Saturday, 17 December 2016

We have the chance to kill off Scottish nationalism

Just after the Brexit vote I came back from holiday and found a string of messages from Pro UK people. They were worried. Nicola Sturgeon was continually on the television complaining about something or other. Far from encountering systematic bias from the BBC, she was getting encouragement. At least she wasn’t one of those dreadful Brexiteers.

People were asking me where have you been. Some were angry that I had encouraged them to vote to leave the EU. Look what you’ve done. The pound will soon be worth nothing. The markets are going to crash. We’re all going to lose our jobs and we’re not going to have a Prime Minister for months. Nicola Sturgeon is going to call a second independence referendum and she’s going to win it. It’s all your fault.

There is something feverish about news at the moment. It must be to do with it being on all the time. They have to fill up the time with something. When there is a plane crash there are endless interviews with experts who know absolutely nothing about what has happened. When there is a budget there are continual speculations about what will be in it. Why not just wait a few hours and find out? Well so too with the EU referendum. There was endless noise. Much of it was just people complaining about the result and signalling that they were not and never had been a Brexiteer.

Scotland didn’t vote to stay in the EU, nor did England and Wales votes to leave. None of these places are members of the EU. Try counting the members if you are unsure. Scotland is no more  a member of the EU than is Aberdeenshire or Antrim. When the Scottish Assembly was established it was on the basis that it had power over certain matters and didn’t have power over certain other matters. That is what the majority of people in Scotland voted for. Foreign affairs have never been devolved. International relations take place between independent sovereign nation states. Many people in Scotland would prefer that Scotland was such a state. But again we had a vote on this and they lost.

The endless noise from Nicola Sturgeon is based on a simple mistake. It is of course a deliberate mistake. She thinks that if she acts as if she were the leader of a sovereign independent nation state she is more likely to become one. But really Scottish nationalists ought continually to be reminded of a simple matter of logic. You cannot become what you already are. If you already are independent, why are you campaigning for it? But then Sturgeon’s grievance collapses. She is complaining about something that was never within her remit and which the electorate in Scotland has more than once decided not to give her the power to control. Until and unless Scotland becomes independent it will not be able to have foreign relations with other sovereign independent nation states.  

Most news and most comment about news is trivial. The reason for this is that most news will be forgotten a year from now. Political comment likewise is usually of no consequence. There was endless comment during the last General Election about what would happen if there were a hung Parliament. Today there is a lot of noise about Theresa May’s trousers. Nicola Sturgeon’s talking head after the Brexit vote was of no more consequence than these lederhosen. It is vital to see through the day to day noise and try to think about long term consequences. What matters is not that an argument works today, but that it works a year from now.

Nicola Sturgeon talks about all sorts of conditions that must be met or else she will call an independence referendum. This is all noise. There is only one condition. Can she win it? 

The whole narrative is ludicrous. Supposedly the UK Government has to make all sorts of concessions to the SNP or else Nicola Sturgeon will do what she wants to do more than anything else in the world, i.e. have another independence referendum. But let’s say the UK Government gave the SNP everything they could possibly dream of. Imagine if the Scottish Parliament was given even more powers, and even more money. Imagine if there was another Constitutional Convention and Gordon Brown made another vow. Imagine if the UK became a federal state. Imagine if all these things happened would it kill of the hydra of Scottish nationalism. Would the SNP cease to want independence?

All sorts of weird and wonderful schemes are dreamed up by which Scotland somehow gets to stay in the EU or the Single Market. These are then presented as the condition for the SNP not calling a second independence referendum. But what if Scotland were given this special status? Would this mean that we wouldn’t have a second referendum five years from now or ten years from now? Of course it wouldn’t. So why bother. We have to learn the lesson that there is no appeasing nationalism. There is nothing the SNP wants except independence. So no more Constitutional Conventions please, the last one has done enough damage. The UK needs more unity. We need to go in the opposite direction to the one in which the SNP wants to travel.

So cut through the noise coming from Nicola Sturgeon’s mouth. Jabber, jabber, jabber Scotland … jabber, jabber, jabber … independence. The only thing that matters is whether what she wants is what the electorate in Scotland wants.

