Telling Theresa the time

According to an article in The Times today, Theresa May will refuse to agree to any request from the Scottish government to hold another independence referendum. Well that’s a relief, because no one in Scotland has the slightest intention of requesting anything from Theresa May. Scotland will be informing Theresa May that it’s going to have a vote on independence, that will be at a time which suits Scotland, and Theresa May’s permission is not required.

I’ve laid out the points in this blog article before, but they are worth restating, given the willingness of the media in this country to go along with the mistaken notion that Scotland requires the permission of the Prime Minister before it can have a vote on independence.

The reality is that if Theresa May really believes that the UK is a “precious Union”, then she has no moral grounds for refusing to allow Scotland to vote. Either this is a Union and Scotland is a constituent part of it where the people possess the absolute right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, or this is a unitary state and Scotland has no more rights than an English region. Either the people of Scotland really do have an absolute right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, or we don’t. Because if it’s up to a UK Prime Minister to decide whether Scotland can have a vote on independence, if it’s up to a UK Prime Minister to unilaterally override a mandate given to the Scottish Parliament by the people of Scotland, then clearly we don’t. If we don’t, then Westminster was lying when it approved the Scottish Claim of Right and this isn’t really a Union, precious or otherwise. And if this is not a Union, Scotland is a part of the UK under false pretenses. That all by itself is a reason for an independence vote.

What’s it to be Theresa? Because you can’t have it both ways. The word Union, if it is to be used, must have some actual semantic content. It must mean something. But then we are dealing with a government for which black is white and up is down. This government of incompetents, swivel eyed ideologues, greed driven bloodsuckers, and money grubbers on the make is only good at one thing, and that’s hypocrisy.

Let us, for the sake of argument, imagine that the SNP wins a snap general election by a massive amount and wins all but a handful of seats in Scotland, yet Theresa May manages to cling on to power. Or, let us imagine that there’s been a snap Scottish election and pro-independence parties are returned to the Scottish Parliament with an increased majority and a renewed mandate for a referendum, yet Theresa May is still clinging onto power in Westminster. Or, let us imagine that the opinion polls are showing a consistent and significant majority for Scottish independence way beyond the 3% margin of error typical for opinion polls. Do you think that Theresa May would be more likely to consent to another independence referendum than she is just now? No. Of course not. She’d be even less disposed to agree to one than she is just now because the chances of her losing it would be even greater than her current chances of losing it, chances which are already pretty high.

The greater the support is for Scottish independence, the more support there is for it in the Scottish Parliament or in Westminster, the less likely that it becomes that any UK Prime Minister is going to consent to a Section 30 order. No UK Prime Minister is going to willingly agree to a political course of action that spells the end of the UK because that would also spell the end of that Prime Minister’s career. Theresa, or whoever happens to be the UK Prime Minister next month, would just repeat the now is not the time mantra.

The obvious answer to this condundrum is that we don’t ask her permission. Scotland should just tell her how things are going to be. Scotland determines when the time is. And Scotland can do that.

What Scotland and the Scottish government ought to be doing with Theresa May right now is reminding her that one way or another, Scotland will have its vote with or without Theresa’s permission. Yes, it would be all lovely and fluffy if Westminster agreed to a Section 30 order, but a Section 30 order is not the only way a Scottish ballot on independence can occur. This is not Spain, there is no constitutional bar on independence referendums in the UK. There is no law which says that a party or a coalition of parties cannot stand for election on a platform of seeking a mandate for independence for Scotland. In other words, Theresa’s permission is not required for a Scotland to have a vote on independence. It’s only required for one route to that vote. If that route is blocked, other routes are available.

Scotland can have a consultative referendum without Westminster’s permission. It might be the subject of a legal challenge, but if it was worded appropriately it is likely to be legal. And as we have seen from the consultative referendum that led to Brexit, the political difference between a binding referendum and a consultative one is about as deep as the intellectual heft of the Scottish Conservative party. Theresa would then find herself facing an independence campaign being fought against a backdrop of her party legally challenging Scotland’s right to be listened to, and all the while her and her anti-indy pals are trying to persuade Scotland that we’re respected and listened to within the UK. That’s not going to play well for them.

Or Scotland can convert any election held in Scotland into a plebiscite election on independence. The Scottish Parliament already possesses a mandate for a referendum, there is no need to campaign for another one. The next vote on the subject should be a direct vote on independence itself. Theresa May’s permission is not required for Scotland to have a plebiscite election, and the anti-independence parties can’t realistically boycott it. They’ll still be forced to fight an independence vote, trying to persuade Scotland that it’s loved and wanted and respected, while they themselves will be seen to have fought to reject Scotland’s right to a voice. So much for a precious Union. That’s not going to play well for them.

