More startled fawns

There’s a couple of points I’d like to talk more about, following on from last night’s blog piece Startled Fawns. In that piece, limitations of space meant that I didn’t discuss Yes-leavers. They’re an important, albeit minority, demographic, and it would be foolish for the Yes movement to ignore their concerns. Another concern that has been raised is that by not holding a referendum until after Brexit, we would have effectively abandoned EU citizens in Scotland and would have allowed huge damage to be done to the Scottish economy.

Brexit and EU membership is the trigger for the next referendum, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the Yes movement, or the SNP for that matter, should be fighting the independence campaign on the basis of seeking independence in order to return immediately to the EU. That is indeed what many, and probably most, do in fact want, but telling one and all to vote Yes for EU membership would be a mistake. The focus of an independence campaign cannot be about pre-determining the choices that the sovereign people of Scotland make in an independent Scotland, it can only be about establishing the principle that the people of Scotland have the sovereign right to make their own choices – whatever those choices may be.

People who support both Yes and leaving the EU base their position on their belief in the sovereignty of the Scottish people. First of all we have to ensure that Scottish sovereignty is established in an independent state. Then and only then can the people of Scotland decide whether as an independent state we wish to join the EU. Or perhaps we may choose to join EFTA instead, which would give us access to the single market, the customs union, and allow freedom of movement without being full members of the EU.

The important point is that this is a decision that can only be made in a referendum on EU membership in an independent Scotland. We can’t prejudge it during an independence referendum. Fundamentally independence is about one thing and one thing only – asserting and establishing the right of the people of Scotland to decide the path that this country takes. It’s not about determining in advance what that path must be. That’s something that both Yes-leavers and Yes-remainers can agree on.

Another concern that has been raised is the view that by allowing Brexit to play out, we are effectively abandoning EU citizens to their fate and allowing untold damage to be done to the Scottish economy. However that’s precisely why I argued that the Scottish Government needs to be seen to do its utmost to prevent Brexit from taking place. Indeed, that was the entire thrust of the piece. That’s the exact opposite of abandoning EU citizens to be deported by the Home Office, or sitting back and allowing untold damage to the done to the Scottish economy.

However the truth is that as a part of the UK, Scotland is not capable of stopping Brexit. This is one of the strongest arguments for independence, Scotland is not an active player in shaping the path the UK takes but rather is a passive victim of England’s political priorities. We can argue our corner, but essentially the final decision about Brexit will be made in England, not in Scotland. It will be made to suit England’s political priorities, not Scotland’s. Until the question of Brexit is settled, any Scottish independence referendum will be drowned in England’s political uncertainty.

Not holding a referendum until after there’s a solution to the Brexit conundrum does not mean that we have lost the votes of Scotland’s 200,000 or so EU citizen residents. It is for the Scottish Parliament to decide on the franchise for Scottish votes. Westminster determines the franchise only for Westminster General Elections in Scotland. The Scottish Government has already signalled its intention to extend the franchise to everyone who is legally resident in Scotland, whether they are EU citizens or citizens of some third country. There are an estimated 337,000 non-UK citizens living in Scotland. All of them should have the vote in a Scottish independence referendum. And they will.

Then there is the question of what happens should Brexit be successfully prevented. The SNP, it is claimed, will have thrown away the best chance of independence in our lifetimes by having campaigned against Brexit. I do believe that if Brexit can be prevented it will be harder to obtain a majority for independence in the short term (although not impossible). Many of those who are currently undecideds or soft Noes will breathe a collective sigh of relief and go back to supporting the status quo. The EU will return to supporting the UK as a member state and become more hostile to Scottish independence.

The medium and longer term is a different matter. In terms of domestic support for independence, what this entire Brexit process has demonstrated in abundance is the contempt and disdain that the Westminster establishment has for Scotland. At every step along the way, Scotland has been ignored, marginalised, and sidelined. This is not a bug in the UK’s operating software, it’s a feature. It will happen again. And when it does happen again we can point the Brexit experience as proof that it keeps happening.

However the cancellation of Brexit does not mean a return to business as usual any more than the loss of the independence referendum in 2014 meant a Scotland that returned to being quiescent. Brexit has opened up a deep seam of resentful English nationalism. That’s not going to go away, and it’s going to shape and direct the future of British politics for years to come, shaping it in ways which are inimical to the devolution settlement and to Scotland’s place within the UK.

