“You don’t get a referendum for free, you have to earn it. So if the Greens and the SNP – and the SSP or any other parties who’ve declared an interest in independence – get over the line and make a coalition, make a majority, get the votes in the parliament, then they’ll vote through a referendum, and that’s what democracy’s all about … it is perfectly simple.”
Ruth Davidson, May 2011
Ruth Davidson has changed her tune. If you’re surprised by that you’re probably also surprised that British TV sports commentators keep hyping up the England team and patronising the Scotland team when they notice it at all. After saying that “of course” Westminster shouldn’t block another independence referendum, Ruth is now basing her choice of Tory leadership candidate on the basis of which of them most vehemently refuse to allow Scotland to ask itself about its own future within the UK. She’s changed her tune on an independence referendum just like she’s changed her tune on Brexit.
Yesterday, the leaderene of the Ruth Davidson Vote Ruth Davidson for More Ruth Davidson party insisted that there could only be another independence referendum if Nicola Sturgeon got a majority in Holyrood in the next Scottish elections. Other pro-independence parties don’t count any more. Green MSPs don’t exist. Ruth thinks that Scottish democracy is an arm wrestling contest between her and Nicola Sturgeon.
The perfect simplicity of democracy is that it doesn’t matter whether Nicola Sturgeon has a personal mandate for another independence referendum. What matters is that there’s a majority for one in the Scottish Parliament, which there is. However democracy has ceased to be simple for Ruth Davidson. Despite the fact that her party came a distant fourth in the most recent elections held in Scotland, she still thinks that she has the right to dictate to the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland. Despite the fact that the SNP and the Greens have indeed made a majority, have got the votes in the parliament, have voted through a referendum, that’s not good enough for Ruth despite what she said in May 2011.
Quite simply Ruth Davidson needs show us the electoral majority that she has won that gives her the right to be the arbiter of whether or not there should be a Scottish independence referendum. Oh yeah, it doesn’t exist. Her party came fourth in the EU elections. All the opinion polls point to it being wiped out in Scotland should there be a General Election. She’s hardly in any position to lecture anyone from a position of strength. There are sand castles on a beach in a hurricane which have greater structural integrity. Frankly, the only people who care about her setting the conditions necessary for another independence referendum are her pals in the press. And even most of them are only reporting her for the click bait.
The truth is that Ruth Davidson has changed her position on the referendum so often, that even if the SNP did indeed achieve an absolute majority in the next Holyrood election, she would only find some other reason for saying no. Because Ruth’s word is worth as much as Ross Thomson’s career prospects. It’s not so much that she has a history of shifting the goalposts, but that she keeps the goalposts on the back of a flatbed lorry which is currently bombing down the A1 in the direction of Conservative Central Office.
This latest hurdle is just another convenient excuse, and once it’s superceded like previous hurdles have been superceded, she’ll just find another. It will be that even though the SNP has a majority of seats, it doesn’t have a majority of votes cast. It will be that there can’t be another independence referendum because Mars hasn’t aligned with Uranus. She’ll say there can’t be another independence referendum because David Mundell is having his beard de-morselled. She’ll tell us that another independence referendum is out of the question because, just because. Foot stamp. Sulk. Pout. Don’t wannaaaaa!
Ruth Davidson preaches about democracy while espousing deeply undemocratic positions. She preaches about the dangers of division while her own party has proven to be the most dangerously divisive force in the UK. She rails against the replacement of patriotism by nationalism while representing the most narrowly and viciously nationalist party that has ever been in government in Britain.
Her own party is a minority government, and is hell bent on forcing the most extreme form of Brexit imaginable on the UK. Yet have you heard her say that the British government can’t foist its Brexit upon us all until it achieves an electoral majority to do so? No. Neither have I. Theresa May went to the polls in 2017 in order to seek a larger majority in the Commons so that she could determine all by herself what sort of hard Brexit she wanted. She lost her majority, but no one heard supposedly pro-remain Ruth Davidson speak up to say that the UK government had lost its right to pursue a hard Brexit. The support of Green MSPs in Holyrood for another independence referendum doesn’t count as far as Ruth is concerned, but the DUP’s support for a hard Brexit in Westminster is just fine with her. Funny that.
The lack of respect for Scottish democracy displayed by Ruth Davidson is merely a reflection of the lack of respect for democracy that is displayed by her party in Westminster. This is a party which has leading contenders for leadership who are perfectly happy to close down parliament in order to ram through a disastrous no deal Brexit that there is no majority for either in the Commons or in the UK as a whole. They’re happy to do so in order to further the narrow and short term political prospects of the Conservative party, irrespective of the consequences on the economy, on the UK’s international standing, on lives, jobs, and prospects.
Ruth Davidson doesn’t have the strength, the courage, the conviction, the arguments, to persuade a majority of Scotland by herself, so she prefers to go running to Tory leadership candidates for hauners, candidates who will tell Scotland what they will or will not “allow”. You can bet that as soon as her current favoured candidate drops out of the race, she’ll find another who is equally intransigent and claim she supported him all along. Ruth is a blustering bully who is desperately flailing about because she knows that she’s on the wrong side of history, the losing side of the argument. She can see her precious union evaporate away before her eyes, because of the boiling heat that her own party has created due to Brexit.
So how about this Ruth, if you want to block another independence referendum, if you want to ensure that it doesn’t take place, then how about you win a majority in Holyrood. Make a majority. Get the votes in parliament. Vote against a referendum. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s perfectly simple.
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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