Budgeting for stupid

A deal has been struck between the SNP minority administration and the Scottish Greens to get the budget passed. Some SNP supporters had criticised the Greens for not immediately signing up to the budget but insisting on some compromises that they can accept as the price for their votes. It’s unfair to criticise a different political party for being a different political party. No one criticises the Conservatives for being a different party with different policies. We criticise them for being cruel and heartless basterts who only care about high earning motorists and the financial interests of disaster capitalists.

The Greens have their own agenda and their own priorities. But unlike certain other parties represented in Holyrood, they are prepared to be reasonable and are prepared to compromise. Concessions were made by the SNP on local government funding, and a firm commitment and timetable given to look again at the long standing proposal to replace the council tax.

Compromise isn’t something that the Lib Dems understand. What they do understand is foot stamping and dummy throwing. Wullie Rennie has been acting like he’s only just discovered that the SNP want Scottish independence, after having noticed an SNP independence poster on a lamppost in Cowdenbeath on the number 17 bus route to Kelty. Wullie then made the ridiculous precondition of refusing to support the Scottish budget, any Scottish budget, unless the SNP drop their commitment to independence. That’s like the SNP refusing to support some Lib Dem policy unless Wullie drops one of the defining and core policies of his party, like proportional representation for Westminister elections, or telling big fat lies during elections.

The Tories spent the budget debate harrumphing. Admittedly that’s what they do all the time anyway, so no great change there then. They’re taking a cue from the behaviour of their colleagues in the House of Commons, where the government’s policy in dealing with Scotland consists of braying loudly and shouting insults over the top of whatever it is that a non-Conservative Scottish MP wants to say. There’s that respect agenda for you, but the truth is that the only things that the Tories respect are the monarchy, landed estates, and hedge funds.

The Tories in Holyrood are upset that no one is thinking about those poor high earning motorists or disaster capitalists. It’s difficult for the Conservatives to work themselves into a lather about the underfunding of public services, because they want to privatise them all. That doesn’t stop them however. Not even although it’s a Conservative government in Westminster which ultimately holds the purse strings and so forces any Scottish government, irrespective of which party is in power in Holyrood, to pass on Tory austerity. If the Tories got their way there would be tuition fees, there would be a charge for prescriptions, no free primary school meals, no free care for the elderly, and parking charges at hospitals. That’s the same Tories who are now complaining about a small tax on large businesses who offer free parking to employees.

Murdo Fraser got very upset about the lack of consideration shown in the budget to his colleagues who own vast tracts of the Highlands. Murdo Fraser’s intervention caused hilarity, which is what Murdo is best known for, as MSPs pointed at the landowners and lairds sitting beside Murdo on the Tory benches. The SNP’s Roseanna Cunningham laughed so hard that she fell off her seat. Literally, not figuratively. But it was still an achievement for Murdo. The small bruise on Roseanna’s backside is the biggest political impression that Murdo has ever made.

Murdo was just the comedy warm up for the main comedic turn, which would be the Labour party in Scotland. Labour doesn’t want Scotland to control its own finances either, but that doesn’t stop them from insisting that the fixed budget of Holyrood is “SNP cuts”. Labour has fought tooth and nail to prevent Holyrood having substantial tax raising powers of its own. It has set its face against allowing Holyrood to have meaningful borrowing powers. It has fought for a Holyrood which is entirely financially dependent upon whatever Westminster chooses to allot to it, but it still insists that cuts to the Scottish budget are “SNP cuts”.

Prior to the debate, Labour’s deputy leader Alex Rowley had proposed to the SNP that Labour could support the budget provided there was a substantial increase in the funding for local authorities. The problems were twofold, firstly the proposed increase would mean a 3% reduction in every other aspect of the Scottish budget except the health budget – 3% off education, care for the elderly, mitigating the bedroom tax and all the rest. And secondly Alex hadn’t spoken to Richard Charisma Leonard about it, who slapped the overture down as soon as he heard about it. The very last thing Richard wants is anything that might deprive him of the chance to complain about how bad the SNP is.

Not that he had any proposals of his own. Labour wants an increase in the amount allocated to local authorities, which would indeed be grand. They’re just not willing to say how it should be paid for. This, remember, from a party that has done its utmost to restrict the ability of Holyrood to raise its own funds.

Not to be outdone, Neil Findlay managed to email his speech to everyone in Holyrood. Again. Some people shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard, never mind entrusted with the power to change laws. You can’t budget for stupid.

