Brexshit just gets worse and worse. According to Universities Scotland and the Research Council UK, Brexit could leave Scotland as intellectually impoverished as the Labour party’s Holyrood front bench. Academics who are EU citizens won’t want to teach or study at Scottish universities, and Scottish students won’t be able to study abroad so easily. Because if you are a European citizen who fancies your intellectual barrow, you’re going to go where there’s a decent prospect of funding and resources, and that won’t be British universities after the Tories wrench us all out of Europe and into a land of dumbed down fleg wavers where Michael Gove will count as an expert. He’ll receive a professorship so he can lecture us about how facts are overrated. British universities will no longer benefit from European funding, and that will devastate many fields of study. But the Tories will be happy, because who needs world class universities anyway. They only encourage people to think critically.
4500 EU citizens work in universities and colleges. They currently have no guarantee of their status. They don’t know whether they’ll be allowed to remain in the UK. Liam Fox is happy to treat them as bargaining counters whose fate is to be held hostage to the fortunes of Tory negotiations. But human beings aren’t a passive pile of plastic chips in the possession of the reckless Brexit gambler in the EU trade casino. Liam Fox and David Davis don’t possess them. Human beings can and will walk out with their own two legs. Faced with the uncertainty in their personal and professional lives that has been created deliberately by arrogant politicians, people will make their own arrangements. And it’s Scotland’s universities and the universities of the rest of the UK which will suffer.
Brexit means Brexit, and that means Scottish students and students from the rest of the UK will be trapped with the inanities of a xenophobic backward looking Britain where the social attitudes of the 1950s count as progressive. Our students will no longer be eligible to participate in the Erasmus programme, which allows students to study in European universities. Travel broadens the mind, but that’s precisely what our Tory masters don’t want. They want us narrow minded, inward-looking, and parochial, all the better to swallow their nostrums. When you still think that you can’t drink the water abroad, you’re less likely to think that other countries have anything to teach us.
Brexit means Brexit, and that means that research programmes in Scottish universities will no longer be eligible for EU funding. One of the most worrying is funding for research programmes in IT, over 30% of which currently comes from the EU. Scotland’s world class reputation for innovation and invention, not to mention our £3 billion plus computer games industry, depends upon our expertise in IT. Also facing the axe are archaelogy, philosophy, classics, and law. We’ll be left as a country that doesn’t know its own past, doesn’t know what the future holds, and which won’t have the philosophical or legal resources in order to think about and challenge our position.
The fate of Scotland’s universities is the fate of Scotland post-Brexit. It will leave us diminished, isolated, and underfunded. Brexit is the ultimate in dumbing-down, the last word in the idolisation of wilful stupidity. According to the Scottish government, Brexit puts 80,000 Scottish jobs at risk, it’s going to cost the Scottish economy over £11 billion a year by 2030. But there will still be plenty of programmes on the telly with Great British in their title, and that makes it all OK. Mind you, as you struggle to make ends meet and avoid being sanctioned by a benefits system which has institutionalised cruelty, you won’t be able to afford your BBC licence fee anyway.
Scottish universities fear that the effects of Brexit will be devastating. Brexit is the insitutionalisation of dumbing down, and will make it even harder for us to challenge the decisions taken by the UK government because we’ll be alone, adrift and impoverished. Far from taking back control and restoring the sovereignty of the British parliament, Brexit in practice has resulted in the ever increasing concentration of power in the hands of whoever it is that happens to occupy the post of Prime Minister. And the current occupant is an unprincipled politician who will espouse any position in the pursuit of power.
Britain is becoming a nastier place, a crueller place, a place where compassion is regarded as weakness, where learning for its own sake is disparaged. The Brexiteers aren’t taking Britain out of the EU because they want to make this a kinder and more gentle country, they’re doing it because they want to expose us all to the howling gales of powerful corporations, to unleash the worst excesses of capitalism onto a population which has neither the energy nor the resources to resist. They want to strip back social progress our parents and grandparents fought and struggled for.
There is a way out. There is an escape. Scotland doesn’t have to face this fate. It can be possible for Scotland to remain a part of the EU. If we hold an independence referendum and vote for independence before the rest of the UK formally leaves the EU, Scotland can potentially inherit the UK’s membership. Because it’s in the gift of the other EU states to decide who they choose to recognise as the inheritor of the UK’s status as an EU member state should one part of the UK choose to leave and another part choose to remain.
If we want to save the best of Britain, the NHS, our public services, a social security system that actually provides security for those in need, decent pensions for our older people, a respect for different cultures and an openness to the world, the only way to do it is for Scotland to become an independent country. Scotland can be that part which preserves the positive and progressive values that once characterised the British state. It’s only by becoming an independent country that we can preserve and continue to develop those good and positive aspects of the British state that many No voters in 2014 were afraid of losing. We’re going to lose them if we remain a part of the UK. The paradoxical truth is that if you want to preserve the best of British, you need to vote for independence.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-30th-oct-2016
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