Sunday 16 May 2021

Some crowds are more equal than others.


There are two types of crowd one virtuous and one vicious. In London thousands of demonstrators crowd the streets protesting against violence in Gaza. In Glasgow protestors successfully prevent immigration officers from deporting two Indians who did not have leave to remain in the UK. These demonstrations are praised. Almost no one mentions the danger of the Indian variant of Covid being spread by virtuous demonstrators either in London or in Glasgow. But when other crowds gather in parks or on beaches to enjoy themselves they are deemed to be irresponsible Covid spreaders. All crowds are equal but some crowds are more equal than others.

Covid of course is unable to determine whether a demonstration is protesting about the murder of someone in Minnesota, a war in the Middle East, football fans celebrating or people sick of lockdown protesting about restrictions. If the virus is spread by one crowd it is equally likely to be spread by another.

Virtuous demonstrators will argue that at least their crowds have a purpose. They were able to stop the two Indians being deported. They were able to show the Israeli Embassy what they thought about Israel’s actions. But the two Indians will most likely be deported at a later date and it is doubtful that Israel’s actions will be changed by demonstrators in Britain. Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Britain saved no lives in Minnesota, but may have cost lives here by spreading illness.

It would clearly be wiser if there were no crowds, but it is hardly likely when the police and media reward one type of virtuous crowd while condemning another when the risk of spreading illness applies to all crowds. A police force that appeases one crowd by refusing to enforce the law has no moral authority to condemn another. Justice must be blind. This is why she has a blindfold. To give way to one crowd because you agree with it and think its cause moral, while condemning another because you think it frivolous or wrong is to misunderstand justice. But to be unjust is to be immoral. An immoral Justice Secretary neither understands morality nor justice.

Immigration policy is reserved, which is one reason why the SNP is willing to support protestors complaining about its implementation.  But if Scotland were independent with its own immigration policy, would it allow people to remain here who had overstayed their visa or who had never applied for a visa at all. Perhaps an independent Scotland would have visa free travel with the whole world. There would be no need to claim asylum on arriving in Scotland because anyone who could get to Scotland could stay no questions asked. Is this what the Glasgow demonstrators want? Perhaps they think they do.

But if Scotland had such an immigration policy there would be no real distinction between a Scottish citizen and any other citizen in the world. Each would receive a Scottish Passport on arrival at Glasgow Airport, each would have the same rights as every other Scot just by turning up here.

The SNP want to introduce a Universal Basic Income. But the amount that this would pay Scots would far exceed average wages in most of the world. So, for the cost of a flight to Scotland anyone who wanted to could simply give up working where they live and move to Scotland and not merely receive better education and healthcare than they do at present, but a passport that would enable them to travel visa free anywhere in the EU assuming Scotland was a member.

The UK at present does not have such an open borders approach to immigration. But if an independent Scotland did, it would immediately require Scottish passport holders to apply for a visa, otherwise the whole world would be able to get to London merely by flying to Glasgow. It might be that EU member states would likewise be dubious about allowing visa free travel from Scotland. Who needs to walk to Germany if you can simply fly to Scotland? So, an open borders policy might prevent Scotland joining the EU.

Alternatively, an independent Scotland might decide that it did require visas and immigration policies. But this would require laws and those laws to be enforced. If someone were living in Glasgow without the legal right to do so, Scottish immigration officers would arrive to enforce the law. Would there still be demonstrations? But if Glaswegians always succeeded in preventing immigration officers from deporting anyone, the result would be the same as giving Scottish passports on arrival at a Scottish airport. If anyone arriving at a Scottish airport knew that immigration law would never be enforced other countries might look at Scotland as a backdoor entry point to everyone in the world which would make them think twice about allowing free movement between Scotland and themselves.

The UK post Brexit has been remarkably generous to EU citizens living here. The process of applying for leave to remain was both easy and free. EU states have not always reciprocated this generosity making it difficult for British citizens to continue living in the EU.

The UK has immigration laws that allow people to apply for visas of various kinds and there is a route to citizenship that is open to all. We allow asylum seekers to apply and most succeed in staying here indefinitely. We have a legal process of deporting people who break the rules and this rarely leads to some people being deported. This is no different from every Western country.

If the SNP want open borders between an independent Scotland and the whole world, let it be honest about this and campaign for it. But if it doesn’t then we must assume that immigration laws would be enforced, because a law that is not enforced isn’t a law at all while one that is only enforced according to the whim of a Justice Secretary is neither fair, nor equal, nor just.

Once you go down the route of applying the law selectively, whether with regard to crowds, or immigration, you begin not to have the rule of law at all. To suppose that the law cannot be enforced on Christians at Christmas or Muslims at Eid is to suppose that we are not equal before the law. Some crowds are more equal than others.