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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