The attitude of the British nationalist parties in Holyrood today is mirrored by their colleagues in Westminster. That’s why we’re getting the disaster of Brexit. But the good news is that unlike Westminster, the British nationalists are a minority in the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood was able to find a way forward. And for that small mercy we should be grateful.

In other news, pro-indy blogger Jason McCann has been targeted by the British nationalist media and smeared as an apologist for IRA violence. I have met Jason. We do not agree on everything, but I do know that he abhors violence. Jason is a Christian pacifist, the strongest and most defining characteristic of his politics is his commitment to non-violence. He is not now and never has been an advocate of violence in the pursuit of any political goal. He most categorically does not support a return to violence in Northern Ireland, nor does he glorify in, celebrate, or justify, the death of anyone, from any side, in the violence which has so tragically disfigured Northern Ireland in the past.

The words of Jason’s which were seized upon by the Daily Mail came from his attempt to explain to readers in Scotland how a breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement because of Brexit and the UK government’s pandering to the DUP would be perceived by hardline Irish republicans in Northern Ireland. His words were a warning of the risks of a return to violence, not as has been falsely claimed by the Daily Mail and other British nationalist media outlets in Scotland, an advocation or justification of a return to violence.

That same media is now attempting to use the comments made by Jason and taken out of context by the Daily Mail, that bastion of truth and balance, as an excuse with which to beat up the SNP. Calls are now being made for the SNP to “sever links” with Jason. He is not now and never has been a member of the SNP and has never sought to portray himself as a spokesperson for the SNP. There are no “links” to be severed.

The demonisation of Jason McCann is yet another instance of the desperation of a British nationalism which is threatened like it has never been threatened before – threatened by the shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies of a British state risking a no-deal Brexit. When we start taking the words of the Daily Mail as our moral arbiter, we’ve already lost.

Update, 8.15pm : It’s worse than I thought. The Scotsman has printed a piece about Jason in which it strongly implies that he is a Holocaust denier.  This is nothing less than grossly defamatory.  Jason not only fully accepts the historical reality of the Holocaust and does not dispute that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews, he has in fact published an academic paper examining the workings of the Nazi death machine.  His paper details how in one death camp alone, in the space of a few short months in 1944, the Nazis were responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people from the Jewish population of Hungary.  It is entitled The Mechanics of Murder, the Systematic Murder of Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The paper is online here

http://www.academia.edu/1982558/The_Mechanics_of_Murder


 

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That EU reply in full

Can we renegotiate the Irish backstop? The EU’s reply in full.
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ní féidir leibh
no

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Both Jean Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier have now officially responded to the UK’s demand for a reopening of negotiations and the removal of the backstop to ensure that the Irish border remains open. They said no. They said that vague aspirations for an unspecified alternative do not make a plan. They said in the clearest possible language that they are not going to renegotiate. They said that those who are now demanding a reopening of negotiations are those who themselves negotiated this deal. So why should anyone believe that the UK will adhere to any future deal that can be agreed too. They said that they did not understand the blame game that the UK is now trying to play. It was the closest thing possible that you can get while using measured and polite diplomatic language to saying “Fuck off.”

Last night the House of Commons voted for unicorns, for pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, for we-won-the-war-you-know-ism, for an unspecified spell that would wave a wand and in a magic shower of union fleg sparkles make the Irish border disappear. The EU is not going to accept it.

But far more importantly, this was a vote by the Tories and for the Tories to keep the Tory party together. A vote which, shamefully, 14 Labour MPs supported. To their eternal shame, in an ignominy which will be remembered for generations, the House of Commons decided that it was far more important to achieve a temporary truce within the Conservative party than it was to respect the Good Friday Agreement and ensure peace in Northern Ireland.

The EU, unsurprisingly, is less than impressed. Theresa May now wants to renegotiate the deal with the EU that she herself had already agreed to, and replace it with some vague alternative that she either cannot or will not define. The position of the UK is that it’s now up to the Irish and the EU to come up with a solution.  Seriously.  No wonder no one trusts the British government.

The negotiating position of the UK is now that a no deal Brexit would damage the EU and therefore the EU will fold. But that’s not how the EU sees it. As far as the EU is concerned Brexit will be a one off event from which it can recover, but the destruction of the single market and customs union which the UK is demanding will last forever. For Britain, the effects of a no deal Brexit will be far more severe, and will last forever. It’s like basing your negotiating strategy on putting a gun to your own head and insisting that you should be stopped from pulling the trigger because someone else will have to clean up the blood spatters.

