It’s pretty certain that the governor general of the Northern colony Alister Jack doesn’t sully his hands with manual labour, he has staff for that sort of thing. Today those staff members will be extremely busy shifting goalposts on Alister’s orders. In an interview with Politico, the Secretary of State for keeping the uppity Brexit rejecting Jocks in line has conceded that there are conditions under which the Conservative Government in Westminster could support a second independence referendum going ahead. These are of course conditions which are at the moment unlikely to occur, which is precisely why Alister has conceded them. Jack says that if support for another independence referendum, although not necessarily support for independence, is consistently over 60% “for a reasonably long period” then he would acknowledge that the people of Scotland wanted one.
This is our colonial overlord’s interpretation of the weasel words of his cabinet superior Michael Gove who suggested recently that the UK Government would not stand in the way of a second referendum if it was the “settled will” of the Scottish people. Naturally it’s the Tories who will take it on themselves to decide how and when the “settled will” of the people of Scotland is to be determined. It’s certainly not for the Scottish people to decide what their settled will is for themselves, perhaps, you know, by going along to a polling station during an election and marking their choice on a ballot paper and resoundingly rejecting the Conservative party. For Alister and Michael that doesn’t seem to count.
Alister Jack’s pronouncement is another example of the Conservatives being unreasonable but trying (and in this case failing dismally) to give the appearance of being reasonable. There’s probably a word for it in German. However we all know that if Jack’s condition was ever to be met, he would simply insist that this ” reasonably long period” was not actually reasonably long enough, or he would point to the level of support for independence if that was significantly lower and claim that this “proved” that there was not sufficient support in order to justify another referendum.
This is because the new conditions that Jack has set out are not conditions that are ever intended to be met, they are just conditions that are not met at the moment, and if ever there is a chance of them being met, he’ll just shift the goalposts somewhere else. As far as conditions for another referendum are concerned the Conservatives’ goalposts are not just on wheels, they’re being towed behind that HS2 railway train that’s never going to reach Scotland. That’s the main, though far from the only, reason that the only appropriate political response to Jack’s new set of conditions is “Gaun dook fur chips ya muppet”.
It was only a few years ago that Ruth Davidson spelled out the conditions necessary for Scotland to have an independence referendum. Back in 2007 she said “If the Greens and the SNP… can get the votes in the Parliament, they’ll get a referendum. That’s what democracy is.”
Apparently that’s no longer what democracy is, because of course that democratic condition for holding a referendum was handsomely fulfilled in May’s Holyrood election when not only did the SNP and the Greens stand with explicit and unequivocal manifesto commitments to another independence referendum and by a substantial margin won those votes in the Parliament that Ruth Davidson spoke about, but the Labour party, the Tories and the Lib Dems all stood on explicit platforms of opposition to another referendum and between them failed to come close to holding a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament despite a suspiciously well funded tactical voting campaign which aimed at depriving the pro-independence parties of victory.
According to the Conservatives, democracy in Scotland is no longer to be determined by the outcome of Scottish elections, it is to be determined by the Conservatives’ interpretation of opinion polls over an indefinite and open ended time scale to be decided by whatever happens to suit their interests at a given moment.
Frankly who cares whether Alister Jack supports holding another referendum or not. He yet again reminded Scotland that we’ve already had a referendum and in his view the matter was decided, however he seems a whole lot less keen to remember the promises and commitments that his party and the other British nationalists made to the people of Scotland in order to secure a no vote. The uncomfortable truth that Jack and his Tory friends refuse to acknowledge or accept is that if he and his party had been sincere in those promises and had actually ensured that they had been kept, then he wouldn’t currently be having to fend off questions from journalists about whether Scotland should have another referendum and to come up with excuses in an attempt to disguise his and his party’s fundamental contempt for the will of the people of Scotland as expressed by the only recognised and accepted means we have for assessing such things, the result of a democratic election. We do not have government by opinion poll in this country.
Scotland has already decided that it wants another referendum. That’s what the May election for the Scottish Parliament was all about. Whether or not to have another referendum was by far and away the most important issue in that election. For the Scottish Conservatives opposing another referendum was the only issue. For that they won a mere 21.9% of the constituency vote and just 23.5% of the regional list vote. That’s a loss in any democrat’s book, but not apparently Alister Jack’s.
Ever since May’s election the Conservatives and their British nationalist allies have done their utmost to delegitimise the result, trying to gaslight the people of Scotland that they hadn’t actually been voting about whether or not to hold another independence referendum when the question of another independence referendum was the sole campaigning issue for the Scottish Conservatives. Alister Jack’s appeal to opinion polling is merely another attempt to undermine and attack Scottish democracy, a desperate attempt to pretend that the victory for the SNP and the Greens in May doesn’t give Holyrood a mandate to hold another referendum.
The Conservatives and their allies don’t have anything like enough support in Holyrood to prevent a referendum. Whether Alister Jack supports another referendum or not is irrelevant. Whatever spurious conditions he comes up with are irrelevant. The people of Scotland have spoken, there is going to be another referendum.
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