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By Jason Michael
We have to hope that we can win the next referendum and we have to work our hearts out to make sure that we do win. If we are defeated again we can be absolutely certain that Westminster will scorch the earth on which our ambitions have flourished.
Given that none of us have a crystal ball there is no way to say for certain what will happen if we lose another independence referendum. And before anyone starts getting it into their head that this post is some kind of pre-referendum defeatism, it is not. Any class of political strategic planning that refuses to consider the possibility of defeat is fundamentally flawed. We were defeated before and it can happen again. The SNP Spring Conference is getting nearer and it is likely that Nicola Sturgeon will announce her intention to hold another referendum in response to the British government’s negligence with regard to the decision of Scotland last June, and we have to go into this with the singular purpose of winning it. But what if we lose – again?
Theresa May has stated in no uncertain terms that she and her Conservative London government will put the Union first in their reserved policy agenda and “work with” – read: interfere in – Scottish devolved policy to ensure the security of the Union. In case you missed it – that was a threat. As much as we want independence, we can be sure that Westminster wants to keep Scotland every bit as much and it won’t put up with any more of this separatism business. In the event that we are unsuccessful we can be pretty damn sure that the Westminster government will do everything in its power – and that is still quite a considerable bit of power – to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Another defeat will mean that we can kiss goodbye to independence for the rest of our lives.
So long as we have our own parliament in Edinburgh and so long as the support for independence continues to stay at least at the same level there will always be hope that we can agitate for a greater share of real power and even secession. London knows this, and from the point of view of Downing Street it would stand to reason that devolution would be the primary target of Britain’s programme of post-referendum reprisals. There are no circumstances in which a victorious Union would permit the Scottish parliament to remain, and we must remember that London has historical experience of exactly this parliamentary power from the 1919 Dáil in Dublin.
It is conceivable too that there will be a period of systematic standardisation where the civic and cultural instruments of Scotland that have been traditional rallying points of Scottish national sentiment will be attacked. Education, where it has been restructured to better mediate a Scottish set of values and nationhood, will – most probably – be brought back into line with the narrative of Great Britain and the formation of a British national and cultural identity. Law too, a long demarcation of the difference between Scotland and England, may find itself aligned more with English qua British law. We can also expect some challenges to culture and the arts. Actually, everything in our national life that dynamised our awareness of our Scottishness is likely to be targeted.
Jacobitism had strong support in north east of Scotland but post 1746 brutality and reprisals focussed on Gaelic culture and society.—
Angus MacLeod (@aonghasmacleod) March 03, 2015
As stated, this certainly isn’t defeatism. Nor is it an attempt to scaremonger – as frightening as all of this may sound. This is pragmatism and a spelling out of what we have to be prepared for in the event that we are again defeated in another independence referendum. Perhaps, on reflection, this sort of consideration isn’t the best tool for the coming campaign, but for us who are already “separatists” it can and should serve as a reminder of what is at stake. Yet, as the Romans used to say, Alea iacta est – the die is cast. This referendum is coming. In fact it is already upon us. We can’t now hit the pause button or rewind until we are more prepared. This is happening, and we have to be up and running – knowing that defeat is not an option because, like Brexit, defeat here really means defeat.
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