The House of Commons is a pathetic sham. The two main British political parties are obsessed with scoring short term political points against one another, and incapable of seeing any larger picture. Both of them are in thrall to a myth of a Great Britain bestriding the globe like a mighty colossus, blind to the reality of a medium sized European country that cannot, will not, face up to the truth that it lost its empire generations ago. They court cataclysm because they believe that Britain is too big to fail. It cannot enter their tiny narrow little minds that the political and economic disasters which have befallen other states can befall the UK too, because in their imaginings this is an island nation protected by the unassailable moat of the English Channel.

So they lash out, blaming everyone else for their own failures and shortcomings. It’s never the fault of Blighty. It’s never the fault of Brexit. It’s the fault of the Irish for insisting that they are an independent sovereign state and acting accordingly to protect their own interests. It’s the fault of the French and the Germans for always resenting the British. It’s the fault of the Italians and the Spanish for being jealous. It’s the fault of the Scots for not believing in Britain.

What we are witnessiing in the House of Commons this week is the historic betrayal of the UK by Britain’s political parties. It’s not just Scotland which has been betrayed, sidelined, ignored and traduced. It’s everyone in the UK. The British political class has trashed any residual belief that our European allies might have had in the UK’s good faith. They have put a bonfire under the Irish peace process. They have crapped all over Scotland. And all in pursuit of solving the internal political disagreements of the Conservative party.

Labour is no better. Even now, even at this late stage, even with so little time left to go, Labour is still pursuing unicorns with equal fervour as the Tories. The party’s leadership still talks of the fantasy of a jobs first Brexit, as though there were two years left to negotiate it and not two months. The death of a second EU referendum lies at Labour’s door. The failure to wrest back control of Commons business from an overweening and arrogant minority government with dictatorial tendencies is the fault of Labour.

This is the punching above its weight that Scotland was promised in 2014. This is the respect agenda, the seat at the top table. This is the love. This is the partnership. It’s all as much of a fantasy as the Tories’ alternative arrangements or Labour’s jobs first Brexit.

Back in 2014 Scotland was told that voting for independence meant voting for a romanticised dream, that it was based on emotion and not fact. We see now that it’s Britishness which is unmoored from reality. It’s the UK which defines itself by a romantised vision of a past that never really happened. It’s the UK which trades on emotion and not fact. It’s the UK which demands entitlement and privilege that it will not get.

Common sense is often defined as something that’s self evident and therefore does not need to be proven. Back in 2014 opponents of independence were able to argue that remaining a part of the UK was common sense, that it was up to supporters of independence to prove their case. It’s no longer true that remaining a part of the UK is common sense for Scotland. In the next vote on Scottish independence, a vote which is coming soon, it will be incumbent upon opponents of independence to prove their case. And all they have are fantasies and unicorns, threats and bullying.

Scotland will become an independent nation again because the myth of the union has been destroyed by those who claim to believe in it.


 

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The red white and blue unicorn tattoo

Writing in his memoirs the French wartime leader Charles De Gaulle said about la perfide Albion and his distrust of the British establishment which led to his refusal to permit the UK to join the EEC in the early 1960s,

Pour l’Angleterre … il n’y a pas d’alliance qui tienne, ni de traité qui vaille, ni la vérité qui compte.
For England … there is no alliance which holds, nor treaty which has worth, nor truth which counts.

We’re now witnessing De Gaulle’s words come true. Today in the Commons Theresa May argued for a change to her deal which the EU has already said, repeatedly, that it’s not going to accept. She’s arguing for the renegotiation of a deal that she herself said that wasn’t up for renegotiation that was the only deal on the table. But that doesn’t matter to this government. All that matters is that she can get the Conservative party, or at least most of it, to agree with itself, and the only party in Northern Ireland whose wishes need to be respected or taken into account is the DUP.

After Theresa’s deal went down to a historic and humiliating defeat, she could have reached out. She could have erased her red lines and sought some form of compromise. She could have tried to build a cross-party consensus. But she did none of those things. Instead she’s trying to placate her own right wing and playing Brexit chlorinated chicken, running down the clock in the hope that MPs will back her deal because time has run out. It is spectacularly cynical and grossly contemptuous of what passes for democracy in the UK.

Now the Prime Minister has announced that she’s backing the so-called Brady amendment. Because this vague hope of a renegotiated deal is her new deal that’s the only deal. This amendment would replace the Irish border backstop with some nebulous “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.” The EU has already said that this is unacceptable, but Theresa is only interested in whether it’s acceptable to her own hard line Brexists and the DUP. Reality for this government is merely a serving suggestion.

