It’s funny how Ruth Davidson is very quick to claim that the people of Scotland don’t want another independence referendum, yet she carefully avoids saying that the people of Scotland don’t want Brexit. A couple of days ago, 62% of Scottish voters opted for parties opposed to Brexit, but Ruth never seems to find time to mention that Scotland is opposed to Brexit. Instead she devotes her time and energy in a pursuit that there is no such clear evidence for, the claim that Scotland doesn’t want another independence referendum. You might think that Ruth was motivated in equal parts by opportunism and desperation, and you’d be right.
Today the Holyrood bill to provide a framework for another independence referendum was published, and Ruth Davidson took to Twitter to ask people to support her bid to block it. She took to Twitter because she tried an election, but got resoundingly defeated. It was after all Ruth herself who had insisted that the recent European elections were all about sending a message to Nicola Sturgeon, only for the people of Scotland to disoblige and give the SNP the highest share of the vote of any party in any country in the EU. So that only leaves Twitter appeals to the increasingly frothy members of SiU, and appealing above the heads of the Scottish electorate by interceding with Tory leadership candidates to get them to rule out granting a Section 30 order.
The UK has gone from being a family of equal nations, the most perfect union of countries in the history of the world, to a prison where the only way it can be kept together is by a unilateral refusal to allow Scotland to have a say on its own future. Those who support and defend the UK have now abandoned any pretence of persuading Scotland that it has a better future as a democratic partner within the UK and have transformed into authoritarians who can only keep the UK together by sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and asserting that the UK Prime Minister has a veto over the democratic will of the people of Scotland and he or she won’t allow an independence referendum. Scotland doesn’t want Brexit, but Scotland will have Brexit imposed upon it, and yet it’s the EU which is the undemocratic dictatorship. Right-o.
The latest Tory leadership contender to loftily assert from on high that he’d refuse to allow another independence referendum is Sajid Javid, who then went on to accuse Nicola Sturgeon of grandstanding. ‘Won’t allow’, eh Sajid. Oooh you’re hard. The people of Scotland just love being dictated to by Tory MPs. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. No, really.
According to the Saj, the people of Scotland had a chance to vote in 2014, and absolutely nothing has changed since then that might have led anyone to change their view. Nothing that is except every single promise and commitment that was made to the people of Scotland by the Better Together campaign being trashed, binned, traduced, or rubbished. It’s funny how the people who won the 2014 insist that the losers need to respect the result, but they themselves refuse to be held to account for the promises and commitments that they made to the people of Scotland in order to win it. Call me naive, but I thought it was more important that winners be held to account, since they’re the ones who have promises to fulfil. In Scottish Toryland, they get a free pass forever. Apparently that’s what democracy looks like for Scotland within the UK.
Nothing has changed except Scotland being assured that the only way it could remain a part of the EU was to vote against independence, but it’s now being taken out anyway. Nothing has changed except the promise that no Westminster government would ever alter the devolution settlement without the express will of the Scottish Parliament, but then the Tories went and did exactly that. Nothing has changed except the promise that Scotland would be an equal and valued partner in a family of nations turning out to mean we’d be dictated to, patronised, sidelined, marginalised, and treated with contempt. But apart from that, nothing has changed, and no one in Scotland could possibly have any reason whatsoever to have second thoughts on 2014’s decision.
Still, no one really cares what Sajid Javid says. It’s just some boorish and bullying grandstanding from someone who has no chance of becoming the next Prime Minister, while he accuses other people of grandstanding. This kind of lack of self-awareness is the defining characteristic of the Conservative party right now. It’s the same lack of self-awareness that leads Ruth on her anti-indyref campaign, citing the will of the Scottish people, while she ignores the very clear will of the Scottish people on Brexit.
Of course we all know that the real reason Ruth refuses to countenance another independence referendum is because she thinks she’d lose it. Ruth is motivated by one thing above all other considerations, and that’s self-promotion. If she sincerely believed that she could handsomely defeat the independence cause in another referendum, she’d be the first to call for one. Then she could pose as the saviour of the union and be even more the darling of her adoring pals in the press. Her opposition to another independence referendum is a last ditch desperate attempt to forestall the inevitable, because Ruth knows that once the referendum is called, she’s already lost.
What these Tory leadership candidates consistently fail to appreciate is that the quickest route to Scottish independence is for Conservative politicians that Scotland didn’t vote for to tell Scotland that it’s not allowed a choice. In their short-term desperation to forestall another independence referendum, they are undermining the very basis of the union that they claim to love and cherish. If you are trying to persuade Scots that they are a valued partner in a union, you can’t simultaneously deny them the right to democratic expression about Scotland’s place within that so-called union. The two positions are mutually incompatible. The abiding myth of Scottish unionism has always been that Scotland is voluntarily a part of the UK. Conservative refusals to countenance an independence referendum destroy that myth, and they undermine the very foundation of Scottish unionism.
The Tories themselves are destroying the UK. It’s their actions, their arrogance, their blind hatred, their inflexibility, their utter selfishness and unyielding insistence on putting narrow party interest first which will lead to Scottish independence. When they are reduced to telling Scotland that it will not be ‘allowed’ a vote on its own future, they have already destroyed 300 years of Scottish unionism. They can no longer pretend to the people of Scotland that Scotland is freely and willingly a part of the UK. They have revealed the ugly truth that Scotland is regarded as a possession.
In the Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde wrote, “And all men kill the thing that they love.” And it is also true that the things that you love the most will kill you. In the Ballad of Ruthie’s Wail, the Scottish Tories are proving the truth of that. They are destroying their precious union and being destroyed by it. Scotland will not weep for their tragedy. It is our opportunity.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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