If opponents of independence have a modicum of sense, they will consent to a Section 30 order, because that is the only way that they can maintain the fiction that Scotland is a part of a Union and not an ignored and sidelined province in a unitary state. But then we’re talking here about the likes of Theresa May, Ross Thomson, and David Mundell, expecting a modicum of sense is a very big ask. The real reason that they’re terrified of another independence vote is because they know that they’re likely to lose it, and they know that they have nothing to offer Scotland except scare stories, threats, bullying, and intimidation.

But we must not forget that the bottom line is that one way or another, Scotland can have a vote and Theresa May’s permission is not required. We need to shout that from the rooftops. That’s a line that gets lost in Scotland’s overwhelmingly anti-independence media, and that’s why it’s all the more important that the Scottish Government needs to assert it loud and proud. It’s not for Theresa May to tell the people of Scotland what we can or cannot vote on. It’s not for Theresa May to give permission for a vote on Scottish independence. The only permission required is the permission of the Scottish people. There is already a mandate in place for another independence referendum. The people have already spoken on that question.

Theresa May is a bully. You don’t beg for concessions from bullies, you stand up to them. Theresa May refuses to listen. You don’t ask nicely of people who don’t listen to you, you tell them what you’re going to do. Theresa May is a control freak. You don’t seek permission from a control freak, you present them with a fait accompli. We are not asking Theresa what the time is. We’ll tell her. And the clock is ticking.


 

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Thick skin in a leather factory

Theresa May appeared before the House of Commons Liaison Committee this morning to speak about her Brexit plans. Committee members were keen to ask her what her Plan B was in the likely event that her deal would not attract the support of sufficient MPs in order to pass through parliament. Remember Plan Bs? There was a time when pressing politicians on their Plan B was all the rage, but that was before Brexit happened and the realisation that no one had a Plan A, least of all the Conservatives.

She was asked by a Conservative MP on the committee what she’d learned from the past two and half years. There are many accurate answers to that question. She could have said that having a Plan A before pressing the Article 50 button might, in retrospect, have been a good idea. She could have said that she now realised that the swivel eyed ideologues on the Tory right were never going to be placated no matter what she’d done, so she’d have been a whole lot more successful by pissing them off at the start of the proceedings and getting it over with. She could have said that she now realised that there are wood yards in the Midlands which contain planks which are less thick than David Davis, and which might have made a better fist out of negotiating with the EU. She could have said that she’d learned absolutely bugger all, which would at least have had the benefit of honesty.

Instead, in response to the committee members’ questions, Theresa said, “Wibble, wibble, wibble. I’ve been very clear. Bzzzt. Does not compute. Shhhhhhszzzz. Best deal for Britain. Ptang ptang whoop.” So we’re delighted that that has been cleared up. And to be fair it was the most reasonable and sensible thing that Theresa has said all week.

Certainly she didn’t say much that was sensible, interesting, or even truthful, when she made her flying visit to consult with the people of Scotland about her Brexit deal. Or to be more precise, her flying visit to pontificate at a group of unwilling and unwary workers in a leather factory in Bridge of Weir. People who’d just turned up for their shifts expecting to put in a day’s work polishing leather, only to discover that they were now being expected to polish the thick skin of the Prime Minister. And without any bonus payments, or even danger money for having to come close to such a radioactive politician.

The location of her visit was kept secret from the press until the very last minute, just in case some members of the Scottish public turned up expecting to be consulted. Even though it was Bridge of Weir on a wet and windy winter’s day which isn’t exactly the most bustling of places at the best of times, you could never be too certain. The National wasn’t one of those newspapers blessed with an invite to bask in the presence of St Theresa, because expecting that she was going to give answers to questions put to her by independence supporters was more of a miracle than anyone could expect.

There are precious few means for Scotland to hold Westminster to account as it is. Our media is overwhelmingly servile and submissive when it comes to Westminster. For the British government to refuse to give a press pass to Scotland’s single pro-independence newspaper demonstrates that the British government has no intention of engaging with that part of Scotland’s population which wants independence. They have no desire or interest in persuading us of the benefits of the UK. Instead they want to marginalise and ignore us. The reason for that is because they have no arguments to make. If the Prime Minister of the UK can’t make the case for this so-called Union, no one can, because there is no case to make. Meanwhile the UK continues its descent into a has-been state where democracy is respected in form but not substance.

What Theresa told us can be divided into two categories. That which was truthful, and that which made sense. Unfortunately the parts which made sense were not truthful, and the parts which were truthful made no sense. She told us that she’d negotiated the best deal for Scotland, which was a lie. She told us that the Scottish Government needs to stop talking about independence, which made no sense, since it’s only independence that can get us that best deal that Theresa can’t negotiate for us. In any event, the people in Scotland who talk most about independence are Theresa’s own pals in the Scottish Conservative party. If Theresa could tell them to stop banging on about independence and instead concentrate on making sure that Scotland’s voice was heard within her own government she’d actually be performing a public service.

