You can’t have a second referendum Scotland! Respect the result! You had a vote two years ago and you lost, get over it! End of. And so on and so on, ad nauseum. These are the usual responses of diehard Unionists to the prospect that the Scottish Government is considering holding a second independence referendum if Scotland is wrenched out of the EU against its will, and contrary to the assurances of the Unionist establishment during that referendum two years ago. But of course in Unionist Britain it’s only the losing side in a referendum that has to comply with any promises made during the campaign, the winners get a carte blanche and can do exactly as they please, up to and including ripping up all the vows that they made in order to win. It’s a peculiar perversion of democracy, but it’s Great British democracy and we’re ordered to respect it.
Unionist no-no-never sayers believe that they’ve got an ace up their sleeves. Theresa May won’t allow you to have another independence referendum, they claim, wheeching out the card like a trump, one which is equally abusive and orange tinged. Because that’s exactly what it would be if ever it was played, an abuse of democracy. The people of Scotland elected a pro-independence majority to Holyrood just a few months ago. That was a vote that the Unionists lost. They should accept the result and get over it.
Scotland didn’t just vote for a pro-independence majority, the voters of this country voted overwhelmingly for a government party with an explicit statement in its manifesto that should Scotland be faced with the prospect of being taken out of the EU against its will, that would be a justification for another independence referendum. Some people refuse to accept that this clause exists, even though it was clearly there and written in simple English. But intransigence doesn’t stop it from existing. It only demonstrates that the person doing the denying is no longer dealing with a full deck of cards.
The Scottish government is still saying that a second independence referendum isn’t an inevitability, they’re giving the UK government enough rope to hang the idea of Scotland staying in the UK. By the time that the indyref button is pressed, it will be clear to everyone that the British Government does not have the slightest intention of respecting Scotland’s position, allowing Scotland to have a different Brexit deal, or even of permitting Scotland to have any significant input into the Brexit negotiations. Well, I say everyone, with the obvious exceptions of Ruthie, Kezia, Wee Wullie, and everyone on Twitter with a WATP avatar who ends their tweets with End. Of.
Mind you, you’d imagine that Rangers fans ought to be the very last people to complain about independence coming back again. They should be quite comfortable with the notion of independence being back on the table after being dead and buried a couple of years ago, what with the same thing having happened to their team.
Once a bill for a referendum is presented to the Scottish Parliament, there is absolutely nothing that the anti-independence parties can do to prevent it. Ruthie said this week that there will be no second independence referendum if she has anything to do with it. So it’s a terrible shame for her that she doesn’t. That’s democracy, her party lost. Get over it. End of.
That leaves just one glimmer of hope that the Unionist parties have of blocking a second independence referendum, and that’s if Theresa May’s government blocks it. In theory, there’s nothing to stop them, but in theory there’s also nothing to stop them passing a bill saying that all red haired people have to report to a detention camp. Mind you, they’ve recently proposed drawing up lists of all foreigners, so that’s possibly a bad example. The point however is that what is theoretically possible isn’t the same as what is politically possible.
Let’s suppose that after every single attempt to preserve Scotland’s position within the Single Market and to keep at least a modicum of our EU rights has been rebuffed by an intransigent Westminster, which looks very like the dark tunnel we’re heading down. An independence referendum bill will be presented to the Scottish Parliament, and passed by it, as a last ditch attempt to save Scotland from the looming disaster of a chaotic Brexit. While this is going on, the UK government will be engaged in negotiations with a deeply unsympathetic and increasingly hostile EU.
So let’s assume that Theresa May is stupid and short sighted enough to block the second independence referendum. She’ll be faced with a constitutional crisis to go along with the Brexit crisis she’ll already be dealing with. She will enrage Scottish opinion because she will have overruled the Scottish Parliament which had just voted on a manifesto commitment of the governing party. She’ll anger the EU that she’s negotiating with. And most importantly of all, she will not have blocked a second independence referendum for good. All she’ll have done is delayed it, and will have made it even less likely that she’ll win it when it is eventually held. Because all that will happen is that the subsequent Scottish parliamentary elections will become a de-facto independence referendum.
Westminster will see Scotland elect a pro-independence majority with a clear mandate to seek independence and to negotiate directly with the EU on Scotland’s behalf, because the Unionist parties will have to fight that campaign on the basis of defending a Westminster which has just overruled a democratic vote which it lost. They lost, but they won’t have got over it. They won’t have respected the result.
The biggest problem that the Unionist parties have is that they still imagine that they speak from a position of power and are able to call the shots. But Brexit has changed everything. Westminster is weak, it has few cards to play, it is staggering towards its own destruction. And its biggest weakness of all is its arrogant refusal to face up to the reality of its own debility. A Westminster veto of a second Scottish independence referendum won’t prevent that referendum from being held. It just delays the inevitable, and it just makes it even more likely that Scotland will vote for independence.
Meanwhile the Unionist parties keep looking back to the previous vote. But independence supporters are looking to the future. The past belongs to the Union. The future belongs to independence.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-14th-oct-2016
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