The SNP tabled an amendment of its own. When SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford got up in the Commons to speak about it he warned of possible food shortages and price rises in the event of a no deal Brexit. A voice from the DUP called out that Scots could just go to the chippy. Because you know, much loved and respected partner in a family of nations and all that. Not that Theresa May was listening. She had already scuttled out of the chamber. The amendment called for Article 50 to be extended and Scotland’s remain vote to be respected. It demanded that the House should recognise that the UK is a “partnership of equals” and no nation should be dragged out of the EU against its will. It didn’t pass. It was defeated on the back of the votes of Tory MPs from elsewhere in the UK. Labour abstained. What a surprise. There’s that partnership of equals for you. Are you feeling the respect?

Most attention was focussed on the other amendments. The Cooper amendment, the Grieve amendment, the Reeves amendment, the Spelman amendment, and the Brady amendment. The Cooper amendment was put forward by former Labour front bencher Yvette Cooper and would extend article 50 to the end of this year if Theresa May is unable to secure a deal by the end of February. Labour agreed to back it officially, and so did some remainer Tories. However the amendment didn’t achieve sufficient support and was voted down by 321 votes to 298. 14 Labour MPs voted with the Tories.

The Grieve amendment would have allowed MPs to take control of parliamentary business out of the hands of the government and allowed votes on alternatives to either Theresa’s no-go deal or the no-deal. The amendment was also defeated, this time by 321 to 301. Seems the Tories aren’t that keen on the sovereignty of parliament after all. The Reeves amendment sought to ensure that Article 50 was extended if there was no deal. It was also defeated. Even now, even with the stakes so high, some Labour MPs were prepared to vote with the Tories or to abstain.

The Spelman amendment simply stated that the UK should not leave the EU without a deal. It has no legal force, it would not tie Theresa May’s hands in any way. It would not force her to take no deal off the table. It narrowly passed by 318 votes to 310, but it’s cold comfort. It won’t make any difference to a Prime Minister who is so cavalier in the way she ignores binding votes. A non-binding one won’t even register with her.

The Brady amendment is a key part of what the Conservatives like to call The Malthouse Compromise, which sounds like a cheap airport thriller, only it won’t fly and is unlikely to come to a satisfactory ending. It’s called a compromise because it involves the Tory party compromising with itself, but not with anyone else. That’s a bit like the British government unilaterally deciding to undermine the devolution settlement and calling it a compromise. Oh wait. That’s not a simile.

Before the Brady amendment had even come to a vote, it was reported that an EU official had informed the press that a response was being readied stating that the EU will not reopen negotiations on the withdrawal agreement. The Guardian was reporting that Jean Claude Juncker had told Theresa May the same during a phone call on Tuesday afternoon. It was being reported that the EU prez had said that there was no point in Theresa May coming back to Brussels if she got the Brady amendment to pass. After her phone call Theresa traipsed off to the Commons to plead for the Brady amendment and claim that she’d been listening. Not long after she got back to Number 10, the news was reporting that the French President Emmanuel Macron had also stated that the withdrawal deal was not open to renegotiation.

Despite its proposal already being ruled out by the EU, the Brady amendment narrowly passed by just 317 to 301. Within a few minutes there was an official statement from Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, saying that the Irish backstop was not going to be renegotiated.

On a recent episode of what I like to call the Poor Life Decisions Show, otherwise known as Tattoo Fixers, there was a guy who had got “Will you marry me Michelle?” tattooed across his chest. Then he showed off his tattoo to his beloved in a grand gesture of proposal only to find that she said no. Which must have been doubly painful. What the Brady amendment has done for Theresa May is the equivalent of getting “Will you renegotiate with me EU?” tattooed across the UK’s collective chest even though the EU has already said no.

Tattoo guy said he was gutted when his now ex-fiancee said no. “I genuinely had not considered the possibility that she might turn me down,” he said. Theresa doesn’t have that excuse. She’s already been turned down, but she seems to think that if she goes ahead with the tattoo anyway, the EU will reconsider since it’s clear that getting the tattoo is the will of the British Parliament, or at least the will of the Tories and the DUP. That’s the level of idiocy we’re dealing with here. She’s branding the UK as the eejit of Europe, where poor life decisions are official policy and we are all permanently scarred.

Supporters of Brexit insist that the UK survived WW2, so it can survive Brexit. Which is grand, except for the fact that the closest most of them have ever got to WW2 is playing Call of Duty on PlayStation 4. The British Parliament is now mired in delusion and lost in a dreamlike fantasy that makes a video game seem like hard headed realism. The government is unmoored from reality. The closest that the UK is going to get to the promises of the Brexists would be to get a unicorn tattooed on Jacob Rees Mogg’s backside.