Scotland has not been consulted during the Brexit process. The Scottish government has barely been kept informed, and that always after the event. At every stage in the proceedings Theresa May has treated Scotland with contempt and has taken this country for granted. Now she expects us to be fobbed off with a three hour flying visit to a factory conveniently located near enough to the airport to ensure that she need not spend a second longer than necessary to get a few sound bites for the evening news. That’s what passes for the respect agenda. That’s what passes for Scotland being a valued and much loved partner in a family of nations. This is Theresa’s precious union. It’s so precious that she doesn’t want to speak to any part of it that might tell her something she doesn’t want to hear.

Theresa May can’t talk sense because there is no sense to be had in a Brexit Britain. The truth is that Brexit is an English nationalist project, driven by right wing English nationalists, appealing to those who still dream of Empire and who have not reconciled themselves to the true position of the UK in the 21st century. It’s a project founded on fantasy and fueled by lies. All that is left for Scotland is to do what Theresa doesn’t want us to do, to keep talking about independence – but more importantly, to act on it. She came to Scotland to tell us that now is not the time. We’ll be telling you when the time is Theresa. The Brexit clock is ticking on your government. The time is coming very soon and no amount of thick skin in a leather factory is going to stop her feeling it.


 

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Theresa’s listening exercise

Theresa May is on tour in what she fondly imagines to be a listening exercise, or at least what she thinks we will be fooled into thinking is a listening exercise. She’s visiting Wales and Northern Ireland in an attempt to sell her Brexit deal. Scotland is supposed to be in line for a patronisation soon. Or more accurately, another patronisation. Theresa will wheech in, do a tour of some business establishment owned by a Conservative friendly businessperson, while staff look on wordlessly. She’ll smile her rictus grin at the cameras, mouth a few platitudes about getting the best Brexit deal for Scotland, about how it’s not the time for another referendum Scottish or otherwise. Then she’ll give non-answers to questions from the press, if at all, and will promptly wheech off again. Job done. You’ll have had your consultation Scotland.

It’s a measure of the disconnect between the Prime Minister and the public, indeed the rest of the world, that she imagines that this sort of manufactured exercise in walkaboutery is actually meaningful in any sense. It provides the form of listening to the people without any of the messy content of actually listening to the people. If she really wanted to hear what the people have to say, she could do that. She could allow another referendum, but she’s not going to do that because if she did and people voted not to leave the EU after all, she’d have to resign. In Theresaland, people are only allowed to voice their opinions when their opinions happen to be what Theresa wants to hear, which is why she doesn’t want another Scottish referendum either.

This pointless meet n greet n run away is precisely the opposite of hearing what the country has to say. It would be a far more productive use of everyone’s time if Theresa went off on one of her walking holidays and spent a fortnight chatting to some sheep deep in the countryside of rural Somewhereshire. We’d all get a break from her, and Theresa would have a receptive audience for a change. An audience which wouldn’t contradict her.

It’s not just that Theresa May doesn’t want the public to have a say, she doesn’t want the House of Commons to have a say either. She had to be dragged screaming and kicking into allowing MPs a meaningful vote on her Brexit deal, and did her utmost to try and make the meaningful vote as meaningless as just about anything that ever comes out of Ross Thomson’s gob.

She has fought tooth and nail against the legal attempt to get a European Court of Justice ruling on whether the House of Commons can unilaterally put a halt to the Article 50 process, without the permission of the rest of the EU. At every step along the way the British government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal bids to halt the proceedings, to no avail. That ECJ ruling is due today, Tuesday.

Despite a vote being passed in the House of Commons telling the government to release the full legal advice that it has received on Brexit, Theresa has refused to do so. Instead her government has released a brief summary, which satisfies none of the opposition parties. The offer to release the summary was made by David Lidington, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, in an attempt to get the motion calling for a full release to be withdrawn. The motion wasn’t withdrawn, and passed unanimously after the government decided to abstain.

This, let’s not forget, is the same government that says it’s pursuing Brexit in order to restore the sovereignty of the British parliament. We now have a British government which claims to be working to restore full powers to the House of Commons, which is deliberately ignoring a binding vote taken by that same House of Commons obliging the government to do something it doesn’t like. That’s British sovereignty for you. If this UK government isn’t prepared to pay heed to a binding vote taken by the House of Commons, Scotland, you’ve got nae chance.

For a woman who says she wants to listen, Theresa is doing a very good impression of someone sticking her fingers in her ears and screaming la-la-la-la at the top of her voice. Which to be fair is still more meaningful than anything Ross Thomson has to say. There comes a point when a refusal to listen, a determination to plough on regardless, crosses the line between strength of character and resolution and enters into pigheaded delusion. Theresa May and her hapless government crossed that line quite some time ago.

