Sunday 29 September 2019

What if a Yes vote had been blocked like Brexit?

Some independence supporting Scottish journalists and SNP politicians are attempting to portray the Scottish independence referendum as some sort of joyful, peaceful yearlong party. They contrast this with the referendum on the EU. But they are not comparing like with like. Worse there is a tendency to exaggerate on all sides.

Both Scotland and the UK in general remain peaceful. The biggest dangers facing all of us are not disagreements over politics, but rather crime, car accidents, illness and way down the list terrorism.

The likelihood of anyone of us being hurt, let alone killed by someone who disagrees with our politics over either Scottish independence or Brexit is trivial.

There have been numerous demonstrations especially by independence supporters in Scotland and Remain supporters in the UK generally, but while there might be some shouting and some passionate emotions there has been almost no violence.

Likewise, Pro UK Scots as well as Brexiteers have campaigned almost without exception peacefully. There have been strong words. Tempers have risen, but that is all.

The one exception to this was the murder of the MP Jo Cox by a mentally disturbed fascist. But the far-right remains politically tiny in the UK. There are no far-right MPS at Westminster and far-right candidates invariably lose their deposits. Decent people don’t blame ordinary Muslims for the deaths caused by terrorists acting in the name of Islam, nor do we try to use these deaths to gain a political advantage over those Muslims. The terrorists are responsible no one else.

The far-left by contrast is thriving in Britain. We have a Marxist leader of the opposition who has allowed anti-Semitism to flourish and grow in his party. For Labour MPs to continually attempt to gain political capital from an MP’s murder, while supporting a man who supported those who killed Ian Gow in 1990 and Airey Neave in 1979 is grossly hypocritical. To attempt to tar Brexiteers with the brush of murder is to use the same brush that racists use to blame ordinary British Muslims. No one’s death should be used to achieve political goals. Every person is an end in themselves. I find it distasteful to use the murder of a fellow human being for either party political ends or the achievement of any other political goal. It turns that death into a mere means and thereby demeans it, demeans death.

Let us not exaggerate. We still live in a democracy. It is highly likely that at some point soon there will be an election. We will all campaign and vote peacefully. There may be some shouting. Some people will say foolish things, but the likelihood of anyone being hurt remains very small indeed. Eight MPs have been murdered since 1812, all but two because they opposed Irish Republicanism. By contrast there were 147 workers killed in 2018/2019 with 30 in construction alone. By contrast being an MP is a very safe job.

I found the Brexit campaign difficult, because it meant I disagreed with people who I thought of as friends during the Scottish independence referendum. But the process of campaigning was nowhere near as unpleasant as during 2014.

I was the target of quite a few Cybernat Twitter mobs during and after the vote to stay in the UK. Some of these mobs were cheered on by those same Scottish journalists and SNP MPs who now pretend that indyref was joyful. Some of the foulest things imaginable were said about me. There were attempts to undermine my confidence, my identity and my right to live where I do.

I didn’t dare put a vote No poster in my window and I saw very few. There were Yes posters everywhere. I didn’t wear any visible sign of support for the UK. Not a flag, not a No. I didn’t talk about my intention to vote No to anyone I didn’t already know to be Pro UK. After we won the referendum, I didn’t talk to any stranger about the result, nor did any stranger mention it to me.

There was fear and there was intimidation in Scotland. There were Scottish nationalists marching en masse to cast their votes. Even now I avoid talking about Scottish politics in public. We live separate lives. I have no friends who vote SNP. I have never had a face to face conversation with someone who supports independence about that topic. Scotland is peaceful, but we are very, very divided and its not really getting any better.

The Indyref campaign was one of the worst experiences of my life. I genuinely believe it might have been joyful for the independence supporters. They may have been having a ceilidh all that time, but I couldn’t join. I could at best peer through the windows at the dancing while remaining out in the cold. We didn’t have a shared experience of the campaign. We barely live in a shared country anymore.

By contrast I didn’t care that much if Britain left the EU or not.  I care more now than I did, because we voted to leave  and we ought to leave. But if we’d voted to Remain, I would have shrugged my shoulders and been pleased that we’d avoided some turmoil to my investments.

Brexiteers have been remarkably restrained in the three long years since the referendum. We have rarely gone on demonstrations. We haven’t on the whole tried to use the courts. We have been impatient and sometimes we have been angry, but we haven’t fought back as the Remainer Rearguard has attempted to thwart the wishes of 17.4 million voters.

By contrast imagine if Yes had won the vote in Scotland by 52% to 48%. Imagine if one Tommy Atkins who had arrived in Scotland as teenager from England, tried to use the Scottish and UK courts to stop Scotland from leaving the UK. Imagine if Westminster had sided with Tommy and offered Scotland a deal that would have locked us into the UK forever and given us independence in name only. Imagine if Scotland had been offered this or “no deal” and then made it legally impossible for us to even leave with that no deal. How would Scottish independence supporters be behaving right now if 5 years after voting for independence Scotland was still part of the UK with no prospect of leaving any time soon?

Would SNP supporters be as patient as Brexiteers have been. Would they now be waiting peacefully for another election, knowing that no matter how many SNP MPs they elected they would never have a majority in Westminster.

SNP voters were angry enough when they lost the 2014 referendum. They were far more angry than Brexiteers have been when we won. So, let’s not compare like with unlike. Would Scotland really have avoided violence if independence had been voted for, but blocked?