At an EU level, the UK has already blown up its reserves of goodwill amongst other EU member states. The other member states would welcome a decision to cancel Brexit, but equally they will be aware that the underlying brexitosis and English nationalist exceptionalism which created the problem in the first place continues to infect the British body politic. That will make many of them view Scottish independence in a more sympathetic light. They won’t come out and full-heartedly support Scottish independence, but then they’re not going to do that even after the UK has left the EU.

Even if Brexit can be avoided in the short term, and that’s a very big if, the question of Brexit is going to continue to dominate British politics for decades to come. The independence movement in Scotland did not go away because we lost the referendum in 2014, the Brexit movement is certainly not going to go away after seeing their win in the 2016 referendum frustrated by subsequent events. It’s a movement which counts on resources of dark money and wealth that is orders of magnitude greater than any funding which the Scottish independence movement can attract. It will continue to be well-resourced, well-funded, and prominent. If Brexit is cancelled it will only become more strident and urgent.

What this means is that one way or another, whether on October 31 or sometime in the future, Brexit is going to happen. At some point after the hypothetical cancellation of Brexit, a UK government will be elected on a platform of leaving the EU and we’ll be back in this circus all over again. That is particularly likely to happen because of the nature of the First Past the Post system of Westminster, where a party can win a large majority in the Commons on the back of a mere third of the popular vote. Brexit is not going away. Even if Brexit can be cancelled this time (which I doubt), as long as Scotland remains a part of the UK we will continue to be at risk of being taken out of the EU against our will. Eventually the forces of English nationalism that Brexit has unleashed will ensure that it comes to pass.

There was another criticism made of yesterday’s article, and this is one that I wholeheartedly agree with. The SNP leadership needs to be far more assertive in making the case for independence and in rebutting the arguments of opponents. In particular that means challenging the myth of Scotland’s alleged poverty and our supposed deficit. It’s all very well for Nicola Sturgeon to say that the question of independence is going to be foremost in the election to come, but that declaration needs to be followed up with some substance. We need to see an enthusiasm for pursuing independence from the SNP leadership which is equal to its enthusiasm for frustrating Brexit.

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30 comments on “More startled fawns

  1. […] Wee Ginger Dug More startled fawns There’s a couple of points I’d like to talk more about, following on from last […]

  2. Bob Lamont says:

    Excellent follow up even if it completely blew my almost finished post on the previous 🙂

  3. JGedd says:

    Following the last indyref, like many others, I experienced a devastating despair, so when there was a restoration of hope in indy supporters returning to the campaign for the next indyref, again like many others, I was buoyed up by the gathering confidence.

    However, I remember feeling a little disquiet gnawing away at my renewed hope and that was I hoped that we would not wait too long for an independence vote as I anticipated there were gremlins underneath all that hope which could begin to thwart the forward surge.

    My unease has grown as it seems that the longer the independence referendum is delayed the more that factionalism has begun to strain the unity. Political movements are prone to that kind of restless divisiveness when natural expectations are deferred too long.

    You may well be right about the constraints which are affecting timing. Part of me agrees but another part is experiencing some trepidation about the postponing of the campaign towards a referendum. Sometimes I’m reminded of Monty Python’s splintering factions of the Judean People’s Front.

  4. grizebard says:

    It’s a fair point that only after independence can we, as a country and society, properly evaluate our preferences, so if there has to be yet another referendum, eg. on (re-)joining the EU, so be it. The new fully-sovereign Scottish Government, whatever its composition, would almost certainly be obliged to discover what the likely conditions for membership of the EU would be, so having that verified by a plebiscite based on concrete facts (if that is still possible) seems eminently reasonable.

    However, the new democratic Scotland is very likely to choose renewed membership by a substantial majority, not least as a guarantor of protection against a troubled reactionary England, just as has notably benefited Ireland of late. So “startled fawns” of the EU-averse variety should be under no illusions, they won’t be able to cherry-pick their future in Scotland any more than they seem to believe they can do in the UK. Independence, like justice, is indivisible.

  5. alanm says:

    “Brexit and EU membership is the trigger for the next referendum, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the Yes movement, or the SNP for that matter, should be fighting the independence campaign on the basis of seeking independence in order to return immediately to the EU”

    Thank you Paul – I completely agree with those sentiments.