Meanwhile the only serious government in the UK is the Scottish one. The Scottish government has published a 20 page report detailing the effects of Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Scotland. A Scotland which, let us not forget, voted to remain a part of the EU by a considerably larger margin than it voted to remain a part of the UK. Theresa’s deal makes every person in Scotland £1610 worse off – worse than the economic hit that Better Together claimed we’d get if we’d voted for independence in 2014. It shows that investment in Scottish industry will be 7.7% down compared to what it would be if we retain full access to the EU’s single market and customs union. Theresa’s much vaunted end to freedom of movement will have a severe impact on key parts of the Scottish economy, especially tourism and the health and care sectors, which rely on workers from EU countries. There is no guarantee that existing environmental standards will be maintained, and in fact they can’t be if the UK seeks a free trade deal with the likes of the USA or Australia.

In every aspect, Scotland is worse off because of this Conservative government. We were promised the safety and security of the UK, but all we receive is economic uncertainty, job losses, and years of future negotiations between a weakened UK and the EU with no certain outcome. We have a UK government that governs by threat, by intimidation, by fear, and by scare stories. We have no voice in this so-called Union despite being told very recently that Scotland, a constituent member, a founding member, of the United Kingdom, is a valued and equal partner in a family of nations. Instead, all our futures, all our wellbeing, all our opportunities are sacrificed on the altar of a xenophobic foreigner-fearing English nationalism that wraps itself up in a Union fleg so it can pretend to itself that it’s not nationalist at all. Those Scottish Conservatives who said they’d speak up for Scotland within this fictitious union, they’ve decided that their role is to speak for the UK government in Scotland, not to speak for Scotland in the UK government.

We’re reaching the end game now. The end game for Brexit, and the end game for this supposed United Kingdom. One way or another there’s going to be a vote, whether that’s a General Election or a second EU referendum, and if neither of those happens soon, there will be a Scottish independence referendum. When that vote happens, Theresa May and the Conservatives will be made to listen. That’s going to be a listening exercise that really counts and really means something. Theresa is not going to like what the people of Scotland have to say.


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A Scottish reply to Theresa’s letter

Dear Theresa,

Thank you for your begging letter. However let’s not be too churlish, congratulations are in order. The UK was divided as never before, fearful of the future, angry and anxious, and against all the odds you have managed to unite this disunited and dysfunctional kingdom. Everyone thinks that your deal sucks.

You ask for everyone to get behind you. That’s pretty rich. You started Brexit negotiations by deciding to ignore the wishes of that half of the UK which had voted to remain, and by deciding unilaterally that those who had voted to leave wanted the hardest possible Brexit. At every stage in these sorry proceedings you were motivated first and foremost by your own career interests, and then by keeping your miserable and fractious party together. Your plan was, and is, to do whatever it takes to further the interests of the Conservative party, and now you have the nerve to write to the people of the UK begging us to get behind you in the national interest.

You began in bad faith and have continued the same way. You initiated the Article 50 process without having a clear plan other than wishful thinking and the unshakeable belief that the EU owed the UK its cake and its cherries because Britain is special. You activated Article 50 when you did because local elections in England were looming. Securing a greater number of Conservative councillors in the shires of England was far more important to you than this so-called national interest which you’re now pleading with us to get behind.

You compounded our view that you were acting purely in your own selfish self-interest by embarking upon an entirely unnecessary general election at a crucial point, at a point when the UK should have been framing a coherent and cohesive set of Brexit plans. Instead you decided that it was an ideal time to try and get one up on the Labour party and secure a large majority for your visionless Brexit, your blank Euro cheque. And you failed. You ended up losing the majority that you did have. The people of the UK told you plainly that we didn’t want your hard nose Brexit that pandered to the Tory right, and yet you ploughed on regardless. Nothing has changed.

Throughout this entire sorry and miserable past two and a half years, you have acted selfishly and mendaciously. And now you wonder why we’re not prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt.

You speak of your precious Union, but you’ve done the square root of hee haw to demonstrate that you understand what a Union means. To you, this precious Union means that Scotland is under your thumb. We have watched you Theresa. We have seen how you revel in power, how you seek control, how you avoid accountability. We know what you mean when you tell us how precious this so-called Union is to you. It means that you believe Scotland to be your possession, your toy, a pretty bauble of a nation that allows you to pretend that your xenophobic foreigner blaming British nationalism isn’t nationalism at all.

You were amongst those telling Scotland in 2014 that this country of ours could only remain a member of the EU by voting to remain a part of the UK. In 2016 Scotland voted to remain a part of the EU by a much larger margin than it voted to remain in the UK. You insisted that the UK took the EU vote as a whole and would leave as a whole. You insisted that no part of the UK was going to be treated differently. Throughout the past two and a half years you have ignored the Scottish governnment, you have treated Scotland with contempt. You have demonstrated that Scotland being a part of this so-called precious Union means that Scotland doesn’t have a voice, Scotland doesn’t get a say, Scotland’s needs will not factor into your calculations.

