Saturday 23 July 2022

Sturgeon is giving aid and comfort to Ukraine's enemy


Since February I have seen a lot of Ukrainian flags in Scotland. It is right and proper that people of all political viewpoints express support for a country that has been invaded brutally by its neighbour. But I’ve noticed something else too, which I find rather tasteless. Ukrainian flags are frequently being used to justify Scottish independence. This is both ignorant and wrong. The SNP is giving aid and comfort to Ukraine’s enemy while trying to destroy its greatest friend.

I think Scottish nationalists feel justified in pairing Saltires with Yes on them with Ukrainian flags, because they see Ukraine as an example of a place that achieved independence after leaving a union, the USSR. But what they forget is that Ukraine now is a sovereign nation state that is primarily trying to protect its territorial integrity. It opposes the secession movements in the Donbas and Crimea. It does not think that the people living in the Donbas or Crimea have the right to vote to leave Ukraine even if the majority would like to.

Russia’s attitude to secession is entirely hypocritical. It supports Scottish independence and recently the Russian press and politicians have been using Nicola Sturgeon’s statements about a second referendum to justify holding unofficial referendums in Crimea and the Donbas. The argument goes if Scotland can hold a referendum without obtaining permission from the Government of the United Kingdom, then there is no reason why Crimea and the Donbas cannot do so too.

This argument naturally does not apply to Russia itself. Russia would crush any independence movement within the Russian Federation like it did in Chechnya. But it is very easy for Putin to apply Sturgeon’s argument to Ukraine. Crimea voted unofficially to leave Ukraine. The poll may or may not have been rigged, but there is little doubt that the majority of Crimeans would choose to leave Ukraine if a poll was run fairly and legitimately. The Donbas too could have an unofficial referendum in whatever part of it Putin conquers, or alternatively it could turn an election into a de facto referendum.

If a devolved government can achieve independence by means of an unsanctioned referendum or a General Election turned into a referendum, then anywhere in the world can do likewise.

There are any number of secession movements of which Scottish nationalists are blissfully unaware. There are Russians living in the Baltic states, who would be delighted to rejoin Mother Russia. There are Hungarians living in Slovakia and Romania who might like to rejoin Hungary. There are Corsicans who would like to leave France and Austrians who would like to leave Italy. They each have as good a claim to leave as Scotland does.

But most countries don’t think like the UK. They absolutely forbid secession and would go to war to stop it. No one has ruled out Scottish independence forever. The British Government has just said be patient. You lost your referendum only 8 years ago. No one in Europe would have given you a referendum in the first place.

There would be war in Europe if Sturgeon’s argument applied everywhere, because Italy would fight to stop Austrians leaving and Romania and Slovakia would fight to stop Hungarians seceding. There would be chaos the world over as everyone refought ancient battles over borders.

The SNP argument not only undermines the position of Ukraine that it has the right to defend its territorial integrity, it undermines the idea that national sovereignty gives Ukraine the right to claim all its territory even if the people in  a particular part vote to leave. The SNP undermines the very concept of national sovereignty which Ukraine requires to justify its attempt to regain the territory it has lost.

If Scotland or its people are sovereign and this is more important than UK sovereignty then likewise Crimea can claim that its people are sovereign and that this form of popular sovereignty justifies them choosing to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

But not merely is Sturgeon undermining the Ukrainian argument, she is furthering the foreign policy goals of Ukraine’s primary enemy Russia. There is no doubt whatsoever that Putin would be delighted if the SNP succeeded. The British Army, Royal Navy and RAF would cease to exist at least in their present form if Scotland left the UK. They are British.  Whatever succeeded them would require the permission of the Scottish Government to be in Scottish territory airspace or waters.

The UK’s nuclear deterrent would have no base unless it could negotiate the lease of Faslane. Sturgeon might want an independent Scotland to join NATO, but its entirely unclear if SNP members would agree given their historic hostility to it. We don’t know too if NATO would want a Scotland that has just destroyed the UK.

The United Kingdom would become the Former United Kingdom, there would be every expectation that Northern Ireland would soon follow Scotland and perhaps Wales after that.

There are only two serious military forces in Europe, France and the UK. Putin would have seen one of those diminished and perhaps neutralised. What the USSR could not achieve during the Cold War would have been achieved by the SNP alone.

The idea that present day Ukrainians would want to see their primary European Ally, the UK, dismantled is preposterous. The idea that they would delight in seeing Scottish nationalist flags flying next to their own is as likely as their wanting to see the Russian flag flying alongside it.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and Scottish nationalists in general are giving aid and comfort to Ukraine’s enemy. Flying Ukraine’s flag in those circumstances is not merely opportunism, it is morally contemptible.