    In the minds of many voters, SNP policy across a range of issues will heavily influence their decision as to whether to vote yes or no come the next independence referendum. We’re not just talking about the EU here. Not everyone wants Scotland to become the most politically correct wee country in Europe. Not everyone wants to see more and more things banned with every year that passes. Not every high earner is delighted to pay more tax. Not everyone wants to pay a surcharge on the beer & wine they consume at home. Not everyone wants to be banned from enjoying a drink with their meal when they dine out. Not every woman wants to share their private space with people of the opposite sex.

    I’m sure Stuart Campbell (are we still allowed to mention him?) has highlighted this danger in his blog very recently. It’s now time for the SNP to take note and stop alienating potential yes voters.

  6. Mark Russell says:

    Paul – may I ask what are the two most important things in your life? Serious question. Right here, right now. Don’t think too hard – its not a trick question – just the two most important things for you at this precise moment. Anyone else can offer their own opinion too..

      • markrussell20085017 says:

        Yep – what you love and cherish most. But the only two things that really matter are water & air. Without them we don’t exist. It’s so obvious and simple – we just don’t think about it – even now. Especially now.

        It’s something we all do – ignore the obvious. Can I suggest we’re doing the same with Brexit?

        If you think of it as a mechanism or catalyst for reform, then it begins to make some sense. What are the obvious consequences? The end of the UK as a political union, Scotland and Ireland as member states in the EU – perhaps Wales too. England will stand on its feet once it recovers and will become a small independent country – like Switzerland or Norway or Sweden. The border will still be at Gretna and there’ll be no need for any barriers – physical or otherwise.

        The only thing stopping this natural progression are the politicians – at least, that’s the prevailing view in England – and that’s becoming even more entrenched after last week.

        The only thing that matters for many people in England right now is for Brexit to complete. Even more than water & air – or their loved ones! They don’t mind if Scotland becomes independent and Ireland unifies – most would welcome such an outcome.

        Me too. It’s a perfectly obvious solution. The only thing preventing this from happening are politicians in a parliament of a union that no longer has any function.

        Go figure.

    • JSM says:

      My grandchildren and the rest of my family.

  7. Movy says:

    Agreed Paul. We urgently need to see more enthusiasm for independence from the SNP.

    The SNP is the only body which can deliver inedependence at present and that’s why I welcome their more upfront involvement at the Perth March today.

    I know that AUOB is not an SNP organisation and I know that many SNP MPs and MSPs have proudly marched with us but they need to be seen to march with us and, if invited, to step up at the rallies etc.

    Will Nicola Sturgeon step up if invited for the Edinburgh March in October? It promises to be huge, particularly if the Westinster s..tshow continues.

    We, both SNP supporters and the wider Yes movement, need to see that.

    And as others have noted we need this moved on now. The row with Stu Campbell is not helpful and shows divisions that we can ill afford. We need everyone to pull together – after independence we can sort out what we want and seek consensus on the difficult contentious issues of the day but not right now.

  8. Daisy Walker says:

    Thank you for this well thought out blog.

    I’ll be stealing the, ‘its a feature – not a bug’, along with the fact that England’s Brexit is not going away any time soon…. that’s going to resonate big time with our former No Voters, anything to end the pain.

    Best wishes to all.

  9. Andy Anderson says:

    Earlier this year the SNP stayed that they were going to put a document through every letterbox explaining the economic case for independence. Where is it. They said summer.

    I wonder do they know the facts!!

    • Petra says:

      This was proposed at the end of April Andy and I’d reckon that they, the SNP, won’t be in a position to send out their leaflet, entitled – ‘An Independent Scotland: Household Guide’, to every home in Scotland (2.4 million) until the Brexit position is clarified.

  10. Terry callachan says:

    NO NO NO you are wrong

    I do not think you are correct because
    When people voted in the brexit referendum they did not think brexiters would win

    When people in Scotland voted in the brexit referendum they did not think that their vote would mean nothing because of England’s brexit decision outnumbering Scotland Ireland and wales .

    If people in Scotland had known that by two thirds of them voting to remain in the EU they would still have to leave the EU because that’s what England wants I don’t think so many would have voted and there would have been substantial protests people just didn’t think about it in enough depth at the time.

    Nevertheless, the two thirds of people in Scotland who voted to remain in the EU are being ignored by Westminster and because of that Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against its will.