We’ve seen Northern Ireland getting a special deal. We’ve seen Gibraltar being treated differently. Both of those parts of Brexitland have an independent state putting pressure on your government and standing up to you. What that tells us in Scotland is that the British government will only listen to the will of the Scottish people if we too have an independent state standing up for us. Because you sure as hell won’t. You don’t know the difference between member nation in a precious union and a satrapy. We’ve seen how Dublin has been in a position to dictate terms to you Theresa. We’ve seen how you’ve marginalised, sidelined, and ignored Edinburgh. So we look to Dublin and we think to ourselves – we could do with some of that. As it stands all we have is a David Mundell who hasn’t resigned yet. There are stuffed Hielan coos with tartan bunnets in airport gift shops who do a better job of representing Scotland than him.

Even worse than that, you have used Brexit as a tool to undermine the entire devolution process. You have unilaterally up-ended the principle of the devolution settlement, against the express wishes of the Scottish Parliament, a principle which the people of Scotland voted for overwhelmingly in the referendum of 1997, a principle which the people of Scotland reinforced in the referendum of 2014 when the British parties assured us that a no vote meant stronger and better devolution. What was that about respecting the will of the people Theresa? What was that about respecting the result of the referendum? It seems that no longer applies when it stands in the way of the Conservative party getting what the Conservative party wants.

At every step in this Brexit process, your government has been characterised by selfish self-interest, by mendacity, by greed, by stupidity. You’ve spent the past two and a half years negotiating with your own party. The UK interest hasn’t got a look in, never mind the interests of Scotland. And now you want Scotland to get behind your deal Theresa? Well in your own words: now is not the time.

Now is the time for us to prepare to have a vote on our own future. Now is the time for Scotland to learn the lessons of Brexit and put them into effect. And what we have learned Theresa, the lesson that you yourself have taught us, is that you will only listen to Scotland, you will only pay Scotland heed, you will only treat the people of Scotland with respect, if Scotland is represented by the independent government of an independent Scottish state. Now is the time for Scotland to decide what path it’s going to take. It’s not the path that meekly follows you.  Now is the time for Scotland to say, we’ve had enough.

You’ve brought this upon yourself.

xx

Millions of angry Scottish people


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Ireland’s superpower is independence

There’s a new and deeply unpleasant narrative developing amongst Brexits. Although to be honest this is scarcely unsurprising since Brexit was always a deeply unpleasant narrative in the first place. However now that the Brexit pigeons have come home to roost and have crapped all over Liam Fox and David Davis, someone has to be blamed. Admittedly Boris Johnson always looks like a bird has just crapped on him, and Ross Thomson looks like something a bird has just crapped, but still. The failure of Brexit is everyone’s fault except those who foisted it upon us all in the first place. It’s not because Brexit always involved wishing for contradictory things simultaneously. It’s not because Brexit always rested up a sense of English exceptionalism and the mistaken belief that the UK merits special treatment. It’s not because the Brexists never had a plan other than wishful thinking. It’s not because the UK’s negotiating strategy has made being woefully unprepared look like German efficiency. It’s all someone else’s fault.

All has been answered in an article this week in Freuzheur Neaulseun’s Spectator magazine. Or to give it its proper title, Irritable Vowel Syndrome Weekly. The piece identifies the villains who are responsible for the failure of Theresa May’s government to negotiate a deal that allows the UK to leave the EU and swan off into a magical land of favourable trade deals and bonfires of restrictive regulations – which is how Tories like to describe your employment and civil rights – while at the same time retaining all the benefits and advantages of EU membership with none of the associated costs and obligations. Naturally, none of it is the fault of the Brexists.

It’s the fault of the civil service. It’s the fault of anti-democratic mandarins. It’s the fault of Europhile politicians. It’s the fault of the Labour party. It’s the fault of corporate interests. It’s the fault of weak leadership and a remainer media. It’s the fault of everyone who isn’t prepared to click the heels of their ruby red white and blue slippers together and say there’s no place like the 1950s. But mostly, it’s the fault of the Irish government. That’s whose fault it is, “We’d have got away with it if it wasn’t for the uppity Irish.” According to the Spectator piece, the Taoiseach has an incentive to make the Brits sweat because he leads a minority government and needs the support of Irish nationalists. Irish nationalism bad, British nationalism good. That whole Irish border issue, it’s just exaggeration in order to do Britain down. Dublin has both danced to the EU’s tune, and wilfully egged on the EU not to give the UK what Britain needs.

I wish British nationalists would make their minds up about Ireland. Either the Dublin government is stirring up the Irish border issue, or it’s a tool of faceless anti-democratic bureaucracy and is doing what it’s told by France and Germany. Which is a bad thing, because really Dublin ought to be doing what it’s told by London. That’s the natural order of British things.

