Today my replacement passport arrived in the post. It no longer says that the bearer is a European citizen. It no longer grants the right to live and work freely in 28 countries. It’s the passport of a rogue state that breaks international law and rips up treaties that it signed just a few months before. It’s the passport of a state that tells its citizens that they can’t meet up in groups of more than six, except if they’re rich enough to indulge in the ritual murder of wildfowl on the grouse moors. It’s a badge of shame and bad faith. It’s a sign that the bearer comes from a pariah state that can’t be trusted to keep its word. But hey, it’s blue!
This point has been made before on the pages of this blog, but it’s well worth repeating. Getting a poxy Brexit passport is not a matter of choice for anyone who lives in Scotland. All of us who apply for a UK passport are getting one foisted upon us whether we want it or not. All of us will suffer the loss of rights and freedoms that it represents whether we want it or not. All of us are having our European citizenship stripped from us whether we want it or not. Simon Pegg’s ‘Scottish’ accent in the Star Trek movies has greater freedom of movement than we do.
This is not remotely comparable to the situation that will prevail in a post-independence Scotland. People who live in Scotland who are currently British citizens will still retain the right to a British passport unless the British government decides otherwise. It won’t be a decision made for everyone in Scotland by those of us who campaign for independence, if it happens it will be as a result of a Westminster Parliament and a UK government lashing out in spite. If the UK – or whatever it decides to call itself once Scotland has removed itself from the malign influence of Johnson and his cronies – does not change its citizenship laws following Scottish independence, everyone in Scotland who is currently a British citizen will still retain the right to British citizenship when Scotland is independent. Scotland will most assuredly grant them the exact same rights within Scotland as those of us who take up citizenship of the newly re-established Scottish state. But removing EU citizenship and EU passports from all of us is a decision made for us all by those who campaigned to take the UK out of the EU.
Meanwhile the Scottish Tories’ very own Forres Gimp, DRoss the MP for Moray, is quite content that he and his equally spineless colleagues concede to the UK government’s internal market bill, which rips up international law and which treats the devolution settlement like wild fowl on a grouse moor. The bill is being opposed not only by the SNP, Labour, and the Lib Dems, it’s also opposed by a range of interest groups. The bill represents a direct assault on the devolution settlement, and goes far beyond its proclaimed aim of ensuring that goods produced in one part of the UK will be allowed to be sold everywhere else. It also grants UK Government ministers the right to intervene and to spend money in devolved areas and as such represents an inversion of the original understanding of devolution – that all areas of government which are not explicitly reserved to Westminster are to be considered devolved.
Clause 32 of this bill gives the British Goverment the power to refer any legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament to a UK Government department. Clause 46 of this bill gives the British Government powers over health, education, and justice within Scotland, despite the fact that these are devolved. Once enacted into law this bill gives the British Government, Conservative ministers, the power to overrule the Scottish Parliament on devolved issues. And yet Conservative MPs like Andrew Bowie go on the BBC and other news outlets and barefacedly assert that this bill doesn’t represent a power grab.
“Scotland’s getting extra powers,” the Tories assert. What’s really happening here is that devolved powers which were previously exercised by Brussels are being repatriated. According to the original devolution settlement all these powers were Scotland’s but were loaned to the EU. Now the British Government has decided unilaterally that it will keep some of these powers for itself, but will permit Scotland to receive some of them back. It’s as though Scotland had money in a trustee bank account. The UK allowing Scotland to get some of it but is keeping the rest for itself. And then they say – why are you complaining you’re getting extra, while they spend Scotland’s money on themselves. If you have £100 in a trustee account, and someone steals £40 of it but allows you to access the remaining £60, you’re not getting extra. You’re still being robbed.
But this internal markets bill goes even further than that, because now the UK Government has given itself the right to decide how some devolved powers will be exercised. This bill gives UK Government ministers the right to spend directly in Scotland on health, education, transport, or other areas, overruling the Scottish Government ministers with responsibility for those areas. Then Westminster will stick that money onto the expenditure column of the GERS figures and tell Scotland that it’s too poor to become independence. It’s a mechanism designed explicitly to by-pass devolution and the Scottish Government.
No one in Scotland asked for this bill. There is no democratic mandate in Scotland for such a fundamental rewriting of a Scottish devolution settlement which was directly legitimised in the 1997 referendum and indirectly in the 2014 referendum during which the Conservatives and the other anti-independence parties promised to strengthen and entrench devolution. Moreover they assured Scotland that no changes would ever be made to the powers of Holyrood without the express consent of the Scottish Parliament. The Tories constantly harp on about respecting the results of referendums, but that only applies to those referendums that they won, and it certainly doesn’t apply to respecting the promises and commitments that they made in order to win them.
All this is symbolised by a poxy Brexit passport. It’s a badge of shame, a passport to disgrace. It’s a passport with no page for Scotland. Scotland’s patience has run out. It’s time to get out of here.
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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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