So there we have it. The choice facing the UK is now Theresa May’s deal without the Irish backstop, which the EU already, repeatedly, said that it will not accept and will not renegotiate. Which means she’ll have to come back to the Commons next month with the same deal that was so resoundingly rejected a couple of weeks ago. Or it’s crashing out with no deal. The chances of a second EU referendum all but evaporated tonight. All we have left is the red white and blue unicorn tattoo and a wilful refusal to respect Johnny Foreigner. No wonder De Gaulle vetoed UK membership of the EEC.

Scotland has another choice. It’s time we took it.


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The English nationalist elephant in the room

We need to talk about English nationalism. Those of us who support Scottish independence are usually wary about anything that could be perceived as “England blaming”. We get hammered so constantly and repeatedly in the media and by opponents of independence as English haters, even though many of us have English family, even though many of us are English ourselves, that we’ve developed an aversion to mentioning anything that might be spun as yet another example of the supposed anti-English racism which the media would have many believe is the only driving force for Scottish independence.

This isn’t about blaming ordinary English people for Scotland’s ills. The problems of Scotland and this country’s role in a British state that is an expression of English nationalism are due to the complicity of generations of Scottish people. Independence is above all the acknowledgement that Scotland must be responsible for its own problems and must find its own solutions to them.

But as long as we remain a part of the UK we do need to talk about England’s problem with its own nationalism. England is the largest and the most dominant nation in this farce of a pretendy union in which Scotland is currently enmeshed. The UK is an expression of English nationalism dressed up as Britishness. It’s English nationalism which has driven and defined Brexit, and it’s English nationalism which is taking Scotland off the Brexit cliff. The UK, for all that we are constantly told it is a union of partner nations, has no mechanisms, no constitutional provisions, no legal safeguards, to protect Scotland from the malign effects of rampant English nationalism. In Scotland we are hostages to English nationalists.

There is much that is good and great about England. There are many things to admire and cherish. It’s a country with a long and respected tradition of radical politics, of liberal values, of toleration and acceptance of difference. And it shouldn’t need to be said that not all English people are consumed by the xenophobia and little Englandism that defines the hard Brexit pursued by this Conservative government.

England is deeply divided on the question of Brexit, and its divisions are profound, bitter, and all-consuming. Even if by some miracle Brexit can be avoided, or the softest possible Brexit agreed, the issue will still continue to divide and define the shape of English politics for decades to come. And that’s the point, because Scotland may be divided on many things, above all the issue of independence, but Scotland is not divided by Brexit like England is. Scotland does have a significant minority which supports Brexit, but unlike in England it is a minority. It is a minority of a similar size to opponents of the EU found in other EU member states where there is no question of leaving the EU and where leaving the EU does not figure in mainstream political discussion. Yet Scotland is now being dragged out of the EU. It’s being dragged out because of English nationalism.

Brexit is happening because English nationalism has never reconciled itself to a position of equality with other nations. England has always been something apart. English nationalism glories in the myth of an island nation, even though these islands are shared with nations other than England. Even though Ireland is an independent sovereign state, English nationalists are still incredulous that Ireland seeks to work in its own best interests and doesn’t surrender to what’s best for their narrow vision of England.

In the dreamscape of the right wing English nationalists who have seized control of the British government, their country is special and not to be subject to the rules that other lesser nations must obey. Yet for the foreseeable future Scotland’s politics and Scotland’s economic prospects will be defined and determined – and more seriously damaged and destroyed – by an English nationalist debate that tells Scotland that it must sacrifice its links to other countries in order to remain subordinate within the UK.

English nationalism is the elephant in the room for opponents of Scottish independence within Scotland. They have no idea how Scotland can be protected from it. Despite Brexit, many of them still refuse to acknowledge that Scotland needs to be protected from it or that it even exists. Even those for whom it does appear on the edges of their conscious awareness, they have no answers to it.

What mechanisms can, realistically, be introduced into the British state in order to ensure that the UK really is a union in fact and not in name? The truth is that there are none, because any such mechanisms would imply a limit being placed upon the English nationalism which has always been the unspoken dominant and defining force within the UK. British nationalism is merely English nationalism with Celtic cheerleaders. British nationalism is English nationalism with a pipe band. British nationalism is the avatar of English nationalism that tells itself that it’s not nationalist at all. It is fundamentally and at its core a species of denial of reality. No wonder that Brexit has proven to be such a mess, when British nationalism is itself an exercise in self-delusion.