Deep down in the soul of a British nationalist there is the unshakeable belief that every other country on the planet ought to prioritise the interests of Britain over their own. Actually you don’t have to dig down that deep in order to find it. There’s not much in the way of depth in your average Daily Mail editorial. The Little England nationalism that dresses itself up in the Union fleg in order to tell itself that it’s better than anyone else’s nationalism because it’s not nationalist at all, everyone else owes the UK. To their way of thinking, the Irish government has no business protecting the interests of Ireland as a member of the EU. Doing so is just yet another example of Irish antipathy towards the Brits.

Ireland of course has every right to take whatever steps it deems necessary to mitigate the baleful effects of Brexit upon its economy. It’s not Ireland which harbours dreams of being a major player in world affairs. It’s not Ireland which imagines that it possesses the economic heft to strike favourable trade deals with countries around the world. It’s not Ireland which suffers from the delusion that the rest of the world owes us a favour because we won the war you know.

However British nationalists believe that Ireland must sacrifice its national interests on the altar of Brexit in order to make Brexit work for Britain, and Ireland’s refusal to do so is nothing more than ill-will and grudges born out of ancient history. Hence the article in the Spectator claiming that at a time when Britain needs Ireland’s help and goodwill, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has offered neither. Instead, he’s prioritised Ireland’s interests. Imagine that eh? The UK takes a reckless and ill-considered decision based upon lies and a pauchled referendum, a decision that threatens to damage Ireland’s economy and the fragile Peace Process, and Brexists are annoyed that Ireland isn’t enthusiastically helping the UK to destroy itself.

British nationalists react with surprise and scorn because the sovereign government of an independent Irish state prioritises its own interests and does what it can to enlist the support of other EU member states to bolster its position. British nationalists regard this as a form of betrayal. What goes for Ireland, goes for Scotland in spades. British nationalists do not believe that Scotland has any right to any sort of input into the Brexit process at all.

British nationalism is the unshakeable belief that everything on this planet revolves around the needs and concerns of the British state. Or more exactly the Little England part of it. It’s a world view which cannot countenance how Ireland can dare to act in its own interests. It’s a world view which cannot countenance how Scotland can have any interests of its own at all.

Brexit has exposed the weakness of the British state, and the myths which underpin it. Ireland, as a member of the EU, is able to dictate to the British state. It reverses the position of hundreds of years when Ireland was told what to do by Britain, often at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun. British nationalists cannot get their heads around the fact that the boot is now firmly on the other foot.

And all we can do in Scotland is to look on enviously as Dublin tells London how things are going to be. We continue to be ignored, sidelined and marginalised. We’re being treated the way that Westminster wants to treat Ireland, but can’t. The power of the Dublin government in the Brexit debate shows what you can do as an independent state. Ireland’s superpower is independence. As an independent state Scotland would be amongst those dictating the course of Brexit. As it is, all we have is a David Mundell who hasn’t resigned yet.


 

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David Mundell hasn’t resigned yet

David Mundell hasn’t resigned yet. I say yet, but that’s like saying Donald Trump hasn’t taken the blame for anything yet, or Ruth Davidson doesn’t have any policies except self-promoting photo ops yet, or the Scotsman hasn’t published a pro-independence front page yet.

In a letter that he sent to Theresa May earlier this month, David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Telling Scotland What to Do, said that anything less than the departure from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy would be a betrayal of Scotland. Because Tory politicians are allowed to accuse one another of betrayal, it’s only when independence supporters accuse British nationalist politicians of betrayal that the media gets all harrumphy. He said, together with the other Scottish Conservative MPs who all signed the letter, “In order to deliver on these expectations, we could not support an agreement with the EU that would prevent the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares.”

The deal that has been struck falls a very long way short of delivering on David’s expectations. It speaks of negotiating in a “non-disciminatory” manner to allow access for EU boats to Scottish waters in return for a trade deal. In other words, the Tories have sold out Scotland again. David Mundell hasn’t resigned yet.

The thing is, that the Tories could have done something about the unhappiness with the Common Fisheries Policy at any time during the decades that they had been in power since the UK joined what was then the EEC. It’s just that they chose not to. There was always some other interest elsewhere that was far more important to British governments than the demands of the Scottish fishing industry. The Conservative love of all things piscine is a very recent development, and that’s been as a cynical bargaining chip in Brexit and as a crude attempt to stir up support for their insane retreat into Little Englandism amongst a section of the Scottish population.

