With independence enjoying a 7% or 8% lead in the opinion polls, you might think that it would make our Conservative overlords in London realise that they have to change their ways. Although of course you’d only think that if you have spent the entirety of the past six years hiding in a cave and rocking gently back and forward against the cave wall while singing that song that your mammy used to sing to you to get you back to sleep when you were a wean and woken up with a nightmare, which coincidentally is also what Ruth Davidson does whenever she’s avoiding difficult questions from the press.
After her car crash performance at FMQs yesterday the Scottish Tories’ soi-disant big hitter must be wishing she was still in the cave. Even her cheerleaders in the Scottish press were forced to admit that her performance was a disaster. Ruth’s problem is that after organising the sacking of the man who replaced her after he won a democratic vote amongst her own party members, Ruth then took a seat in the House of Lords. She’s now left herself an easy target and destroyed her own credibility if, as she did yesterday, she attempted to criticise Nicola Sturgeon for standing by her colleague John Swinney and lecturing the First Minister about accountability. Naturally Nicola replied by remarking that Ruth Davidson of all people can’t lecture anyone about loyalty to colleagues and then followed up with a reminder that – call her old-fashioned – she preferred that politicians should be accountable to the voters. Even in the press offices of Ruth’s pals in the media, you could hear the mic drop.
Yesterday the news was rightly dominated by the tragic rail accident near Stonehaven, and by the continuing fall out from the SQA results. So it was easy to miss the news that the UK Government’s business minister Alok Sharma had at the last minute decided that he wasn’t after all going to show up and give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee about the British Government’s white paper for a proposed new post-Brexit internal market. There have been repeated claims from the Scottish Government, claims which are well founded, that the Conservatives intend to use their new internal market as an underhand means of undermining the devolution settlement.
(You can read the Scottish Government’s response to the British Government’s white paper on the UK internal market here : https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/factsheet/2020/08/uk-internal-market/documents/uk-internal-market-initial-response/uk-internal-market-initial-response/govscot%3Adocument/UK%2Binternal%2Bmarket%2Binitial%2Bresponse.pdf)
So you might think that any sensible British Government minister, aware that support for Scottish independence now enjoys a substantial lead in the polls, would be bending over backwards to ensure that no one in Holyrood could accuse the British Government of ignoring Scotland’s concerns and to make the case for their new internal market in order to assuage any Scottish disquiet. That’s what a sensible politician who understood and cared about the political consequences of their actions would do. The Tories however, don’t give a toss. Arrogance is their default position, even while support for the UK in Scotland melts away more quickly than what’s left of Ruth Davidson’s reputation. The Committee’s convenor, MSP Bruce Crawford, told fellow committee members that he had been given just 30 minutes notice that Alok Sharma was not going to appear.
Appearing before the Committee, the Scottish Government’s constitution secretary Mike Russell described the British Government white paper as an outrageous power grab. The proposal would give Downing Street a veto over all the competencies which are being returned from Brussels once the UK exits the EU transitional period in December. He added that the white paper reveals the real attitude of the Conservatives to devolution, hostile and opposed to Scotland and Wales exercising the rights they achieved under the devolution settlement. We know that the Tories have never liked devolution, and so they are determined to hollow it out from within. This white paper is their latest step in that process.
Westminster had set up four days of consultation on their internal market plans. The last of those four days was the meeting at Holyrood. At the very last minute and without giving an adequate explanation the Conservative government minister responsible cancelled that meeting. So yet again there will be no Scottish input again into a policy which concerns all four nations of the UK and has a significant impact on the devolution settlement.
It’s Brexit and the coronavirus response all over again. It ought to be clear to everyone by now that this is not accidental. This is not oversight. This is not coincidence. This is a clear and consistent pattern of behaviour designed to marginalise Scotland within the UK and to ensure that the Scottish Parliament has no input or influence in the formation of UK policies which directly affect Scotland. What was that about lead us don’t leave us? What was that about stay with us Scotland and be a loved and valued partner in a family of nations?
Yet nowhere are there any signs that the Conservatives propose to address how their own behaviour is the major driving force behind the surge in support for independence. According to the Tories, it’s all the fault of Thatessempee. This week in the house magazine of the Conservative party, the Spectator, Scottish Tory journo and martyr Stephen Daisley is yet again banging on and trying to make Scotland in Union’s buzzword “Scexit” a thing. http://archive.is/XpgVe His proposal to solve the Scottish question doesn’t recognise that the British state in general or the Conservative party in particular has done anything wrong which it needs to address. It’s all the fault of those vile nats stirring up trouble. So he proposes to trash the devolution settlement, strip the Scottish Parliament of even more power, and deny the people of Scotland the right to decide their future for themselves. Scotland can’t be trusted with democracy. His proposals have rightly been met with a combination of derision and contempt.
The real reason that support for independence is increasing is because the UK that Scotland was promised it could be a part of in 2014 is not the UK in which we live. The fault for that lies squarely with the party which has been in power in Westminster during the past six years. That would be the Conservatives. They themselves are the drivers of independence, and they will not be able to prevent it by doubling down on the behaviour which has already turned Scotland into a land where a majority support independence. Yet they give every indication that that is precisely what they propose to do.
All that Conservative intransigence and arrogance will achieve will be to consolidate Scottish support for independence even more, and makes the end of the UK more likely. In 2014 those of us who supported independence warned that we could either win Scottish independence the easy way, in that year’s referendum, or the hard way. We’re going to have to do this the hard way, but the outcome will be a Scotland which is far more decided and resolved on the question of independence than it would have been if independence had narrowly won in 2014. Support for independence is going to rise even higher. The Conservatives have only got themselves to blame.
You may have heard that there’s a crowdfunded initiative to test the lawfulness of an independence referendum without a Section 30 order. Taking on a legal case of this sort is eye wateringly expensive but it’s a worthwhile cause as it could establish once and for all whether the Scottish Parliament can go ahead with a referendum without the need for a Section 30 order. Or if the case fails and it’s ruled that a Section 30 order is required, it tells us that this so-called union is not a union at all, because Scotland would not be a free member of it which can decide to remain or to leave according to the will of the people of Scotland. That would deprive British nationalists of their claim that Scotland is a voluntary member of a union of nations. Either way, the independence movement ends up with either a legal argument in its favour, or a political argument in its favour, and we would have more clarity than we do just now.
The crowdfunder for the case is halfway to its goal of £155,000. You can help out with a contribution here:
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