Monday, 11 June 2018

Fighting on the ice

In 2014 when I was campaigning for Scotland to remain a part of the UK it never occurred to me that the result of the referendum might be ignored or obstructed. If the Yes side had won, I fully expected that in a short time Scotland would become a fully sovereign independent nation state. I might not have liked this, but I had no intention of doing anything to prevent it. I might even have been willing to lend a hand. It’s impossible to know exactly how you would have reacted to something that didn’t happen. It would depend on all sorts of things that are unknowable. But things have changed. Most of all everything we have learned since 2014 makes a rerun of indyref completely pointless.

Alexandr Nevsky (1938) the Battle on the Ice 1242

 Scottish nationalists continue to think that we live in the days when an independence referendum in Scotland could be just like last time except this time they would win. But two things have changed Scottish and British politics decisively since then.

The first thing that changed is the idea that everyone would accept the result of a referendum. We learned in 2014 that immediately after their disappointment the SNP and the Yes movement in general started to try to overturn the result of the independence referendum. They didn’t wait for a year, they didn’t wait for a month, they didn’t even wait for a day. It was full on campaign mode from day one.

That’s fine. But how do they expect us to behave if there were ever to be a second independence referendum.  Pro UK people would overwhelmingly try to overturn a vote for Scottish independence by campaigning in whatever Scottish or UK wide elections were to take place between a vote for independence and independence actually taking place. If somehow independence did happen I imagine some present day Pro UK parties and perhaps some new ones would campaign for reunification of the UK. Under those circumstances I imagine Scotland might end up being even more lacking in peace and harmony than it is now. There might be a few tough early years for Scotland if only nationalists were onside and the rest of us remained sullenly delighted to see the whole thing go wrong, cheering on each set-back, siding with the UK at each point in the divorce negotiations, unwilling to help in any way and telling the nationalists that we told you so, but you wouldn’t listen.

We are already today in Scotland more divided than at any point since the eighteenth century. Scottish nationalism has set Scot against Scot. Can you imagine what it would be like if we carried on a Pro UK rear-guard action because we refused to accept the result of a Scottish independence referendum. But that is just what the nationalists are doing now.

What have we learned since the EU referendum in 2016? This is the second thing that has decisively changed British politics. We have learned that the Remain side have done everything in their power to frustrate what the electorate voted for. They have gone to the courts. They have used the House of Commons. They have used the House of Lords and they have cooperated with the EU negotiators so as to make it as difficult as possible for the UK to actually leave the EU. It may reach a point when we leave in name only.

My guess is that the Remain rear-guard action was in part inspired by the SNP’s refusal to accept the indyref result. In the short-term at least the SNP prospered from this.  But who knows perhaps Remain would have fought to keep the UK from leaving in a meaningful way even without the SNP example.

But what if there were to be another Scottish independence vote. For a start why do Scottish nationalists suppose that the question would be Yes versus No? The Electoral Commission ruled that Yes had an advantage. So we should expect the question instead to be something like “Do you want Scotland to Remain in the UK or do you want Scotland to leave?” There are other ways of phrasing the question, there are other words instead of “Leave” and “Remain”, but clearly no-one is going to be campaigning for “Yes” or “No.”

But the most important lesson that we have learned since 2016 is that referendums are advisory. You campaign for months and 17 million people tell you to leave, but you don’t actually have to leave. You can tell them that all of that effort and all of those crosses in little boxes were pointless indeed meaningless, just a long string of xxxxxxxs going up to 17 million.

Well Scotland can only legally achieve independence in the following way. There has to be a legal referendum. This means that the UK Parliament has to agree to allow such a referendum. It doesn’t have to. Spain has shown that it is possible to block separatists from legally seceding. An illegal referendum or a declaration of UDI didn’t lead to Catalonia gaining independence. It led to criminal charges against the leaders of the secession movement, exile and jail.

But Britain is not Spain. Who knows the UK Government might at some point in the future allow a second independence referendum. But if Scotland voted for independence there would still have to be an Act in the UK Parliament and votes won in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Well what is stopping a disappointed Pro UK Scot, call her Effie Deans from going to the High Court to try to prevent Scotland actually leaving the UK. What is preventing Pro UK Scots campaigning for the UK Parliament to treat the vote for Scottish independence as merely advisory? It is impossible, unless they start campaigning throughout the UK, for the SNP to have a majority at Westminster. So what would you do if Westminster simply voted for Scotland to Remain the UK? You could of course revolt. You would be justified in doing so. But that really is to say that democracy hasn’t worked. Instead of using the ballot box to settle disputes we will instead use clubs.

It might be that the UK “leaves” the EU only in name. But then it might be that a Scottish vote for independence had the same result. If the biggest vote in UK history doesn’t actually really lead to the UK leaving the EU, why should Scottish nationalists expect that they would be allowed to leave? Why should anyone obey the result of indyref2 if they don’t obey the result of EUref1? Why obey the result of any referendum or indeed any election?

This state of affairs is in fact is the natural and entirely just consequence of the SNP’s failure to accept the result in 2014. None of us are going to accept the result if you ever win a referendum. But there isn’t going to be another referendum, because we have discovered since 2016 that referendums are merely advisory and Parliament and indeed everyone else is free to ignore the vote.  

Scottish nationalism since 2014 has depended on the idea that if we lose the loss can be ignored, but if we win our opponents will say well done let’s all join together to create an independent Scotland. But we won’t. We will ignore the result too. We will fight you in the courts, in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. As a unionist said in 1863 we “will fight until Hell freezes over and then fight on the ice.” So what on earth would be the point of having a second referendum? What would it decide? Now do you understand what your failure to accept the result in 2014 has cost you? It has cost you a second change and at the same time it has cost all of us our democracy.      


