On Tuesday and Wednesday the Scottish parliament is debating the bill to bring about a second Scottish indepedence referendum. The first day of debates was mature and thoughtful, allowing the advocates of Scotland remaining a part of the UK to introduce the truly vital and important arguments for their case. Arguments like those of Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who used the debate as an opportunity to highlight the truly crucial issues of the day, the fact that she thinks Stu Campbell of Wings Over Scotland is a bit smelly, and how it’s outrageous that she’s blocked on Twitter by the SNP MSP Christina Mckelvie.
The real issue of course, is the future of Scotland. Although to be fair the hugely important issue of Monica Lennon’s social media experience is considerably more pressing and vital than her party’s notion of a federal UK, because Monica’s blocking by Christina on Twitter is something that does actually exist in the real world. That however didn’t prevent many of her colleagues using the debate as an opportunity to waffle on about their federalism fantasy. There’s no desire for federalism in England, and if we’ve learned anything about the structure of the UK over the past few years it’s the lesson that politically speaking, England gets what England wants, and so do the other constituent parts of the UK.
But Labour just kept banging on about how they want federalism. I want to win the Euromillions lottery jackpot, and there is actually a quantifiable probabilty of my doing so. It’s a tiny probability, a probability that’s quite a lot smaller than the probability of being struck by lightning, but it does exist and it’s not zero. The probability of federalism ever being introduced in the UK is as close to zero as makes no difference.
But it’s worse than that. It’s not just that there’s no desire for it in England, and so zero chance of it ever coming about, it’s also that it’s incompatible with the one doctrine of the British constitution that the Unionists fetishise above all others – the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster parliament. You can’t have federalism under a system in which the Westminster parliament reserves to itself the right to abolish or change it whenever it suits Westminster. It’s not just that Labour has no answer to this problem, they don’t even seem to demonstrate any awareness that the problem exists.
Anyway, the federalism fairy was fulminating in Labour’s full-on fairytale fantasy on Tuesday. The only proper response to it likewise begins with an f, and is immediately followed by the word off. But fair’s fair, at least Labour was trying to put forward some sort of plan for the future of Scotland, however delusional and unrealistic it may be. On the Tory benches there was nothing but anger and contempt for the idea that Scotland should have any sort of say in its future at all. From neither Labour nor the Tories came any admission that there has been any sort of change in circumstances at all since 2014, and likewise they continued to trot out the same arguments that they’d come out with three years ago.
The Tories are apoplectic. Their version of Scottish Unionism means that Scotland should have no say whatsoever on Brexit, and they are outraged at any suggestion that Scotland should have a say. Scottish Tories want their country to be the only country in Europe which doesn’t have any input into Scotland’s relation with Europe. They want their pals in the UK government to have a free hand, they acknowledge that the governments of the 27 remaining EU members will likewise have their say. But the only people who don’t get to voice an opinion on where Scotland is headed as a country are the people of Scotland themselves. Scotland is the only country in Europe whose views on membership of the EU are irrelevant. As irrelevant as the Scottish Tories will be in the vote in Holyrood on Wednesday – because they’re going to lose it. Their anger and resentment was not unrelated to the fact that they know there is a majority in Holyrood for another referendum, and there’s nothing they can do to prevent the bill being passed.
Adam It’s The Law Tomkins decided to go on about Canada for some reason best known to himself. He also consistently referred to Scottish independence as secession throughout his spittle flecked frothing. Calling Scottish independence secession is a bit like referring to fleeing a dystopian nightmare with a crashing economy where you get told what’s going to happen to you for a better life in a different country where you get consulted on important decisions as “a trip to the airport”. There could be a queue! And you’ll be at the back of it.
The Tories have no vision for Scotland. All they offer is obedience to decisions that are made on Scotland’s behalf by a political class that has trouble locating us at the small end of the BBC weather map. The offer austerity. They offer xenophobia. They offer isolationism in Empire 2.0. They kept saying that Scotland doesn’t want another referendum, but what they really mean is that Unionists don’t want another referendum. What they really mean is that the Unionists refuse to acknowledge their failure to honour the promises and commitments they made to Scotland during the first referendum campaign. What they really mean is that they won’t admit that the real reason we’re having this debate now is because of them.
Mostly however, they kept banging on about division. Having spent the first referendum demonising independence supporters, and painting them as a cross between the Ku Klux Klan and a Twitter troll, now they say that it’s too divisive to have a second vote. But that’s what democracy is. Democracy is about differences of opinion, and debating them. Scotland is already divided, and we won’t resolve those divisions by brushing them under a Brexit carpet and pretending that they don’t exist. But that’s exactly what the Tories and Labour want. The question of Scotland’s relationship to the rest of the UK and the rest of Europe remains an open question, and it’s only by allowing the people to engage with that question and address it that we’ll ever have any chance as a nation of moving on from it. That’s democracy.
The Tories think that the way to cure a difference of opinion is by telling those who disagree with them to shut up. The Tories don’t want democracy, they want silence and obedience. They’re not going to get it. Scotland will have its say. Scotland will find its voice. And it’s a voice that’s going to say Yes to independence. That’s what the Tories are really terrified of.
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