Saturday, 22 December 2018

What did you learn Nicola?



I don’t want Mrs Sturgeon to click her ruby slippers together while repeating endlessly that there’s no place like Scotland. Nor is it helpful to once more hear nationalists repeat clichés like “A hard Tory Brexit makes independence inevitable.” But it might be useful to revisit Scottish independence in the light of what we have all learned since the decision to leave the EU.



1. If there were a second referendum on Scottish independence, it would not be a Yes/No question.

Scottish nationalists still think that they would have the advantage of campaigning for Yes, but this would reverse the precedent set by the Electoral Commission to make the EU referendum a Remain/Leave question. Obviously any future Scottish independence referendum with a Yes/No question would be challenged legally.   

2. In order to win Scottish independence, the SNP would have to win four times.

In order to have a legal referendum on independence, the SNP will have to gain another pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament (i).

They will then have to win a vote to Leave the UK (ii).

They will then have to win a second referendum to Leave the UK after the terms of deal negotiated with the UK become clear to the Scottish public (iii).

It has already been established both by the actions of the SNP after the 2014 independence referendum and the Remain campaign after the 2016 EU referendum that campaigning for a second referendum is legitimate.

They will then have to win a vote in the UK’s Parliament (iv), although it will never be possible for the SNP to have more than 59 seats there.

It has been shown recently that the UK Parliament may if it chooses reject the result of a legal referendum. No-one questions that it would be legal for the UK Government to decide to water down leaving the EU to such an extent that it would be Brexit in name only. It would likewise be within the power of the Government to reverse Article 50.

Therefore the UK Government could decide that Scottish voters did not understand independence or that the SNP exaggerated the benefits and minimised the costs. Perhaps the SNP would have a bus that claimed Scots would be better off by £1000 per year after independence. Perhaps they would make some other claim that turned out to be false in the period after the vote. Well this could be used by the Remain dominated Parliament in Westminster to argue that the Scottish Leave vote was illegitimate.

3. The slogan “Independence in Europe” involves a contradiction.

If the UK cannot leave the EU without surrendering to a Carthaginian peace, not leaving at all or leaving without a deal, then what sort of independence would Scotland have in the EU? If Scotland could never leave the EU once we joined, then we would have the independence of a prisoner.

Some Scottish nationalists would be quite happy to surrender their hard won sovereignty to Brussels just so long as we are not ruled by London. But this is to apply the logic of “anyone but England” to matters rather more serious than football.

4. Being in a different trade bloc to your closest economic partner makes no sense.

Even after nearly 100 years of independence the Irish economy is hugely dependent on trade with the UK. Being in a different trade bloc to the UK will damage trade between the UK and Ireland and may lead to tariffs. This would still more be the case in the event of Scotland becoming independent. The Scottish economy is closely integrated with the other parts of the UK, but this could not survive if the UK were outside the EU while Scotland chose to join. Even if Scotland didn’t join the EU there would still need to be trade negotiations between the UK and Scotland. Anyone who thinks trade negotiations are straightforward hasn’t been paying attention. After all, the UK hasn’t haven’t reached them yet with the EU. We can’t even agree on the divorce terms.  

5. Borders are not simply lines on a map

The negotiations over the Irish backstop show that keeping open a border between a non-EU country and the EU is complex at best, impossible at worst. Technology may allow tariffs to be collected and migration to be monitored. But it is proving difficult enough when Ireland is not in Schengen. How much more difficult would it be if Scotland were forced to join Schengen. It is after all a condition of EU membership.

6. You can’t always get what you want

Scotland would have to simultaneously negotiate trade deals with both the EU and the UK. This would be the case whether or not Scotland chose to join the EU. If the UK is able in the future to make trade deals with other countries like USA, Australia and New Zealand, these deals would not automatically apply to Scotland and so would have to be negotiated too.

The key lesson we have learned in the past two years is that the EU has used the negotiation process to try to prevent the UK from leaving. We have been offered a deal that is worse than remaining. What would prevent the UK doing the same to Scotland? What would prevent the UK working together with Pro UK Scots, Remainers, to thwart Scottish independence and make the price of that independence so high that Scots would be left in the position of having to accept either Scottish independence in name only or a “No deal” with tariffs and border controls between Gretna and Berwick? If it is legitimate for the EU to act in this way why couldn’t the UK Government do likewise? No doubt there would be lots of goodwill towards Scotland, after all none of us can remember any Scots saying anything nasty about our neighbours, but what if that goodwill began to evaporate as the divorce ran into difficulty and disagreement?

So what did you learn Nicola? Up until now your answer to ever question has been independence. The Emerald City lies on the horizon and if only we could get there we would find it was in fact the Sapphire city with a Saltire flying from its highest point. In the Wizard’s bag we would each find what we needed and the Yellow Brick Road would turn out to be paved with gold. But Scottish nationalism is not going to get there if it continues to think in clichés. There are hard questions to answer and they are getting harder. The hardest of all is this.

