Monday 18 October 2021

The Scottish nationalist corpse has Salmondella


Since May everything has gone quiet. I sometimes wonder if the Scottish nationalist body is sleeping or else that it has died from lack of interest. Sturgeon is tired and irritable. She is only 51, but there is increasing speculation about her retirement. It wasn’t so much the Covid virus that did for us as her exposure to Salmondella. The strain was virulent and the strain on Sturgeon’s bowels exhausting. If Scottish independence is the promised land, then Sturgeon is Aaron to Salmond’s Moses and neither will see it.

But the Scottish nationalist corpse still twitches. Angus Robertson grabs you by the ankles as if it is the end of Nightmare on Indyref Street Part 23. The plot is very familiar by now. Perhaps Robertson is merely hamming it up for the Indy Marchers and the other fundamentalists. But no with Kenny MacAskill’s intervention we can shout out like Colin Clive’s Henry Frankenstein “It's alive! It's alive!”

Do Robertson and MacAskill compare notes even though they are now in different parties or is it merely the natural tendency of Scottish nationalism to imitate its green hooped Irish equivalent. But there is a sea separating Glasgow and Belfast and this means contrary to Robertson that the Belfast Agreement does not apply in Scotland and sets no precedents.

If we had known now how the Belfast Agreement would be used by Ireland and the EU, I’m not sure that we would have signed it. The people of Northern Ireland might have been still more reluctant to agree to it. But peace treaties are not always ideal when both sides are capable of continuing to fight. Each side then has to make concessions to the other. The British Government made a concession to the IRA that it could have a border poll if the majority of the people in Northern Ireland wanted one.

We did this to stop IRA terrorism. If there had been no terrorism, there would have been no need for the treaty. Was it worth it? That’s really for the people of Northern Ireland to decide. But it is important to realise that the Belfast Agreement was signed under duress. The implicit threat was if you don’t sign it, we will continue to bomb you. It is for this reason above all that it is distasteful for the Irish Government and the EU to try to leverage this peace treaty for their own ends. They take advantage of what the terrorists did. It is even more distasteful for Robertson to suppose that it applies to Scotland.

Nowhere else in Europe is one state allowed to claim the territory of another. It doesn’t matter that German speakers live in the South Tyrol and that it used to be part of Austria. There would be outrage if Austria had a long-term foreign policy of annexing part of Italy. There is no prospect of a border poll anywhere in Europe, no matter if a majority wants one. There is also no prospect of a part of any EU member state being allowed to secede from another, because it was a kingdom some hundreds of years ago. The boundaries of Europe are everywhere fixed except in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Scotland did not have decades of terrorism. There was no peace treaty between the Scottish Republican Army and the British Government. Alex Salmond and Ian Blackford did not go on hunger strike nor did Kenny MacAskill engage in a dirty protest. The closest Scotland came to the IRA was singing about it and pretending to be involved in the armed struggle at football matches. So contrary to Robertson the Belfast Agreement does not apply to Scotland.

MacAskill is 63. He is one of two Alba MPs. But neither were elected as Alba MPs they merely defecated due to Salmondella. Will Alba stand at the next election and split the nationalist vote? Even if it does, it is unlikely that MacAskill will retain his seat. So, he is seeing his career ending and if there isn’t an independence referendum soon MacAskill will be no better off than Aaron and Moses. There is therefore a hint of desperation in his proposal to imitate Sinn Féin in not sending MPs to Westminster.

There is an obvious problem with imitating Sinn Féin’s strategy. It hasn’t worked for Sinn Féin. The Belfast Agreement did not happen because Sinn Féin refused to send MPs to Westminster, but rather because the IRA murdered people. The only obvious change if the SNP withdrew its MPS would be that there would be a still greater chance of their being a Conservative majority. It would moreover make a mockery of SNP complaints that Scotland is losing two MPs due to boundary changes, it then went on to withdraw all of them.

MacAskill thinks that these withdrawn MPs could vote for Scotland to be independent or failing this that the Scottish Parliament could do so. But 59 MPs meeting in a pub who happen to be from Scotland does not a Parliament make and constitutional matters are outwith the control of the Scottish Parliament.

Of course, independence has sometimes in history been achieved by self-appointed groups, but if you go down the revolutionary route you had better be sure that you have the overwhelming support of the electorate behind you, otherwise you are likely to look foolish at best, end up in jail at worst.

The problem for Scottish nationalism is to achieve Scottish independence in such a way that it does not destroy the Scottish economy. Scots are going to resent anyone who leaves us massively worse off. Some of us may be persuaded to vote for independence if it leaves our life-style intact, but few are fanatical enough to live in a cave like Robert the Bruce with only spiders to eat.

Robertson and MacAskill are impatient, which sees them going down the revolutionary road. But if you succeeded in forcing the British Government to give in to your demands, or if you succeeded somehow in declaring independence in a revolutionary act, all you would do would be to achieve an independent Scotland recognised by no one and with no international agreements or cooperation. MacAskill and Robertson’s impatience would merely turn Scotland in South Ossetia, Abkhazia or Transnistria, places most of us would struggle to find on a map.

Scottish nationalism to succeed depends on friendly relations with the former UK and an amicable divorce. Without that Scotland has zero chance of joining the EU. There is no right to an independence referendum no matter what Scottish nationalists think. So, you cannot batter on the door by pretending that the Belfast Agreement applies. Nor can you suggest that Scottish MPs or the Scottish Parliament can take matters into their own hand to repeal the Act of Union. The UK is a sovereign nation state. It is not a union of independent states, equal or not. It is not a union at all. It was a union in 1707. But to think that it is still is, is to suppose that a child is the same as its mother and father. The UK is not a union. It is the result of a union.

The only route forward for the Scottish nationalist corpse is patience. If when we get back to where we were prior to the pandemic, there comes a point when it becomes clear that the overwhelming majority in Scotland want independence then it may happen because I very much doubt that the British electorate would want Scotland to stay under those circumstances. The same applies to Northern Ireland.  

Rather than plotting rebellion it would make more sense if MacAskill and Robertson applied themselves to making Scotland wealthier, more efficient and productive. If in the future this made us less dependent on Westminster money, we might actually be able to afford independence, which might see support for it increase.

Unfortunately for MacAskill if he succeeded in withdrawing Scottish nationalist MPs, the British Government might decide to withdraw the block grant to Scotland as well as those MPs salaries, which might leave them like members of the tartan army in London who having blown all their money on booze are sleeping off their hangover on a London street smelling of last nights drink. The smell would be still worse if they had caught Salmondella.