Do you hear that roasting sound? Hear it pop and spit? It’s the sound of shrivelling, shrinking, and burning up. Do you feel the heat and the fire that threatens to destroy the house? Are you unable to see anything through the dense smoke? That would be a million gammons learning that the UK can’t even ask itself if it wants to leave the EU without first getting the permission of Jean Claude Juncker. But that’s exactly what they demand of Scotland. And then they have the nerve to tell us that we’re in the most perfect union of nations ever seen on the face of this Earth.
The reality is that Scotland doesn’t need Theresa May’s permission to decide on its future. There is, as this blog has explored, more than one perfectly legal way in which the people of Scotland can have a democratic vote on whether we want to remain subject to the whims of an incompetent, venal, and broken Westminster system or become an independent, grown up, normal nation. There’s a consultative referendum, there’s turning a future Holyrood or Westminster election into a plebiscite election on independence. One way or another, Scotland can have a vote on its future, and Theresa May can’t stop it.
The Conservatives, you know, those people who don’t want Scotland to have any say over its constitutional future at all, know that too. So they also want to control how and when Scotland should have a say if and when Theresa May or whoever is Prime Minister in a few months’ time deigns to permit it. Or more accurately, when they discover that it’s politically impossible for them to prevent it.
Imagine that someone you know was determined that you shouldn’t have an enjoyable holiday. They tell you that they control the pursestrings, that you need their permission to go on holiday, and they’re not going to allow you to go. They do their utmost to prevent you getting the information you need in order to make an informed decision about your finances, about possible destinations. They lie to you. They tell you that you won’t be allowed a visa. They tell you that you’ll be refused entry into Europe.
Then when they discover that you’re going to go on holiday anyway and they can’t stop you, they inform you that they’ll decide when you go, where you go, and how you go. You can be as certain as it’s certain that TIG is going to be on Question Time that they’re going to do their utmost to ensure that you have the crappiest holiday imaginable. They’re going to make it so crappy that you’d prefer not to go on holiday at all.
The reason that the Conservatives want to control the timing, franchise, and question of a future independence referendum is because they want to pauchle it. The question in 2014 was rigorously fair and unbiased. It made no assumptions. It was not leading. The question that the Tories are likely to pose will be along the lines of “Do you want to break up the most successful partnership of nations that the world has ever seen and destroy Scotland forever? And see this kitten? It will get drowned.” They’ll ensure that the vote is held in the depths of winter in the worst weather possible on the same day that a royal baby is born while some other member of the royal family gets married on the centre of the Wembley pitch immediately before a Scotland-England fitba match. They’ll gerrymander the franchise to exclude 16 and 17 year olds and EU citizens, while extending it to everyone in the rest of the UK who has a Scottish grandparent or who once went to Argyll on a coach trip. Then they’ll insist that at least 60% of those who voted need to have voted in favour of independence and that the turnout has to be over 80%.
Westminster has previous for this kind of thing. 40 years ago Westminster pauchled the Home Rule referendum of 1979 in order to ensure that it was as difficult as possible for Scotland to achieve even a very limited form of self-government. The House of Commons introduced the infamous 40% rule, insisting that 40% of the entire electorate would have to assent to Home Rule. Scotland voted in favour of the then Labour government’s limited proposals for Home Rule, but not by enough to surmount the 40% of the entire electorate restriction. With an independence referendum, the stakes for Westminster are even higher. They will do their utmost to ensure that the referendum is skewed in their favour.
The Conservatives have already proven that their promises to Scotland cannot be trusted. Every single one of the promises and commitments that they made to Scotland lies shattered and broken. They haven’t strengthened devolution, they’ve undermined it. They haven’t kept Scotland within the EU, they’re taking us out of it. Scottish Conservative MPs have not been voting in a bloc to defend Scotland’s interests within the UK, they’re supine and spineless enablers of a British government determined to ignore and marginalise Scotland in the Brexit process. A Scottish independence referendum which is controlled, determined, and worded by the Conservatives in Westminster isn’t a Scottish referendum. It’s a Conservative stitch up.
For quite a while now, as I’ve been going around Scotland giving talks on independence, I’ve joked that whereas we were told in 2014 that Scotland couldn’t use the pound, the scare story that Better Together Mk II is going to use the next time round is that Scotland has to use the pound. And so it has come to pass. Opponents of independence are now quite literally one of my jokes.
On Twitter on Saturday Blair McDougall, the chief of Better Together Mk I, warned that Scotland needed to keep using the pound. You know, that pound that he said we couldn’t use in 2014. What has changed is of course that the SNP is now moving towards adopting a Scottish currency after independence and is dropping the previous policy of continuing to use sterling for an indeterminate period. So Better Together’s position on the currency is that if Scotland wants to use the pound then it has to use its own currency, but if Scotland wants to use its own currency then it has to use the pound. We’re glad they’ve cleared that up.
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