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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