    It would be very very wrong for the Scottish government on becoming an independent country to say that they too will be ignoring that vote of two thirds of the people in Scotland

    What should happen is that once Scotland becomes independent it takes steps to rejoin the EU immediately and then if there is an appetite for leaving the EU at some time in the future they could hold another referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU but on gaining independence the Scottish government should carry out the will of two thirds of the people in Scotland

    You can’t implement Scottish independence with 51% and then say we are ignoring 62% who want to stay in the EU

    Sure I feel for those who are on the other side and do not want Scottish independence
    Sure I feel for those in Scotland who are in the one third who want to leave the EU
    But there comes a time when OUR majority counts

    • weegingerdug says:

      We need to have another referendum after Scotland becomes independent in order to join the EU. The EU would insist on such a democratic mandate anyway.

      • Terry callachan says:

        Are you sure ?
        I’ve often seen discussions over the last three years where it is said that Scotland would rejoin the EU immediately , remember when the other side said we would have to join a queue ? and as I recall Guy Verhofstadt said we could join right await.

        • weegingerdug says:

          That’s not the same as joining without any democratic mandate to do so. That mandate can come in the form of a referendum, or the election of a party which has joining the EU as the core of its manifesto. But there has to be a democratic mandate within an independent Scottish state. We can’t just carry over a vote from the UK. An independent Scotland will be a new state in international law, and will require a fresh mandate.

  11. PictAtRandom says:

    Much appreciated that someone has acknowledged the Yes-Leaver perspective. I think that while EU membership is obviously A Big Issue it would be good to take for us to take a step back. We can surely all agree that this crisis is part of a “meta-issue” involving the degeneration of the UK political system and its inability to reform itself for the benefit of the great majority of the population in its constituent parts. We can look back to the botched AV referendum, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the ruling out of a DevoMax option in IndyRef1and the breach of the Edinburgh Agreement by The Vow. This was topped off by the cavalier nature of the calling of a EuroRef across four different political systems without any attempt to mitigate potential problems. Since then we’ve had a cramped and sterile mishandling of dealings with other European states and the generation of a foolish arrogance and antagonism in negotiations with them. (Is it really possible that if countries such as Denmark or Finland had voted Leave they would have gone about things this way?) And at time of writing The Speaker and Head of State are being drawn towards enabling the wishes of certain factions.

    It might be easier to maximise support for IFW (Indy Fae Westminster) if we concentrated on a sort of “decline and fall of the UK” narrative rather than treating Brexit as a quickly fixable problem that popped out of nowhere. We could also unite to point out that the affair has shone a light on the truth that “power devolved is power retained”. This supports our ambition to entrench a full range of governmental powers in Scotland.

    And, of course, Yes-Leavers would have to respect the result of a proper iScotland vote on our international arrangements. Maybe new ideas — perhaps an alliance of the small resource-rich maritime nations – would emerge according to the circumstances of the time. Whatever the outcome it would surely be a better debate if it were free of Labour fudge and Toryboy nonsense emanating from London – and kneejerk reactions to the same.

  12. If the SNP plays too prominent a role in preventing Brexit, surely there will be a bitter backlash from little England against Scotland. After all, did England not vote to leave?

    The only way of avoiding this would be to have another EU referendum. But this time with clear options on the ballot, not just a vague undefined dichotomy of leave or remain. And also to separate results between the member states of this benighted Kingdom. Thereby perhaps also obviating any need for a second independence referendum 🙂

    • markrussell20085017 says:

      Yes, it was rather silly having a simple binary choice. Imagine another poll for the reintroduction of the death sentence. You’d want to know under what circumstances and safeguards – but that didn’t happen with the EU referendum. A catastrophic mistake by Westminster.

      But it doesn’t matter. The vote was held and everyone participated. It was a UK poll – there was no mention of securing a satisfactory “deal” or what that might be. Or what might happen to the UK if countries voted differently – as it subsequently transpired.

      I do think it important to uphold democracy – I just wish our politicians did too.

      • Tell me. Just need to clarify something. Are you saying that we should respect the result of the EU referendum because it was democratic and everybody voted?

        • markrussell20085017 says:

          We should respect the decision of the EU poll – unfortunate as that may be for many. That it has consequences is not in doubt, but the consequences of not abiding by the result are far worse.

          • In which case we should not be leaving the EU. This country voted to remain by a substantial margin. The consequences of ignoring this have already proved to be quite devastating.

            • Mark Russell says:

              Yes, I agree – the only solution to resolve this issue is for Scotland and NI to remain in the EU with England and Wales exiting. For that to happen, the UK as a political and economic union, ends – just as the union between Norway and Sweden was dissolved in 1905. I think this would be supported by a large majority, especially in England.