Any constitutional mechanisms which would transform the UK into a real union of nations would require the assent of English nationalists and a majority within England. We’ve already seen the constant appearances and disappearances of the federalism fairy ineffectually waving a magic wand which has as much effect as a souvenir bought in a Harry Potter theme park. British nationalists in Scotland propose federalism, but it’s not going to happen because that means placing limits on the absolute power enjoyed by a Prime Minister with a majority in the Commons.

It’s better if you are an opponent of Scottish independence to pretend that there is no issue, that it doesn’t exist, and to concentrate instead on the legal issues faced by a former First Minister, or whatever SNPbad story is the headline du jour. The constant SNPbaddery that defines the British nationalist press in Scotland is a symptom of the powerlessness of British nationalists in Scotland to have any influence over the British state.

As we approach another vote on the issue of Scottish independence, the issue of English nationalism and protecting Scotland from it is a question that we cannot allow opponents of independence to get away with. It is incumbent upon those who want Scotland to remain a part of the UK to demonstrate a clear and realistic plan for ensuring that Scotland’s voice will be heard, that Scotland will not be ignored and sidelined as it has been sidelined during the Brexit negotiations, and that there are constitutional measures in place within the UK to ensure that the four different nations of this so-called union have equal representation and influence at the topmost levels of the British state. Because if they cannot, or will not, do that, then there is nothing in the UK to distinguish it from an expression of English nationalism. That’s the lesson of Brexit.

This may be the perfect union of the Scottish Conservatives, a Scotland that is a prisoner of English nationalists like Jacob Rees Mogg, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. Well it’s very far from perfect for those of us who see the English nationalist elephant in the room. Scotland either becomes independent, or we remain trapped as cheerleaders for an English nationalism wrapped in a union fleg, feeding its delusion that it’s not nationalist at all.


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What happens next

On Sunday on the Marr show, Nicola Sturgeon stated the obvious. The case for independence is not affected by legal difficulties faced by any individual. If indeed it were the case that personal legal problems had constitutional implications, then given the number of legal issues which have been faced by British politicians, Westminster would be indistinguishable from a smouldering crater in the aftermath of a nuclear strike.  The only certainty in the British state these days is that almost everything is uncertain.

Nicola Sturgeon has reiterated her intention to provide some clarity about her plans for an independence vote in a few weeks’ time. I don’t know what Nicola is going to announce. I only know what I’d announce if I were the First Minister. Admittedly if I were First Minister there would be a whole lot more swearing and sarcasm in public life, so possibly it’s just as well that I’m not.

The polls are still not showing a clear and consistent majority for independence. They’re not going to until there is a clear and definite date for a vote, and an official campaign. Those of us who are politics geeks often make the mistake of assuming that everyone shares our interest. They don’t. Most people will not engage with the arguments about independence until they have a reason to. That reason can only be an upcoming vote on the topic. It’s only when an official campaign is in full swing that the polls will start to change.

The best method of getting an independence referendum in which everyone participates and the result of which is recognised and accepted by all parties is for the British Government to agree to a Section 30 order. It’s likely that when she does make her announcement the First Minister will renew her call to Theresa May to grant a Section 30 order in order to allow the referendum to go ahead. When this call was made previously, Theresa May rebuffed it, saying “Now is not the time.” When Nicola makes a renewed call, the times and circumstances will have changed.

It is not inconceivable that we will be facing a no deal Brexit. If a no deal Brexit is avoided, we may find ourselves being taken out of the EU on some version of Theresa May’s deal, taking Scotland out of the customs union and single market and ending freedom of movement. That is a hard Brexit by the definition used back when the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of another indepedence referendum. Brexiteers may wish to rewrite their definitions retrospectively, that doesn’t mean that Scotland should allow them to do so. Both a no deal Brexit or Theresa May’s hard Brexit were seen as unlikely, we now know that they’re frighteningly plausible. That’s a major change in circumstances compared to the situation back in the early months of 2017.

However it’s unlikely that the notoriously obdurate Theresa May will change her tune. Uncooked spaghetti is more flexible and less brittle. In her mind in her most perfect of unions, she has an absolute veto on whether the people of Scotland get to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. So while it’s important that the Scottish Government renews the call for Theresa May to grant a Section 30 order and respect the Scottish Claim of Right which the Westminster Parliament itself endorsed on 4 July 2018, it’s also important that it spells out the political consequences if Theresa May refuses to do so.

If Scotland is trapped in the UK and its future is subject to an absolute veto by a Prime Minister whose mandate derives from votes from elsewhere in the UK, then it is clear that Scotland is not in a union at all. It’s going to be very difficult for anti-independence parties to continue to argue that Scotland is freely and willingly a part of the UK when the British government refuses point blank to allow the people of Scotland to have a say on the very changed circumstances of the British state.

