
The United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union. The Conservative government in Westminster is not disposed to make special arrangements which would allow Scotland to remain a member while the rest of the UK leaves, and the EU isn’t disposed to do so either. That doesn’t leave many possibilities outside of Wullie’s fond imaginings for Scotland to retain its EU membership.
The only ways that Scotland can remain a member of the EU would be if the UK as a whole changes its mind and doesn’t leave after all, or that Scotland becomes independent. That’s it, those are the only possibilities. The possibility that Scotland can remain a member of the EU while remaining a part of a UK the majority of which has left is as remote from reality as a statement from Alistair Carmichael about a Scottish Office leak. But the possibility that the UK won’t leave the EU after all is almost as remote. That would destroy the Tory party, but the best developed instinct in British politics is the Conservative instinct for survival. We’re in this mess in the first place because the Conservatives put their interests of their party before the interests of the country, and we will remain in this mess because it’s in the interests of the Conservative party to wade through the sewage of Brexit rather than avoid it.
We currently have a majority Conservative government in Westminster, but its majority is a mere 12 seats. If Theresa May decided that she wasn’t after all going to press the Brexit button and renege on the EU referendum result, she wouldn’t have a majority for much longer, and the Conservative party would dissolve into the kind of infighting, splits, and plotting which we more usually associate with the parliamentary Labour party. The difference being that when Tory plotters wield the knife they don’t usually miss. Meanwhile there would be a howl of outrage from the 55% of English and Welsh voters who supported Brexit in the referendum and the only beneficiary would be UKIP.
Reneging on the commitment to go ahead with Brexit would destroy the current Conservative government, and would destroy Theresa May’s career. She knows that too. That’s why the joke isn’t a joke after all. An Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman walk into a European bar, and they will all have to leave because the Englishman says so. That’s how the UK works. When there’s a conflict of interest between what Scotland wants and sees as being in its interest and what England wants and sees as being in its interest, it’s going to be England which wins. That’s simple electoral arithmetic.
We’re now in a situation where what Scotland votes for and what the rest of the UK votes for are in conflict almost more often than they’re in agreement. And that’s particularly true of the big questions, like questions about the future direction of the UK, about Trident, about the kind of society that we want to live in. The UK is only viable as a political entity as long as its constituent parts are in broad agreement, but for Scotland and the rest of the UK that ceased to be true a long time ago. Scotland and the rest of the UK march to different drums. Scotland votes for parties that are opposed to Trident, opposed to austerity, opposed to leaving the EU, but we’re getting all those things anyway because that’s what the rest of the UK votes for.
Wullie Rennie, and the Labour party in Scotland, can hide their heads under the duvet and pretend that it’s possible for Scotland to remain a part of both Unions, but that’s not going to happen. They’d prefer to see Scotland dragged out of the EU while they carp helplessly from the sidelines than do anything useful and productive to avoid the situation. Not even the prospect of a UK that’s outside the EU, exposed to the wildest excesses of the Conservatives austerity fetish, where public services are slashed to the bone and Tory party’s private business cronies are the only winners will wrest the Lib Dems or Labour out of their SNP bad comfort zone.
In both the 2015 and the 2016 SNP manifestos, Brexit was specifically stated as a trigger for another independence referendum. The Scottish government is doing all it can to secure Scotland’s place within the EU, but when both the UK government and the EU rule out any possibility of Scotland remaining a part of both Unions, it would be wrong of the SNP not to pursue the mandate on which they were elected. The Lib Dems went back on their manifesto commitment to resist student fees, and it didn’t turn out well for them. The SNP won’t be taking advice from the leader of a party which ignored its own manifesto commitments and reduced itself to irrelevance. All Wullie has to offer is a wave of a rolled up copy of a Lib Dem press release which he’s mistaken for a magic wand.
There won’t be any blog updates until Thursday as I’m off with the dug tomorrow to do a talk for Common Weal Moray at the Inkwell, Francis Street, Elgin. On Thursday evening I’ll be doing a talk for a local SNP group at the Crown Inn, 19 Links Place, Burntisland, Fife. Then on Monday 8 August I’ll be speaking at an event hosted by SNP Bathgate at 14 Glasgow Road, Bathgate. All three events start at 7pm. Come along, meet the dug, and buy a book!
Audio version of this blog, courtesy of @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wullie-rennies-magic-wand-wgd-1st-august-2016
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