              It’s not Britain that’s leaving the EU – but the UK. If the constituent nations differ in their preference for political alignment, the UK effectively ceases to exist. It’s that simple.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      I think we must avoid this conflation of democracy and referenda.
      A referendum is a sample of public opinion, it is advisory, always was, and despite Tory pronouncements it would honour the outcome it remained advisory in every legal sense.
      When political parties undertook to honour the outcome of that referendum in their electoral manifestos for the 2017 E, then and only then did it become a democratic matter, in so far that any party honours everything in it’s manifesto.
      The advisory outcome for Scotland incorporated in SNP’s manifesto was no less valid, the vote and outcome no less democratic. England dominates by dint of Parliamentary numbers and always has, and it is here where the democratic argument lies, not the referendum.
      A principal driver for Independence was/is the democratic deficit and inconsequence of Scots’ voting at all. On one side it is democracy, but for those with Independence as an objective it is subjugation.
      As to the oft parroted “there’ll be trouble if you don’t honour the referendum..” it equally has no legal or democratic basis, brought you by the same folk who birthed “unelected bureaucrats”, now who was that again? Ah, the unelelected bureaucrat Cummings…

      • The trouble with democracy is that everybody has their own version of it. In practice, the ideal is at best an aspiration.

        My opinion about democracy in this country is that it simply does not exist, that the word is used as an ideological weapon and that the process is always subject to the power of vested interests.

        Referendums (I believe that because technically this is in Latin a gerund and as such neither plural nor singular, this is the correct English plural. But I defer to Latin scholars and am willing to be corrected) are certainly not to be confused with democracy and must always be advisory. Which is why I refused to vote in the EU referendum. Having lived 22 years in NL I refused to allow the complexities of my or the country’s relationship with the EU to be reduced to this dichotomy.

        I wrote about it here:

      • Bob Lamont says:

        Referenda = Bad Habit. Completely agree with your summation of “democracy” in the UK, it may always have been a sham, but the kissing-babies pretence of Macmillan’s age was less arrogant and blatant than the JRM lounge-lizard version of today, and as for Johnson the clown prince charlatan…. Least said…
        Living in Europe lends a different perspective than being in the propaganda bubble, the extent to which it has distorted views of people I have known a very long time has been harrowing, yet debate is impossible as it has become a cult/religion.
        That the wordplay goes unchallenged by a compliant MSM is infuriating, and the Scottish view an irrelevance. “Brexiteer” rather than Brexiter plays on Musketeer, “Remoaner” speaks for itself, “unelected bureaucrat” has become the embodiment of the EU despite no bureaucrat every being elected.
        The dial has been shifted in the same way that “drain the swamp” did in the US, it is all deliberate manipulation unchallenged by a willing MSM.
        My response to Mark’s post on Mirage’s “democratic decision of the referendum” intended to dismantle the Mirage invention, likewise the veiled threat of the “consequences of not abiding by the result of the referendum” implies and at once stirs the mob. This is rabble rousing.
        Comments of “traitors” and conspiracy theories galore pepper the tabloids and comments sections, far more extreme that the little England depression I abandoned in early 2000, the UK has become almost unrecognisable politically and socially to europeans and expats alike, yet strangely reminiscent of the Weimar Republic….
        Scotland desperately need a fire exit….

  13. Mr SIMON TAYLOR says:

    I think many of you are missing the point here.
    The SNP are not definitively saying they want to stop Brexit and reverse the ’16 referendum.
    They and the other opposition parties are fighting a hard No Deal as favoured by the Fascists in the House.
    Let’s say Corbyn is empowered via a GE to renegotiate. It is not inconceivable that the UK as a whole is receptive to the idea, if workable, of a single market arrangement.
    This immediately destroys the No campaign argument of a hard border at Carlisle post Indy.
    Another option is , surely, that if the back stop must be implemented its is implemented at Carlisle rather than the middle of the Irish sea.
    ( I really don’t understand why the SNP isn’t pushing this ? )
    The bottom line is that Nicola Sturgeon is a gradualist. Small steps towards Independence, not a huge grand gesture that will alienate many.
    The UK is unravelling by itself. Its heartening to see Wales now increasingly vocal in ites demand for self determination. The SNP don’t need to push so hard on a door that’s already opening.

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