Sorry I’ve not been very active on the blog of late, but I’ve recently been experiencing severe issues with post-stroke fatigue and have been too tired and wiped out to do anything much. Even so, I couldn’t allow Boris Johnson’s recent bout of arrogant idiocy to pass unremarked.
Speaking on the Marr show over the weekend, the prime Malingerer Boris Johnson suggested that there should not be another Scottish independence referendum until the same period of time had elapsed as there was between the referendum on EEC membership in 1975 and the referendum on leaving the EU in 2016, a period of 41 years, That would mean that there would not be another independence referendum until 2055, by which time the youngest people to vote in the 2014 referendum, those who were 16 in 2014, would be 57 years old. This is of course an obvious nonsense. It might play well with the dwindling band of staunch social media accounts bedecked in union flags which delude themselves that they speak for a majority in Scotland, but it’s anathema to the real majority of Scottish opinion and a final nail in the coffin of the claim that the UK is a partnership.
Johnson was of course speaking to his base and setting out the Tories’ position to the party’s supporters prior to this year’s crucial Holyrood elections. We should not be unduly concerned by his ludicrous and anti-democratic statement, not least because lying isn’t second nature to Johnson, it is his first nature and it’s what defines him. It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many people in the independence movement who take the words of an inveterate liar at face value.
I am sure it’s the constant and debilitating fatigue and exhaustion I’m battling, but the other day I just ran out of patience and the strength and energy to deal with the woe, woe and thrice woe end of the Scottish independence movement. We have record levels of support for independence, the pro-independence parties are on course to win a majority in May, Conservative advisors like the former Scottish Tory spin doctor Andy Maciver are publicly warning that the Unionists have run out of road. In an article in the Herald he points out that it’s not just that there are now consistent and substantial leads for independence in opinion polling, but in addition the demographic data is catastrophic for traditional Scottish Unionism. The only age cohort where there is still a majority against independence is the very oldest, meaning the the longer the Conservatives succeed with the sole tactic they’ve got – which is to stall and delay a referendum, the harder it’s going to be for them to win when a vote finally comes about. Amongst younger age groups, support for independence is the settled will, enjoying overwhelming support amongst the youngest voters. independence also now enjoys majority support amongst the professional classes in Scotland and amongst women, two key groups which were instrumental in delivering the no vote in 2014.
Nevertheless, some supposed independence campaigners can only preach doom and gloom, because they are somehow far more confident in the Conservatives’ ability to resist the growing clamour for independence than the Conservatives are themselves. I just can’t be dealing with such woebaggery any more. I’m too tired for it.
For Andy Maciver The key message for British nationalists is that if they keep focussing on how to avoid a referendum rather than how to win it then have already lost. Yet this is a message which has not registered at all with the Conservatives , instead they are increasingly digging themselves into an anti-democratic hole which will only repel those soft no voters and undecideds upon whom opposition to independence ultimately depends.
Yet in order to win the referendum the British nationalists need a message and a programme that they can sell to those who previously backed No but who are increasingly seeing independence as a better alternative to the Union. They require something which has a chance of attracting back the significant numbers of remain voters who voted no in 2014 but who now see independence as the quickest and most realist route back into the EU for Scotland.
The problem that they have here is that even a cast iron commitment to full fiscal autonomy within a decentralised and federalised UK won’t be enough to allow Scotland the closer ties to the EU that most in Scotland prefer. And that’s even if there was a genuine and sincere willingness on the part of the Conservatives to agree to far-ranging federalism. Instead the Tories show every indication that they intend to double down on their centralising instincts. Their answer to calls from Scotland for self-determination is to deny Scottish democracy and to plaster union flags on everything from driving licences to vaccines.
The May 2021 elections are the most important in the UK’s recent history and will decide if Scotland becomes independent or not. It is vital that we return a pro-independence majority to the next Scottish Parliament elected on a clear mandate for another referendum. To those that say the SNP has already had such a mandate but hasn’t used it – So what? It’s only recently that we have started to see consistent majorities for independence. When polls were regularly returning majorities against independence, it was very easy for the British government to rebuff a demand for a section 30 order, safe in the knowledge that the SNP lacked the political capital and majority support necessary to embark upon an alternative course of action and see it be sucessful.
That equation changes in a Scotland where support for independence is in the high 50% and where the Scottish government has just been re-elected with a strong and unconditional mandate. Under such circumstances the independence cause can be confident that it can successfully pursue alternative action and take the majority support of Scotland and the support of the international community with it.
It is not a question of simply keeping on asking Johnson for a section 30 order in the hope that he will eventually change his mind. and I do not believe that is the view of the First Minister either.
For my own part I’d prefer to see a plebiscite election, although an advisory referendum under the auspices of Holyrood is also an option – a plebiscite election sidesteps the issue of lawfulness as it is unquestionably lawful and is harder for opponents of independence to boycott – but either must come after the election of a majority pro-independence Scottish Parliament in May which then demands a Section 30 order, a demand which is then rebuffed or refused by Johnson. It’s precisely his refusal which legitimises alternative action in the eyes of the majority of the Scottish people and the international community, because Scotland will be seen to have complied with the democratic steps which brought about the first referendum and it will be clear that Johnson is only refusing because he fears the result..
It is because we have not yet completed these first vital stages that Nicola Sturgeon currently refuses to countenance any alternatives to a Section 30 order. In order to ensure that there is sufficient anger and outrage from the majority of the Scottish people to ensure the success of alternative action, she cannot concede that Johnson has any moral, political or democratic right to refuse. Likewise it would be politically foolish of her to discuss the details of any alternative action as that will merely subject that plan to scrutiny and attack and making it less likely to succeed. So we must focus our efforts on continuing to build support for independence and work to return a pro independence majority in May. We must then allow Johnson to refuse a Section 30 order or to put unreasonable obstacles in its way – then it becomes time for alternative action, either a plebiscite election or an advisory referendum held under the auspices of Holyrood, both of which must be accompanied by a mass campaign from civic Scotland and the wider independence movement. The key word there being ‘mass’- and that is why it is vital to ensure that we take majority opinion in Scotland with us, and we ensure we broaden the legitimacy of alternative action beyond those of us who have long been committed to independence.
Under such circumstances, by the time that alternative action is taken. British nationalism in Scotland, which is already weak and hollowed out from within and without any answers or solutions and which is facing a demographic time bomb, will already have lost. Westminster will have lost control of events and Scotland will become independent without Johnson’s permission. The prospect of losing control of events may prompt Johnson to belatedly agree to a referendum, but by that time it will already be too late and a Section 30 order will be irrelevant. He will already have lost Scotland. Act One of Brexit, The UK leaving the EU is over. Act Two is about to begin, Scotland leaving the UK.
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