The Scottish Parliament has voted to press ahead with a new Scottish independence referendum. The unstoppable farce of Theresa May’s arrogance has crashed into the immovable objections of a Scotland that seeks a different path. Green and SNP MSPs stood up and one after another spoke about a better Scotland, a Scotland that has a right to decide its own fate, a Scotland in which decisions should be put in the hands of the people. And one after another Unionist MSPs got up and spoke about how Scotland should remain silent and do what it’s told by Westminster, blind to the irony that they were demanding that those in favour should respect democracy while they sought to prevent the people from having their say.
According to Unionists, the only vote in Scotland that matters is the 2014 referendum vote. It doesn’t matter that we’ve had other votes since. It doesn’t matter that the people of Scotland voted for a pro-independence majority in Holyrood in 2016. It doesn’t matter that the people of Scotland voted for a massive majority of SNP MPs in 2015. It doesn’t matter that the the promises and commitments that the Unionists made to the people of Scotland in 2014 in order to win that No vote were ignored, traduced, and dumped the second that the result was in. All that matters to them is that they regard the 2014 result as a carte blanche which allowed them to rule forever. And then they preach about democracy. Democracy means that politicians must be held accountable for the promises that they make. Ask a Unionist politician how Scotland can hold them accountable for the promises made in 2014 and you’ll get told to respect the result of the referendum.
Despite the appeals for a mature, grown up and respectful debate, Ruth Davidson’s speech was nasty, snide, and unpleasant. Rather like her party, come to think of it. She proved that her much-hyped political skills were exactly that – hype from a press pack that used to count her as one of their number. The mark of a real political operator is grace when facing defeat. Ruth showed no grace. Instead there was the unpleasant whiff of entitlement and privilege. The real face of the Tories was on display. Ruth’s veneer slipped and showed us that the nasty party was still as nasty as it ever was.
It was a speech born of frustration. Frustration that despite her efforts she won’t be able to prevent the Scottish parliament from voting in favour of another referendum. Frustration that there’s nothing she or her pals in Westminster can do to prevent another referendum happening. And frustration that once the referendum takes place she’ll be the Tory face of Unionism and attempting to defend a Britain that’s plunging off the cliff edge of Brexit. Frustration that her boss’s precious union is in its last days, and frustration that it’s in its last days because of the failures and duplicity of the unionist parties which claimed to cherish it. All Ruth had left was her unparliamentary shout at Nicola Sturgeon to sit down. But it’s Ruth who’s on the naughty step.
She was backed up by Baby Fluffy in a puffy huffy. Oliver Mundell accused the Scottish government of intransigence, moments after telling the chamber that Scotland couldn’t have another referendum because his da had said naw. It’s not really clear what else Baby Fluffy said, because as soon as he opens his gob normal people have the urge to poke rusty knitting needles in their eardrums and I’d stopped listening because I value my hearing.
But even a Baby Fluffy’s guff appeared statesmanlike and adult in comparison to Murdo Fraser’s intervention. He railed against the Greens, and came dangerously close to suggesting that the Scottish Parliament is illegitimate. He showed he had no class, and no manners. If he truly believes that the route to winning a referendum is by insulting Green voters, and by using his parliamentary privilege to heap scorn on voters who seek reassurances for their EU partners, he’s as well admitting that he’s already lost. I’ve always said that the greatest single factor leading to Scotland becoming independent would be the actions and inadequacies of the Unionist parties. Murdo gave a perfect illustration of that point. Murdo’s was the angry face of a Unionist who sees his Union being killed off by Unionists but who refuses to accept any responsibility for it.
Labour’s James Kelly managed to impress. No really. It was very impressive that anyone could deliver a speech that was even snider and nastier than Ruth’s, but James managed it. Previously notable only for his ability to make a tub of lumpy wallpaper paste seem charismatic and engaging, in an epic rewriting of history James insisted that the last independence debate was characterised by violence, abuse and intimidation from independence supporters. People opposed to independence were chased up the streets by pamphlet bearing cybernats, he puffed, like a red balloon on the verge of bursting. Naturally, this wasn’t something he’d experienced himself, because whenever James appears in a public street people flee in the opposite direction in case he bores them to death with his views on the number of social housing units built by the Scottish government and how this means we can’t possibly consider independence.
The talk of division is deliberate. The Unionists want to get people to disengage from the independence debate. They want the country to be passive and quiet as it accepts the decisions made for us by Westminster. They’re creating divisions, creating nastiness, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say they want to heal the divisions in Scotland, but you don’t heal a division by telling the people who disagree with you to shut up. You don’t heal divisions by pretending they don’t exist, and you certainly don’t heal them by demanding that Scotland doesn’t get a say on the cause of the supposed divisions. You heal them by airing the arguments, by discussion, and by a vote.
It’s not for Ruth Davidson, who came a very distant second in the Scottish parliamentary elections to tell Scotland when the time is. The Scottish parliament has spoken. It has voted, and it’s voted to give the people a say in their future. It’s up to Westminster now to dare to refuse to accept the democratic will of the Scottish people, and if they do all they’ll succeed in doing is hastening the end of Theresa’s precious union. If Theresa May overrules the democratic will of the Scottish parliament the United Kingdom is already dead and all that’s left is to discuss the funeral arrangements. It’s not for Theresa May to tell us when the time is. It’s for the people of Scotland and their elected representatives. And we say now is the time.
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