The SNP has consistently argued for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy ever since the 1970s, but successive British governments have never seen fit to grant Scotland any representation in negotiations. The UK could have taken steps and made representations to the EU to change those aspects of the CFP which were so unacceptable to Scotland’s fishing communities, but they didn’t want to. Scotland is not important enough to them. It wasn’t important enough then, and it’s certainly not important enough now. Even other Conservatives are saying that the Prime Minister wants to commit the UK to stay in the Common Fisheries Policy in all but name, and that she seeks to enter a new fisheries agreement on access to waters and quota shares. It’s a gross betrayal of the promises that the Conservatives made to Scotland. David Mundell hasn’t resigned yet.

Today, the line from a Scotland Secretary who inexplicably is still in his job is that Theresa May “fiercely resisted” EU attempts to make an explicit link between access to UK waters for EU fishing boats and access to the EU market for the UK’s fish catch. Clearly she didn’t resist fiercely enough, because the link is there in black and white in the draft deal. That’s still good enough for David. It’s like annoucing loudly that you’re going to leave your significant other unless the shiftless so-and-so pulls their weight in your relationship and gets a job. Then despite the fact that they didn’t get the job, you say that you’re sticking with them, even though they didn’t manage to catch the train to the job interview because they’d spend all the money you’d given them for the fare on a packet of ciggies. They never had the slightest intention of doing what you wanted, but they told you they tried really hard. David Mundell might be content to take the place of a co-dependent, but it doesn’t mean that the rest of us are fooled.

The Tories have been ignoring and marginalising the Scottish fishing industry for decades, it took an enormous leap of faith to expect that they were going to start now, at a time when they’re desperately seeking concessions that they can offer the EU in order to maintain access to the single market. You’d have had better odds by buying a lottery ticket and pinning all your hopes on winning the Euromillions. At least a couple of people in Scotland have actually seen that hope deliver, which is more than you can say for anything that the Tories have ever offered.

None of this would be hugely politically important if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was the Tories themselves who made it such a big deal. Their claim that they and they alone would stand up for the interests of Scottish fishing communities, or at least those five families who control in whole or part 45% of Scotland’s fishing quotas, was never anything more than a cynical ploy to unseat the SNP from constituencies in the North East of Scotland. The Tories might have been, and still are, content to crap all over every other industry in Scotland in pursuit of their Empire Loyalist Brexit, but at least they could pose as the lead characters in Finding Nemo. Only they turned out to be the fish that forgot all its promises. Clearly, David Mundell still intends to resign, it’s just that he’s forgotten.

It was all that the Conservatives had to offer Scotland, and they couldn’t deliver. Yet again, Scotland is gutted, sliced up, and served on a platter. That’s what happens when you believe in the promises of Conservatives. Now we’ve got the worst of all possible outcomes. Scotland is out of the EU and the UK has no say in the CFP, but EU boats are still going to have access to Scottish waters. David Mundell hasn’t resigned yet.

And the icing on the Brexit fishcake is that this deal has very little chance of making it through the Commons. This isn’t just a blind Brexit. This is an invitation to leap off a cliff into the darkness.

There are stormy waters ahead. Scotland gets nothing from Brexit except a betrayal of all the promises and commitments that the British parties made to the Scottish electorate, the same parties that insist that the people of Scotland should not have any say on what they have delivered. There are fish which have more legs than a Conservative promise.


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Hypocrisy, thy name is North Briton

I had originally planned to write this blog article yesterday, but events got in the way in the shape of the news that the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had once and for all definitively killed off the much touted British nationalist myth that Spain would veto an EU membership application by an independent Scotland. This news was not broadcast in Scotland, not even with a tiny fraction of the prominence that our overwhelmingly anti-independence media had previously given to pronouncements from marginal and minor Spanish politicians which hinted that Spain might not look favourably on EU membership for an independent Scotland, despite the fact that Josep Borrell is the man in charge of Spanish foreign policy. Surprise, surprise. It was another illustration of the double standards which run through the very soul of Scotland’s media.

However I had planned instead to write about another example of British nationalist double standards in Scotland. There has been considerably harrumphage in Scottish media circles about the distinct lack of sympathy that independence supporters had displayed online to the news that Johnson Press, the publishers of the Scotsman, were going into administration and there was a possibility that the Scotsman newspaper would be no more.

It should be stated clearly and unequivocally right away that I am glad that a deal has been struck which preserves jobs and which keeps the publications of the Johnson Press alive. I want a diverse media in Scotland. My criticism of the Scottish media is now and has always been that it is not diverse enough. Scotland’s media reflects the interests of middle aged middle class white men who support the British state and who love the fitba. The rest of us, not so much.

The Scotsman was one of those anti-independence newspapers which had done most to propagate the myth that Spain might veto Scotland’s membership of the EU. It had even gone to the lengths of giving front page coverage to remarks by an extreme right wing Spanish politician who was and remains a marginal and ridiculed figure in Spain, even within the Partido Popular of which he was then a member.

