There’s been a visit! It’s a bit like when they say “there’s been a murrdurr” on Taggart, and when it’s a visit involving Theresa May it’s equally corpse like. Our Prime Minister is travelling to the small end of the weather map of her Precioussss Union on Monday, and according to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, which is the propaganda arm of the Scottish Tories, she’s going to make Scotland a Brexit offer that’s so good there will be no need for a second independence referendum. And if you believe that then Gordie Broon has a vow he would like to interest you in.
Theresa’s on a charmless offensive. Her new offer is going to be Innovative Jam 2.0. There will be a hint of some powers, temporary powers according to the advance reports. Because naturally what’s going to dissuade people in search of permanent sovereign powers for Scotland is a hint that they might be allowed on a slightly longer leash for a restricted period of time. It’s like hoping that a homeless person will give up striving for a home of their own because you’ve told them that you’re thinking about giving them the loan of a kagoule, for a limited period of time. It’s risible. It’s insulting. And it’s even more insulting to the intelligence of the people of Scotland that a supposedly serious newspaper is touting it as a substantial and meaningful offer.
But then we’ve had a lot of that of late. The barrage of Project Fear and Project Invisible Jam has got off to an early start. The Unionists are going into this new referendum in the knowledge that they could easily lose it, whereas it took several months of campaigning during the first independence referendum before the penny dropped that the Better Together campaign could lose. The Unionist parties are entering this second campaign at the fever pitch of hysteria with which they ended the last one. Independence campaigners should never take anything for granted, but it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Unionist campaign will collapse long before it gets to the finish line. When you start from hysteria and panic, where else can you go? The law of diminishing returns has already started to bite.
By this time next year they’ll be telling us that independence will cause an outbreak of bubonic plague, giant rats will take over our cities, and there will be a zombie attack – although to be fair a zombie attack is pretty indistinguishable from how the Unionist parties are behaving just now. No one will believe them except the trolls on Twitter who bear their Wings Over Scotland blocking numbers as a badge of pride, who will revel in each outlandish threat and retweet it with glee while assuring themselves that they’re Proud Scots.
Labour has already started to promise all the things it promised the last time round without the slightest shred of self-awareness that they told us they were in favour of all these things in 2014 and then they spent 2015 gutting the Smith Commission proposals. Their proposals for federalism are getting wall to wall coverage in a media that’s desperate for some jam since they know that the innovative jam 2.0 that’s on offer from the Tories isn’t much of a sweetener. All the Tories have to promise is the epic catastrophe of Brexit, and there’s not much anyone, even a diehard Unionist, can do to paint that in an attractive light, so they’re just pretending that it’s not really happening and that there’s been no change in circumstances to trigger a second Scottish referendum. They keep telling us that the economic outlook for independence looks uncomfortable, while ignoring what is by comparison the barren wasteland of Brexit that would make even Mad Max throw up his hands in surrender.
It’s the usual schtick from the Westminster playbook. Appease with a vague promise of something non-specific, then as soon as they get what they want they betray by claiming that whatever it was they were hinting about was never really on the table to begin with. It sounds like when a Prime Minister assured the people of Scotland that Scotland was an equal partner which could lead within a family of nations. Only as soon as the vote was in and had gone his way we discovered that it had really been all about English votes for English laws all along, and none of the promises were fulfilled.
It all sounds terribly like when a Prime Minister promised that a No vote would “open a way for all parties to explore together a lasting alternative arrangement which can enjoy the support of the whole British people.” That was Margaret Thatcher a few days before the ill-fated referendum of 1979, when Scotland voted 52% in favour of Home Rule, but the proposal fell by the wayside because Westminster had ruled that 52% didn’t take support over an arbitrary qualifying line. Thatcher took the failure of the Home Rule provision as a mandate to interpret exactly as she pleased, and for the next two decades the Tories fiercely resisted any suggestion that Scotland should have any say in its own governance. By a quirk of fate, 52% support in a more recent referendum has given another Prime Minister a mandate to interpret exactly as she pleases, and she’s interpreting it as resisting any suggestion that Scotland should have any say in its own governance.
May has interpreted a vote that we were told was about restoring the sovereignty of the British parliament as a mandate to allow her to embark on the greatest power-grab that the Prime Minister’s office has ever seen. She wants Parliament to pass a bill, her so-called Great Repeal Bill, that will allow her and her ministers to repeal or modify law by ministerial decree. She’s already tried to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of her Brexit plans, if this bill passes, she can avoid any scrutiny while she scraps EU measures like employment rights. That’s the real jam that’s on offer. It’s sweet for Theresa and the Tories, but bitter for the rest of us. Scotland will be left naked and exposed to the malice of the Tories.
We’ve been here before, too many times before. The promises, the innovative jam 2.0, the appeasement, the betrayal that inevitably follows. And all in order to prevent the people of Scotland having a democratic voice, having the right to decide on their own future after the future that the Unionist parties promised us in 2014 was trashed by the Unionist parties themselves. The real reason they are terrified is because another referendum means that it’s their record which will be left naked and exposed. And Scotland will judge it harshly.
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