A Prime Minister who wasn’t elected, ramming through a policy that we voted against. Now every remain voter in the UK knows what it feels like to be Scottish. Remember how we were assured in 2014 that the UK was one of the strongest and oldest democracies in the world? With Alexander Boris de Pfeffel’s outrageous decision to shut down that Parliament whose sovereignty Brexit was supposed to enhance we have yet another Better Together promise that has bitten the dust.
The carefully and deliberately tousled one is going to ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament early in September, in a move calculated to reduce the amount of time available to MPs to plot to prevent a no deal Brexit. It was always predictable that a man who has lied all the way through his career in order to advance himself would have no compunction about trashing democratic safeguards in order to get his own way.
Let’s be quite clear here, there is no mandate for a no deal Brexit. All the way through the EU referendum campaign, those campaigning for leave assured us all about how easy it would be to get a deal. Leaving with no deal was never a serious option. Now it’s the only option that the Brextremists will accept. We’re being taken out of the EU in a manner that was never proposed, on the back of a referendum that was won with dark money, lies, and illegality. The only good thing about a no deal Brexit happening is that then the SNP leadership can stop focussing on preventing Brexit and start focussing on independence.
This is a very dark day for what passes for democracy in this dysfunctional disunited kingdom. There are those who say that it’s only a few days which Parliament will be deprived of, so no biggie. Or that this is simply the normal workings of British democracy. Which may be true, but is scarcely an argument for its acceptability. Parliament is being suspended at a time of immense crisis for the UK, precisely so that a small group of ideologues can drive through a policy which will enrich only disaster capitalists and which will wreak huge damage to everyone else. Even the Speaker of the House of Commons has described it as a “constitutional outrage”. Usually when Parliament is prorogued before a Queen’s Speech, the suspension last for just a few days. This is five weeks. The only reason for doing so is to get Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson out of the political difficulties he finds himself in because he heads a minority administration made up of a party full of rebels. Even with the DUP’s support he’s got a majority of just one.
However the real issue here is that the prorogation introduced a vital new obstacle to preventing a no deal. Any pending legislation which has not been completed before prorogation will fall. This means that MPs would either have to pass legislation against no deal in its entirety before prorogation, or in the three weeks during which Parliament will sit between October 14 and 31, a substantial chunk of which will be taken up with the Queen’s speech, the opening of Parliament, and the days of debate which that entails.
Johnson not only wants to prevent the House of Commons from passing any measures to prevent a no-deal crash out from the EU, he also seeks to ensure that should MPs pass a motion of no-confidence in his autocracy then there will be no parliament in session to block no-deal. It is a move which is breath-taking in its contempt for the basic structures of the UK’s ramshackle constitution and illustrates that British democracy is unfit for purpose. British democracy is a contradiction in terms. Never has the need for a written constitution which places constraints on the powers of the executive branch of government been clearer. Never has the UK been further away from getting one.
If the British Government is prepared to close down the House of Commons in order to ram through a no deal Brexit, it’s no longer unthinkable that it would also be prepared to suspend Holyrood. Today’s worrying developments highlight what those of us who support Scottish independence have been saying for many years. The independence debate is not a debate about GERS figures. It’s not a debate about the price of oil. It’s not a debate about pretty graphs that show how poorly Scotland performs within the UK and claims to extrapolate that to an independent country. Those are all distractions from the nub of the argument.
Fundamentally this is a debate about democracy. It’s a debate about the ability to hold governments to account. It’s a debate about ensuring that Scotland gets a government that it votes for. It’s a debate about making sure that the only people who get to decide that path that Scotland takes are the people of Scotland and a government that is elected by them alone and is responsible to them alone, a government which is constrained by a written constitution which sets out the limits of its power. That’s the only way that we can protect ourselves from the likes of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his hijacking of democracy.
And in other news about entirely predictable developments, Ruth Davidson has been suspiciously quiet, as you might expect when her Westminster colleagues do something that’s as popular in Scotland as a plague of wasps at a nudist picnic. The prorogation of Parliament might be an unprecedented constitutional travesty, but Ruth Davidson prorogues herself on a regular basis. This would be that same Ruth Davidson who accused Nicola Sturgeon of hiding the other week when Nicola went to Shetland instead of sticking around in Edinburgh for the annual red white and blue GERSfest.
The Channel 4 news reporter Ciaran Jenkins tweeted, “Ruth Davidson is not doing interviews today.” The word today being pretty much superfluous in that statement. Ruth never does interviews when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson does things which make the need for another independence referendum all the more urgent. Which these days means that she never does interviews on any day whose name ends with a Y. The only thing more predictable than Ruth Davidson hiding from scrutiny when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson does things which make the need for another independence referendum all the more urgent is the British media in Scotland colluding in letting her get away with it. Other senior Scottish Tories are equally absent.
Meanwhile Alister Who He Posho Jack, our new governor general, also cancelled a planned interview today. Fancy that. Instead he took some very brief questions, restricting each reporter to one question each. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the Scottish Tories vanished from our public life as quickly as they vanished from the press when there are difficult questions in need of answers. Let’s hope there’s an early General Election, and then we can make that happen.
The British constitution is unfit for democracy. We need a Scottish one. Let’s make that happen too.
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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