  1. the phrase sauce for the goose is sauce for gander comes to mind

  2. sick of sturgeon and her indy talk want the old scotland back that wont happen till we rid our country of the rabies that is the SNP

  3. Cameron gave the separatists the choice of question, franchise, timing and threshold, so that whether lost they would have nothing to complain about. How did that work out for the wide-eyed Cameron? It's only fair, if God forbid there was another, that it's the lovers of the United Kingdom that have the choice of the question, franchise, timing and threshold.

    1. The hatred weeps from this one.....

      The fact that the SNP were voted in on a campaign promise of a new referendum should we be ejected from the EU as a specific example, seems to have passed you all by.

      As has the fact that vote NO to stay in the EU was a central pillar of BetterTogether...Is no one to be held accountable for this to the electorate or do you only accept political volte face when its suits your argument ?

  4. I think we need to support the principle of the peoples democracy by having more referendii on important matters such as #Hs2 I don't know anyone who thinks it a good idea whereas lots of people think that more and improved roads is where the money should go.

  5. In polities such as Switzerland where acta referendi are a normal procedure, it is the practice for the proposers of the initiative to draft the instrument clearly. A favourable vote is then implemented in terms of the polity's constitution. One of the problems with acta referendi in the United Kingdom is that there is no constitution in the usual sense. What is termed 'the British Constitution' is, in effect, what the executive element of the government is getting away with for the time being. A consequence of this is that the precise practical meaning of such expression as 'leave the European Union' is far from clear. (The problem is exacerbated by the difficulty many proponents have in maintaining the same definition from time to time as individuals, let alone agree with one another. In such circumstances, resort to the Courts for guidance is the only option for reasonable people.

    The question in Scotland has to be posed in the light of the fact that the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty is not part of Scots Law. Persons believing that independence is a reasonable possibility, and wishing to frustrate it, might therefore wish to examine the legal aspects of the matter, and begin to prepare their case now. (They might also like to enquire, outwith the juridical considerations, how it is that independence has become an attractive option for so many Scots.) You *know* it makes sense.

  6. There are two reasons for which I would strongly urge the Brittanic Knights to refrain from fighting on the ice.

    The first is that the fate of their Teutonic colleagues demonstrates clearly that this is altogether too risky a tactic for warriors of destiny. The ice may well crack under the weight of your weighty medieval accoutrements, leaving Princess Nikola Nevska and her hosts watching with bemused attachment from the bank.

    The second reason is that, even if the Brittanic Knights undertake their ceaseless mortal strife in light armour, ice *melts*. If the historic precedent of their cross-channel colleagues offers any guide, they will end up defending an ever-shrinking patch of ice against absolutely everybody. Unless the juncture of Parliamentary tactics places them in the position of being able to shake a magic money tree, they may well find themselves in the position of 'we ourselves' - or, as they say in Ireland ... no, that would be altogether too hurtful.

    1. Except the SNP are obvious sympathisers of the Teutonic Knights in that they dream of the neoCarolingian ideal which Britain and Russia have resisted for centuries.

  7. If May and her government have any sense then they'll outlaw the SNP as a treasonous organization. It's time she upped the ante, have they're broadcast words spoken by actors, make all MP's first entering Parliament swear an oath to protect the UK and abide by it's constitution.

    1. Keep up the good work Bill, you and your ilk are the energy for independence

  8. It was ex hypothesi wrong to disregard the modest desire for a limited measure of self-government as expressed in the 1979 referendum. However, the historic juncture rendered this worse than a crime - a blunder.

    There followed nearly two decades of an ideologically-driven crusade to disrupt and destroy established patterns of life and work, dismantle and sell the public patrimony, and to increase and centralize state power more than at any time since 1945. The Britain in which generations had grown up disappeared - and with it, concomitantly, that douce North Britain that many regret so deeply.

    Among the results was a drastic decline in British national identity north of the Tweed. In some areas, it amounted to a collapse. Recovery has been nowhere more than modest. This is the context in which all social, cultural, and political discussion takes place and will do for the foreseeable future.

    If the United Kingdom had a constitution, as opposed to a clamour of conflicting assertions, this would cause no more than concern. Had that constitution a coherent federal structure, like Switzerland, the Federal Republic of Germany, or Canada, the matters giving rise to that concern would be within powers of solution. However, neither of these conditions obtains. Moreover, some proponents of the Union have been suggesting courses whose results can only compound the dire consequences of that blunder in 1979 (introduced into the legislation by Members with under 40% of their constituents' votes).

  9. Speaking from a welsh perspective we have nats here who wish to emulate the SNP in their aggressive Anglophobia whilst portraying themselves as an 'oppressed victim' which they believe excuses their bile and hatred.

    I'm fed up of seeing welsh or scottish branches of everything under the sun just to look different to England,

    Its time proud Brits stood up to these facistic seperatist mobs.

  10. All this is exacerbated by what we might call the Prussian Problem.

    Let me make it clear that I am not among those who blame a certain caricature of Prussia for everything that went wrong in Germany. (Much in Prussian life and culture was in fact wholly admirable.) However, where one constituent - Prussia in Germany, Russia in the ci-devant USSR, pre-Scanian Wars Denmark in the Kalmar Union, or England in the UK for example - outweighs all the others then, in a polity populated by human beings as opposed to angels then the system is biased towards dysfunction.

    1. Surely England,Scotland and the UK are now one and the same.... If you are Mundell that's his view