The British government should be given every opportunity to agree to a Section 30 order, but if I were the First Minister I’d give them a tight deadline. If Theresa May, or whoever is Prime Minister by then, is still refusing to grant a Section 30 order, then the Scottish government must start legal action in order to test the legality of a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 order. This need not, as certain anti-independence commentators are so keen to make out, be automatically outwith the competence of Holyrood. A consultative referendum would not impact upon reserved powers. It would remain for Westminster to act upon the outcome and give it legal effect. The effect of a consultative referendum would be political, not legal, and it would be very much within the spirit of the Scottish Claim of Right which Westminster has agreed to.

Should the court determine that a consultative referendum was indeed legal, the Scottish Parliament should press ahead with one. During the following campaign, independence campaigners will then be able to point to opponents who had sought to silence the people of Scotland and prevent them from having a say. This is why it’s very much in the interests of opponents of independence to agree to a Section 30 order. It’s the only way in which they will be able to maintain the fiction that Scotland is a partner in a union, and not trapped in a loveless marriage with a bullying partner who refuses to allow marriage guidance counselling, never mind a divorce.

However should the court rule that it was illegal, and the matter is likely to go to a UK Supreme Court in which Scottish judges are a minority, a court which has previously given the British government the benefit of any possible doubt, then it would be time for a Scottish plebiscite election. That could take place either during a Westminster General Election in Scotland, or during Holyrood elections, whether early or at the end of this Scottish Parliament in 2021.

If the Greens refuse to support the Scottish Government’s budget this week, there could be a Scottish election a lot sooner than 2021. It could be very soon indeed. If that happens and the Scottish government falls, there won’t be time to test a consultative independence referendum in the courts, we’ll be straight into an election. Nicola’s decision will have been made for her.

If it were up to me I’d go for a plebiscite election if there’s an early Holyrood vote, but I suspect Nicola Sturgeon will take a more measured and careful path.  However any coming election will be an election in which Brexit and Scotland’s response to it will be front and foremost. It will be an election in which the question of independence cannot be sidelined or avoided like the SNP tried to do in 2017. Do we want the continuing powerlessness of Scotland in this supposed union, or do we want a Scotland which is empowered and which has a meaningful voice. Do we want the passivity of Scotland in this so-called union, or a Scotland which is an agent in its own destiny. That is going to be the only issue. Evereything else is irrelevant, because everything else is at risk of destruction by the Tories’ insane clueless and chaotic Brexit. A win for pro-independence parties in an early election means an unarguable mandate for a Scottish people’s vote.

A continued refusal from Westminster to allow that Scottish people’s vote would destroy any pretence that the UK is a union, or even a democracy. Such a refusal should be followed immediately by either a consultative referendum or the dissolution of Holyrood and a plebiscite election.

When Nicola Sturgeon makes her announcement to the people of Scotland, she needs to make it clear that one way or another, the people of Scotland will get a legal vote on Brexit and on Scotland’s place within this so-called union. Theresa May does not have a veto on Scotland’s future.

Buckle up. We’re in for a bumpy ride.


 

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The week in Brexit

While certain sections of the British nationalist press in Scotland have been very insistent this week that it’s all over for the independence movement, back in the real world the reasons for Scottish independence just keep getting stronger.  Brexit hasn’t gone away.  Scotland being sidelined and ignored hasn’t gone away.  This week has seen yet more reasons for independence being piled onto the stinking heap of putrid British politics, a heap which already rivals Mt Everest in height.

Theresa May is complaining that Jeremy Corbyn won’t come and speak to her about things that she’s already said she won’t do. One of the businessmen who was most vocal in his support for Brexit is taking his business to Singapore. Jacob Rees Mogg tells us that the only way to save democracy is to close down parliament. The Conservatives insist that it would be an attack on democracy to allow the people to have a free vote. Then a senior BBC presenter thought it was a serious question to suggest to an Irish government minister that the solution to the border question would be for Ireland to leave the EU and join the UK. That’s where we are now in the through the looking glass world of Brexit Britain.

There are only 62 days left until Brexit. That’s not enough time for Jacob Rees Mogg to get his tailor to make him a suit that looks like it wasn’t made for his dad. It’s scarcely enough time to get the council to come and pick up an abandoned mattress, certainly not if you are unfortunate enough to have a Tory council. There is, it must be said, little to distinguish Brexit from an abandoned mattress. It’s unsightly, unseemly, it leaves a bad smell, and no one will take responsibility for it. Certainly not those who actually dumped it outside our front gate. A gate which will soon require a visa to get through, at least once you get past the queue of lorries.