Yesterday, the paper didn’t see fit to mention the comments made by the Spanish Foreign Minister. There was no cover of that story at all, despite the Scotman’s previous history in publishing anything and everything Spanish related which was negative for Scottish independence. Instead it chose to give a front page splash to a poll from Zoomers in Union, which had asked a non-standard question about independence and unsurprisingly got a non-standard result which is out of line with all other recent polling on the issue. The paper misleadingly gave the impression that there has been a substantial fall in support for independence.

This is the same paper which infamously published a photo of independence supporters raising a Saltire which the paper had photoshopped into a swastika. Many in the independence movement have never forgiven the Scotsman for that slur. Certainly the paper’s editorial staff have never seen fit to apologise for attempting to conflate the entirely peaceful and law-abiding Scottish independence movement – a movement which goes to great lengths to stress that Scotland should be a welcoming place for migrants and which celebrates Scottish diversity – with a bunch of genocidal racist maniacs who slaughtered millions in the Holocaust. Why, thank you Scotsman for that measured and balanced contribution to Scottish political discourse.

The Scotsman has proven by its actions and its selective and often misleading reporting that it is no friend of the independence movement, and does not see its job as being to inform the people of Scotland in a fair and unbiased manner. Expecting independence supporters to mourn its possible passing is like asking a Gay Pride parade to be upset that so-called conversion therapy from religious fundamentalists can’t be offered on the NHS.

Many of the Scotman’s problems are problems it has brought on itself. Its digital edition is almost unusable. Its online comments section is a spittle flecked zoo of British nationalist zoomery and bile. Scottish journalists are very quick to condemn pro-independence digital publications on the quality of the below the line comments they attract. That was a frequent attack made upon Newsnet Scotland by mainstream anti-independence journalists. If we were to judge the Scotsman by the same standard, it would qualify as a hate-sheet.

The little self-regarding world of mainstream Scottish anti-independence journalism doesn’t apply the same standards to itself or to anti-independence supporters which it applies to the independence movement. Yes, of course it is wrong, petty, and unpleasant that some independence supporters reacted with glee to the news that the Scotsman was in trouble. But those same anti-independence supporters who decried indy supporters for their Schadenfreude about the Scotsman have themselves displayed the exact same distastefulness about Scotland’s only pro-independence newspaper.

You don’t have to look far on social media to see Zoomer in Union types gleefully predicting the demise of The National, taking immense joy when there was a fall in its sales figures following the General Election in 2017, insulting the paper and its staff – often in unnecessarily personal terms. I’ve yet to see any of those who affected outrage at the response of certain indy supporters to the news of the Scotman’s difficulties condemn, or even mildly tut at, those on their own side who express similar sentiments about The National.

However it’s not merely that it’s the same people who expect the independence movement to condemn those amongst its ranks who took pleasure in the Scotsman’s possible closure while turning a blind eye to the same behaviour on its own side. That all by itself is enough hypocrisy to fill several columns of Scotman editorials. But what’s even worse is that they refuse to acknowledge, never mind condemn, that there are those on their own side who are guilty of far worse behaviour – taking deliberate actions with the express intention of getting a Scottish newspaper closed down.

Some months ago, Callum Baird, the editor of The National, mentioned on social media that copies of the paper are being hidden in some shops so that they are not visible to potential buyers. He was called a conspiracy theorist by certain Scottish journalists, who openly mocked the claim. Yet Callum’s claim was well founded. During Roadshow events when he meets with readers of the paper, people have told him that they have actually caught individuals in the act of hiding the newspaper. A reader of this blog emailed me to say that he works for a national supermarket chain, and his store had banned a member of the public who had been caught coming into the premises in order to hide copies of The National. Callum’s claim was well founded, based on the evidence of witnesses – basic journalism in other words. Yet anti-independence journalists preferred to mock and to pretend it wasn’t happening rather than engage with real evidence and proof. That doesn’t say much for their journalistic standards.

Recently, after The National on Sunday was launched, some shops sold out every copy that they had stocked. Despite this they contacted the distributers to say that they didn’t want to stock any copies in future. No reasons were given, but it’s not hard to believe it’s because they were shops owned by opponents of independence who were refusing to stock pro-indy publications. But the overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland only gets worked up when it’s its own freedom which is threatened.

Of course it’s wrong to be gleeful that a newspaper chain is under threat and thousands of jobs could be at risk. Not everyone who works for Johnson Press is a rabid British nationalist. But it’s pretty rich of anti-independence supporters and media to demand that indy supporters who expressed such glee be condemned by the independence movement when they themselves turn a blind eye to far worse behaviour from those on their own side. They don’t want diversity of opinion to be reflected in the Scottish media. They don’t want the Scottish media to hold up a true and accurate mirror to Scottish society. They want Scotland’s media to be in their own North British image. They resent the one pro-independence publication that does exist and would be delighted to see it fail. Hypocrisy, thy name is North Briton.


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GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.