Again it is important to look at matters from a more long term perspective. There were a few opinion polls in June and July that showed support for Scottish independence had increased. This was one of the reasons why people were writing to me in a panic. But polls go up and down and anyway they are wildly inaccurate. What matters is the fundamentals. Leaving the EU makes Scottish independence harder.

Voting for Brexit in the short term angered quite a lot of Scots who found themselves on the losing side of the argument. It angered a lot of people in the rest of the UK too. Naturally this had a short term effect on opinion polls. But just like news, these day to day emotions are trivial. This is human nature. We get angry, but then we get bored. Each of us had a huge emotional reaction to Brexit, but it was also complex. I was pleased, but scared and uncertain. Would the scare stories come true? For the first month I read everything I could about Brexit, but then I got on with my life. I stopped following every detail. Above all I stopped listening to Nicola Sturgeon.

The last six months hasn’t been a disaster for the UK. Perhaps next year will be. Lots of people seem desperate for leaving the EU to go as badly as possible. It’s a peculiar sort of masochism. Above all it’s peculiar if you want the UK to remain intact.

Most Scots just got on with their lives in the past few months. Whichever way we voted in the EU referendum we got on with daily life. We put the debate behind us. It is for this reason that support for Scottish independence has not increased and instead has fallen. I didn’t take part in the SNP’s national survey. But then I don’t know anyone else who did. Apparently SNP activists were going to ask all their friends. That seems an excellent method of coming up with an unbiased sample. I’d love to know what the results were, but the SNP won’t tell me. But then again I don’t need them to tell me. Imagine if two million Scots had told the SNP that they were desperate for another independence referendum. Would the results be secret under those circumstances?

Some disappointed Remainers will continue to try to prevent Brexit or to turn it into leaving in name only. They will fail. But they might help the SNP. 2016 was a year of revolutions and the momentum from this is liable to continue into 2017. The UK electorate is sick of an establishment that has ignored its legitimate concerns for decades. That is the fundamental thing that happened this year. That is the thing that will remain news a year from now. In time it may even topple the Scottish establishment. Who are they? Well they have been in power for quite a long time now.

The EU apparently wants to be as nasty to Britain as it can be. Again some Remainers will cheer them on. They will be delighted that the EU wants to make leaving as unpleasant as possible that it considers those who attempt to escape as deserving severe punishment. I get the impression some Remainers think that the EU is really called Stalag Luft III and that Brexiteers deserve to be shot by machine guns in order to discourage the others. But this too won’t work. Once you have turned your beloved EU into a prison, you have lost the argument. What’s more the revolution is contagious.

We have seen off worse than the EU and we have also been isolated before with the whole of Europe against us. This just helps British unity.

The SNP thinks that Scots prefer the EU to the UK but they are mistaken. We all want free trade and we all want to be able to live and work in Europe. But few indeed of us want more than this from the EU. When did you last watch a debate in the EU Parliament? Some of us vaguely think of ourselves as internationalists. But Scots who want to create a border between England and Scotland are a peculiar sort of internationalist.

What we want from the EU is no more than we are willing to give them in return. If they allow us to live in their country, then we will allow a similar number to live in ours. If they trade freely with us, we will trade freely with them. That is the essence of the matter. The rest is noise. You should not have to be ruled by someone in order to trade freely with them. Moreover you shouldn’t have to pay to do so. Paying for free trade means that it is not free.

Brexit makes the choice for Scottish nationalists particularly delightful. Do you want to live in a Britain that is not ruled by the EU or do you prefer to be an “independent” Scotland subject to ever closer union more and more ruled by Brussels and ultimately by Berlin? Do you want to end up in a different trading bloc to your closest trade partner? Do you think a place with five million people will get a better deal from our European neighbours than a place with sixty five million people? Do you think that the UK leaving the EU makes it more or less likely that they would share a currency with Scotland? If Scotland were in the Single Market, but England was not would there have to be customs at Gretna? Do you know that the EU countries that want to discourage secession will even allow Scotland to join in the short term? How sure are you that the EU will even exist in ten years? The Visegrád Group don’t seem very keen on being bossed around and Italy has become the new Greece.