Jacob is terribly worried that the Parliament whose sovereignty he swore blind he was campaigning for might actually act like it’s sovereign. I seem to recall that all the way through the EU referendum campaign Jacob and his pals were insisting that it was an outrage that the sovereignty of the British Parliament be limited by Brussels and by treaty commitments that the UK had signed up to. It’s the God-given right of the UK to be perfidious, and promises made to foreigners needn’t be respected. Neither to promises made to Scotland, so we’re familiar with that one.  This kind of guff sounds terribly plausible to Conservatives in Middle-Englandshire when it’s delivered in the plummy tones of someone for whom poshness is performance art.  And that all by itself is one of the reasons why the UK is not fit for purpose.

However now that there are mutterings that MPs might wrest control of Parliament business from Theresa May’s minority government, and potentially use it to delay Brexit or even call for another referendum, Jacob is all of a sudden rather less keen on the sovereignty of Parliament. He wants to activate the Queen – which is a phrase that I’d never thought I’d hear. He wants Liz to make like activated charcoal and clear out the blocked bowels of Westminster. She can do this by suspending Parliament to prevent MPs acting like they’re a sovereign body. So now we know that Brexit is really about restoring the divine right of the monarchy. Most of us thought the royals already had been granted divine rights. At least as far as traffic offences are concerned.

Theresa May asserted this week that if Brexit fails to take place then people will lose all faith in politicians. Which only shows how out of touch she really is. That ship sailed a long time ago. The reason many of us want Scottish independence is precisely because we lost faith in politicians, and hope that with a written constitution in an independent Scotland we’ll be better placed to make sure that politicians are actually answerable to us. That’s certainly not the case in the UK.

She couldn’t help herself during PMQs. We may all be going to Hell in a handcart, there may be precious little time left, but there’s always time to get in a cheap gibe about Jeremy Corbyn – like she was a snarky blog writer or something. She sniffed, “The right honourable gentleman has been willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA without preconditions, yet he won’t meet me to talk about Brexit.” Yeah Theresa, but that’s because Hamas, Hezbollah, and the IRA knew what they were doing. And at least they took responsibility for the damage that they created.

The population of the UK now feels like it’s living in that movie where Bruce Willis went up in a spaceship to save the world from the asteroid that was hurtling toward it and about to destroy it. Only instead of Bruce and his derring do we have Theresa May and her derring don’t. We have Jeremy Corbyn who wants to hand knit a spacecraft from wool plucked by a peasant collective from the backs of ethically reared vicuñas. And we have Jacob Rees Mogg cheering on the asteroid. None of them actually want to prevent the asteroid striking us, they merely disagree on who should be in charge when it does.

It seems that at least one senior presenter on the BBC doesn’t want to blame anyone in the UK for the mess of Brexit. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Helen McEntee, the Europe Minister in the Irish government was interviewed by the veteran presenter John Humphrys. John wasn’t too impressed by the recent warnings that a no deal Brexit might lead to the imposition of a hard border across the island of Ireland, a border which John seems to have forgotten only exists in the first place because the British partitioned Ireland.

John thinks that it’s up to Ireland to sort out the mess. He asked the Irish minister why Ireland didn’t just quit the EU and “throw its lot in with this country”. Because that worked out so well for Ireland the last time. The fact that John Humphrys, who let us not forget is a highly paid BBC presenter specialising in politics, thought that this was a serious question deserving of a serious answer sums up all that is wrong with Brexit. If Helen McEntee hadn’t been a polite and sensible Irish politician, she would have given him the only proper answer, which is, “Are you feckin mad, or stupid, or both?”

In the Anglocentric world of Brexiteers, there is no need to understand or even acknowledge the tortured history of Ireland’s relationship with Britain. The problems with Brexit are always the fault of others, and it’s incumbent upon other countries and other people to fix England’s problems for it. Back in the real world, 92% of the people of Ireland want to remain in the EU. It’s not Ireland’s job to sort out the self-inflicted difficulties created by the UK’s inept and selfish political class. As long as Scotland remains a part of the UK, that would be Scotland’s job. That’s Scotland in the UK for you. No say. No influence. But fully liable for all of the mess.


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

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The Wee Ginger Dugcast : with Mhairi Black

Welcome to the latest edition of the Wee Ginger Dugcast brought to you by The National newspaper. In this week’s episode we have a very special guest, Mhairi Black. Mhairi joins us to chat about independence, the craziness of Westminster, and Brexit.

Of course, the only reason she agreed to guest was so that she could get to pat the dug.


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Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

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.