We have learned that a referendum decides nothing whatsoever. The losers just keep on campaigning as if nothing had happened and fight to overturn the result. The logic of this though is that that there never will be another referendum in the UK. Did you learn that lesson Nicola? If so, how do you achieve independence?

26 comments:

  1. A perfectly *splendid* animadversion, worthy of the *Kilkenny Eagle*! Keep it up!

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  2. But seriously, though … one thing the Brexit adventure has done is to create so much instability this side of the Channel that nobody can be certain of anything anymore. In Edinburgh and Dublin at least, those in positions of responsibility are keeping their heads, but the forces unleashed are beyond anybody's control.

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    1. The polity known as (inter alia) the United Kingdom has two particularly dangerous flaws.

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    2. One is what we might call the Prussian problem. Where one constituent member of a polity is bigger than all the others put together, there is a serious imbalance from the start.

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    3. Another flaw is the absence of any constraints on the powers of the legislature.

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    4. The First Nations of Canada and the Francophone communities had undergone generations of oppression. One consequence of this was the eradication of the French language over most of the country. Unsurprisingly, many people in Québec concluded that their only viable future lay in an independent state.

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    5. The First Nations of Canada and the Francophone communities had undergone generations of oppression. One consequence of this was the eradication of the French language over most of the country. Unsurprisingly, many people in Québec concluded that their only viable future lay in an independent state.

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    6. My apologies. I seem to have pressed a button twice, or something like that.

      The United Kingdom is inherently unstable. In the past, two things no longer operative have compensated for this.

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    7. One of these things was a large empire, which provided: an outlet not available in a dependency like Scotland for indigenous capital; employment for professionals of every kind; and theatres of war for the utilization of manpower expelled from the Scottish countryside.

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    8. The other thing was a party system that, while hopelessy ubreprasentative, offered an a fairly regular alternation between two large parties drawing their support from the generality of the UK's territories and able to act decisively.

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    9. The Empire has gone, leaving a residue whose chief function is the provision of conduits for the proceeds of organized crime.

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    10. The classic British party system broke down generations ago in Wales, and in Scotland within living memory. In what is now Northern Ireland, it has never operated: the population tgere are, in effect, disenfranchised.

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    11. Britain reached the second half of the twentieth century as a middle-ranking power undertaking to protect individuals from the worst consequences of inequality. Although Britain was both de jure and de facto England writ large, those in power would generally eschew anything akin to a pur et dur Jacobinism. This legal, economic, social, and cultural fudge was set to continue evolving for the indefinite future.

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    12. Two developments combined, however, to frustrate this course of evolution. The main radical party, as so often happens, lost any coherent vision. This need not have been critically hazardous. The other, development, however, was more deleterious: the main conservative party ceased wishing to conserve.

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    13. Rather than conserving, it has systematically asset-stripped the public patrimony, dismantled institutions and services, disrupted social networks, and sought to eliminate viable opposition.

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  3. Yes, that would be the Yellow Vests running all over London and Dublin because of the political instability. Oh, that is Paris, Isn't it?

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    1. The ones in gilets jaunes who harass Members of Parliament, or the ones without such garments who shoot them, are manifestations of the forces which concern me.

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  4. And still they fail to see that their every utterance on Brexit applies ten fold to "independence".

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  5. Republicanism rideing on the coatails of the state they despise!

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  6. Excellent work Effie - I thought this was quite brilliant!

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  7. Effie has shown that Sturgeon, far from being an astute politician, is in fact a political imbecile. But we must never forget that the Nationalists are shameless. They will ignore everything that has gone before and will ram relentlessly everything that stands in the way of their goal. For me, the answer to Effie's question is that all this is leading to violence in Scotland. And as long as SNP remain in power we must consider the prospect of state sponsored terrorism north of the border.

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    1. While the British Government and their various pursuivants have indeed committed some grave misdeeds in the past, I trust that they will not resort to low-intensity operations in Scotland. The consequences would be quite unpredictable in detail, but indisputably horrible and uncontainable in nature and scope. I earnestly pray that you may be mistaken.

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    2. Should anybody of that mind denoted by The Well Is Deep be contemplating the use of force in defence of their vision of the Union, I entreat them to consider two things. First of all, ask yourselves this question: if you let that particular genie out of the bottle, how will you ever get it back in again? Secondly, I recommend to you a very careful reading of Lord Carson's maiden speech to the House of Lords. Please do *not* permit anybody to inveigle you into something unpardonable.

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  8. Whether or not the First Minister has learnt anything new from the present discontents is, of course, hard to say. However, no doubt they have confirmed her long-held view that the British political setup ('system' is probably too strong a word) is irreparably dysfunctional.

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