Boris Johnson has graced us uppity Caledonians with a visit today. Well, I say graced us with a visit. He’s really locked away in a Tory bubble again, carefully insulated from anyone who might wish to tell him tae gaun byle his heid. Which at the last count was approximately 80% of the population. The Lying Liar was at pains to stress his opposition to another independence referendum, and for once we could actually believe him. He knows as well as we do that when there’s another independence referendum he’s going to lose it.
The man with no shame was in Fife to launch the Scottish Conservative manifesto, which consisted of a single piece of paper with the words “no to indyref2” on it in very large letters, and a photie of Ruth Davidson covered over by a Boris Johnson sticker. There will be no second independence referendum under any circumstances as long as the Conservatives are in power in Westminster, he asserted. So even though the Tories are presenting the Scottish electorate with a Scottish Conservative manifesto, and even though the Scottish electorate is as likely to give the Scottish Conservatives a majority of Scottish seats as the Chief Rabbi is to endorse Jeremy Corbyn, we’ll be getting the Scottish Conservative manifesto foisted upon us on the backs of votes elsewhere in the UK. This is what counts as democracy in Scotland in 2019.
Meanwhile in Holyrood, the Labour branch office in Scotland was keen to demonstrate that the Tories don’t have the monopoly on anti-democratic behaviour in Scotland. James Charisma Kelly MSP introduced an amendment to the Referendums Bill wending its way through the Scottish Parliament which was identical in form and purpose to the infamous 40% rule in the 1979 referendum. Only this being Labour’s branch office in Scotland in the 21st century, it was even worse and even more cack-handed. Kelly’s amendment would introduce a requirement for 50% of the registered electorate to vote in a referendum in order to make the result valid. Tonight James is gonna party like it’s 1979.
Labour’s 40% rule was introduced 40 years ago, and it has gone down in the mythology of Scottish politics as the great betrayal of the people of Scotland by the Labour party. All these decades later, it is still cited as evidence of the UK’s perfidy and contempt for Scottish attempts to attain greater self-government. The referendum of 1979 is remembered as the referendum where the dead voted no. James Kelly wants to repeat the same trick. If you have died, but you still figure on an electoral roll which typically takes a few months to catch up with demographic reality, you’re going to be no voter in the next referendum if James gets his way.
Labour pulled that shamefully anti-democratic move when it dominated Scottish politics and the Labour vote was famously weighed not counted, so the party thought it could get away with it. In the short term it did, but the shoddy move left a legacy of bitterness and distrust which eventually contributed to the party’s fall from grace. However in modern Scotland some 40% of Labour voters in Scotland support independence and the party is bumping along in a very poor third place in the polls with every indication that its vote will collapse in the General Election in a couple of weeks. There is no longer any benefit of doubt that the electorate of Scotland is prepared to grant the Labour party. So you might think that branch office would have learned its lesson. But then you wouldn’t have counted on the the periferal visionary that is James Kelly.
The effect of this provision, in the unlikely event of it making it into the final bill, would be to guarantee a no victory in any future referendum. All that the British nationalists would have to do if yes was well ahead in the polls would be to advise their supporters not to vote in order to reduce the turnout for the referendum below 50%. Et voila, Scotland would have ‘rejected independence’ even if the vast majority those who actually voted had voted yes.
James wants the dead to vote No. But really he’s signing the death warrant for his own party. This naked attempt to subvert democracy by the Labour party in Scotland, together with the Conservatives’ insistence that they will refuse another independence referendum no matter how large or how frequently the voters of Scotland provide a mandate for one merely illustrates that the sole remaining tactic for preventing independence is to try to stop a popular vote on independence from ever taking place. The parties of we’re not nationalist because we’re British know that as soon as it is officially announced that the vote will take place, they’ve already lost.
The chances are that Boris Johnson will get his majority in the rest of the UK. The chances are also that the Conservatives will suffer reverses in Scotland and the SNP will make gains. We will once more be in a situation where Scotland will suffer the malign effects of Conservative rule despite having rejected the Conservatives at the ballot box. The likes of James Kelly claim to oppose the Tories, but they’re happy for Scotland to be condemned to the very worst excesses of English nationalist Conservative rule because, they tell us, they hate nationalism.
A majority government of the bunch of inadequates, liars, chancers, opportunists, ideologues, and reactionary English nationalists will be dreadful for Scotland – and for the rest of the UK. We will be taken out of the EU into a hard Brexit, deprived of our European citizenship, isolated at the top end of an island with a government hell bent on pursuing the fantasy of long lost empire. Our public services will be decimated. Our NHS will be threatened like never before. But finally, people in Scotland will learn – sadly the hard way – that they cannot have both the advantages of a modern liberal European state and remain a part of a modern liberal UK. That modern liberal UK has been killed off by those who claim to love the precious union the most.
A Boris Johnson government will shift opinion polls in Scotland and take support for independence and for another independence referendum into a clear and persistent majority. That shift will give the Scottish government, boosted by a clear victory in next month’s General Election, the political capital it needs to pursue an independence referendum in the teeth of Boris Johnson’s opposition. It will ensure that those currently undecided voters will be on board if and when the time comes to pursue alternative strategies.
But remember, this is not a man whose word can be trusted on anything. He says that he opposes another independence referendum, but Boris Johnson would sell his grandmother in order to secure his power. If he sees a political advantage in getting rid of 59 troublesome Scottish MPs, he’s quite likely to do so. One way or another, Scotland will have its say on its future, whatever Boris Johnson says. This isn’t 1979, and Scotland will not consent to another decade and a half of Tory misrule.
Scotland is not powerless, the Tories and their tame media just want us to think that it is. Boris Johnson might win the battle of this UK general election, thanks to the rest of the UK, but his victory will mean that he’s lost the war against Scottish independence.
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