Brexit forces Scottish nationalists to choose. It makes the disadvantages of Scottish independence more acute. It makes any split from the other parts of the UK more fundamental and deeper. If we can make Brexit work, if we can show that prosperity awaits the UK outside the EU, we have the chance to kill off Scottish nationalism. So all Pro UK people should work together to get the best Brexit deal possible. The Scottish nationalists would love it if Brexit were to fail. They have the excuse that they hate Britain. Do you?


  1. Let me see if I've got this right.

    If we can prove that splitting from a larger union can lead to greater prosperity, then we'll kill off the hopes of people who believe that splitting from a larger union can lead to greater prosperity?

    1. I think of it this way , Nicola Sturgeon warns us of a looming disaster and impending doom of leaving the EU and putting in jeopardy £11 billion in trade and 250,000 jobs , but she and the SNP seem to think leaving the UK with £50 billion in trade and 1 million jobs is all rainbows and lollipops ! That's a hard sell !

      Maybe the whole UK should get a vote if there is a second plebiscite after all it would be unfair to Wales , England and Northern Ireland to be removed from union with Scotland against there will !

      Maybe it's not about union just who you are in union with ?

  2. Fully agree that it's all noise. It's been all about noise for the past decade in Scotland. But when push came to shove, despite the noise, the brouhaha & constant victimhood, Scotland still voted NO.

    The same will be for Brexit where, (despite Salmond, Sturgeon & Co. abusing taxpayer funds to meet in cafes to discuss anything but Brexit deals) it will be up to the UK Government to decide.

    Sturgeon has taken this survey in order to see how much damage there is in her Pro-EU stance amongst her flock and my guess is that she's finding that the Nats aren't overly happy with it. Some voted to remain as a tactical vote with her promise of an immediate referendum if they were "pulled out against their will". The survey will only reinforce that she hasn't the support never mind the guts to call another Indy and will only do it if she's staring electoral defeat in May 2021.

    It's time the UK Government and Hollyrood told her to put up or shut up as her EU 'demands' aren't going to happen and neither will her separatist dream.

  3. A "smaller union".

    But in the case of Great Britain you have a well established and highly successful union overmantel centuries of those who are not foreigners to us, whereas with the EU you have a union of 60 or so years that is already showing signs of failing because it has been too ambitious in trying to turn Europe into one country.

  4. Great blog as usual the snp are fall ing apart ...still waiting for the results of their big discussion survey��

  5. Q: Do you want to live in a Britain that is not ruled by the EU or do you prefer to be an “independent” Scotland subject to ever closer union more and more ruled by Brussels and ultimately by Berlin?
    A: An independent Scotland which is part of the EU, pooling some of it's sovereignty to an administration in Brussels which is considerably more democratic than Westminster (House of Lords anyone?). Easy.

    Q:Do you want to end up in a different trading bloc to your closest trade partner?
    A: No, but we don't know that's what is going to happen do we? It is undeniable of course that 62% of Scots just expressed their preference to stay in the EU. Given that brexit may take a decade to arrange, who knows what the eventual settlement will be. If rUK are in the EEA, as is quite possible, we would be in the same trading block. Nice try, but no cigar!

    Q: Do you think a place with five million people will get a better deal from our European neighbours than a place with sixty five million people?
    A: Quite possibly, because as we've seen quite plainly since June, the EU 27 are in no mood to make a special deal for the brexiteers. Nobody buys the "they need us, more than we need them" schtick except the frothing Leavers without a plan who got us into this mess in the first place. Null points.

    Q: Do you think that the UK leaving the EU makes it more or less likely that they would share a currency with Scotland?
    A: It isn't 2014 anymore. Things have changed. We'll have our own currency. Given the way sterling is going, we could hardly do much worse.

    Q: If Scotland were in the Single Market, but England was not would there have to be customs at Gretna?
    A: Not if the brexiteers have any sense (OK, I know it's a pretty big assumption....). More to the point, why do Leavers insist a hard border would be inevitable with Scotland, but not with Ireland? It makes no sense. As our Irish friends say, if I was going there, I wouldn't be starting from here!

    Q: Do you know that the EU countries that want to discourage secession will even allow Scotland to join in the short term?
    A: There no evidence to the contrary, despite the best efforts of the No camp & brexiteers to make their wishes into *FACTS*. The Spanish government has no issue with the Scottish independence process; Margalo has publicly said so. Given the brexit vote, I'd be considerably more worried about the attitude of the EU27 to rUK than towards a Scotland that was keen to remain within the EU. Brexit is a game changer: EU governments aren't going to kowtow to London the way they did prior to #indyref1.

    Q: How sure are you that the EU will even exist in ten years?
    A: More confident than I am that the UK will still exist in 10 years.

    Q: The Visegrád Group don’t seem very keen on being bossed around and Italy has become the new Greece.
    A: Not really relevant to the Scottish case. Plus "Italy is the new Greece!!" klaxon. What can be asserted without evidence, can be similarly dismissed.

    Happy to help!

    1. Trouble is we have the shite SNP in charge and its becoming perfectly obvious to all that they are utterly incompetent.

      Them in charge of an iScotland is the stuff of nightmares...

    2. I love it when unreasoning british nationalists assert with such confidence that the SNP (one of the most popular political parties in the Western world, with amongst the highest proportion of members per head of population) are utterly incompetent, and on track for defeat. Truly delusional stuff.

      if the SNP are so bad, what explains their success, their number of MPs & MSPs and the utter failure of the opposition?

      Honestly, it isn't a sin to be ignorant, but it is a sin to be proud of it and demonstrate it so publicly!

    3. Your answers are all sophistries of various sizes and shapes and as so often the sophistry is firstly and ultimately on yourself. That is the most impossible aspect of trying to rationalise with the irrational. You believe. That is your right.

    4. Because of the utter failure of Labour and the reluctance to vote Tory as that is seen as a Westminster party. That is the ONLY reason.

      SNP are nothing more than a protest party which is great when you are in opposition but they are failing Scotland.

      Now they have been given more powers they had to say they couldn't cope with them and could the UKG help them out for at least the next 3 years, idiots.

      Education - fail
      Police Scotland - fail
      Named person scheme -fail
      Payments to farmers - fail
      Independence - fail and will fail again

      The only thing they have succeeded at is making our welfare claimants the most pampered in the Western world.

      Thank God sensible people are seeing the light.

      SNP shame Scotland

    5. You write that with a straight face the EU democratic ! Gies a break !!

    6. "the SNP (one of the most popular political parties in the Western world)"

      26% of the electorate at the last Holyrood elections. Stone the crows. Says more about voter apathy and the lack of a better alternative than any ringing endorsement of the one trick pony SNP.

      There were a group of nationalists in the 1930s that were very popular electorally too, it didn't turn out well.

  6. Your last paragraph says it all, Brexit has to be successful, and immediately successful for your assertion to stand up.

    I do not have any particular faith in May & the others to deliver, because they are focused on delivering to a narrow band of the electorate they relay on under the FPTP voting system. Plus they don't seem particularly competent.

    A failed Brexit, economically even over a short time frame and the resentment that would cause would almost certainly cause the UK to break up.

    It's a subtle distinction but there would be no rUK just Englamd, Wales & NI who may or may not remain in union. Probably not though.

    Meanwhile the polls now show a clear majority of the UK population would be unwilling to suffer any economic downturn for Brexit, good luck to the politician who pulls the A50 trigger then!

    1. I disagree because in any scenario the UK is far more valuable to Scotland in trade and jobs than the EU and good or bad that could be it for nationalism.

      Then add to the fact everyone keeps ignoring the glaring problem the SNP have and it's if what Tusk and Juncker have said becomes fact and it's hard Brexit, meaning EU imposed tariffs , then that as i said kills nationalism !

  7. I agree. Faced with a choice between EU and UK, it is UK that wins every time.

  8. As an Englishman I welcome the idea of Scottish independence, since it would mean no more Scottish politicians sticking their unwanted noses into English business, whether that be legislation or England political or constitutional position.