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By Jason Michael
IT HAS BEEN A WHILE since this site has gotten its teeth into the working out of the idea of independence. The wider context of independence politics means that much of the thinking of the our movement is caught up in the cut and thrust of national and union politics, leaving us little time to focus on the specific questions of independence. In fairness, Brexit and the fallout from the Westminster government’s chaotically inept management have kept us mired in the mucky politics of London – and this, as it all affects Scotland, is important. But this is silly season; the parliamentarians have gone off on their holliers, leaving us to tear lumps out of one another from sheer boredom or revisit the central issue of why we are here – independence.
Are we actually still heading in the right direction? Yes, of course we are. Facebook, rather than Twitter, appears to be where the SNP-critical independentistas – at least on my feed – appear to hang out, and sometimes their somewhat hyper negativity would make you despair. Everyone’s thoughts and ideas are important, sure, but if we were to believe what we read from these people we’d give up. We’ve heard it all: Nicola Sturgeon’s an agent of the British government, our MPs and MSPs have gotten “too comfortable,” you name it.
But, if I can offer a suggestion, I suspect this sort of hopelessness and defeatism arises from people’s impatience and frustration. It has been a long time since September 2014, and the energy of the movement has dissipated since then. We have been drawn back down to the ordinary routine of ordinary politics – and that, for some, can feel as though the dream has died. Only, it hasn’t. On 19 September 2014 we knew – we had to accept – that the road would be longer; while the plan had been to make many suffer less, we discovered that what some needed was to suffer a little more. Thankfully, outwith Scottish politics, those wheels are turning. Brexit and what it promises are changing people’s minds and winning them over to the idea of independence.
Part of this impatience, I suspect, is the demand for a UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. Now, some of my closest friends in the movement are supporters of such a declaration. It forces our elected representatives to pin their colours to the mast and act, at our behest, for Scotland and independence. It sounds good. It’s attractive. It would certainly get us where we want to go. But my thoughts on it might land me in a spot of bother. I am not a fan.
Independentistas are becoming increasingly suspicious of the 2014 result. I have never believed it was a fair election and I have never lost that feeling we were cheated. Given what we now know of Tory election fraud in England, the use of dark money, and the use of Big Data to game the democratic system, it is altogether likely we were played for fools. Yet – for good or ill, we accepted the result and have moved on. It’s too late to revisit that question now. Whatever the facts, it was a referendum wherein everyone – so the theory goes – had a say. The problem with a declaration of independence without the support of a popular vote is that it takes from people – our fellow Scots – the democratic right to have their say. It will only allow them to say that those who made the declaration had no mandate from the people – and that’s important.
Not having a mandate will invite the kind of trouble we so brilliantly avoided in 2014. Falsely or otherwise, those unionist Scots who believe they are the majority opinion will only feel as though they have been cheated and some may even take steps to defend their beloved union. However much some would like the opportunity to get rough with the yoons, the reality is that we don’t want that. We don’t need it. A UDI might well get us out of the Brexit shambles, but it may well land us in a cycle of unrest and violence that has crippled so many other newly independent nations.
Such a declaration, without a mandate from all the people of Scotland, might even invite serious intervention from London. What events in Catalonia has taught us is that even today in the so-called civilised West dominant states are still prepared to use brute force against unarmed civilians to maintain their grip on power. It was not too long ago that British soldiers were on the streets in the north of Ireland to safeguard British power, and the effects of Brexit may well return them to the streets of Belfast and Derry in the not too distant future.
Independence is now – as it always has been – the best way forward for Scotland, and we can all understand the desire for a declaration of independence that would speed that process along. But in the real world this is not the smartest way, I feel, to get what we want and – in the end – to have something worth wanting. This pretty much means we are stuck on the route we are on; towards another independence referendum, and that means continuing to weave our way through all the obstacles the British state is determined to put in our way.
Yes, this means more of the same for a little while longer. It means sticking with the long game. Only a referendum, once won, will give us the mandate to leave the United Kingdom behind; removing from the unionists once and for all their claim to being the majority and robbing the British government of any claim to a right to use force. This tactic might sound infuriating to some, and I feel their pain. Being part of the UK is caustic to the independentista’s soul. But sticking with the programme does not mean we must sit back and let the politicians do their thing. No, it means we up our game and work with those we have elected to keep making the case for independence, to keep hammering home the cost of Brexit and union to ordinary people, to keep pressure on the unionist establishment – all of which will ultimately accelerate the process. We all have a part to play in pushing for a referendum, and – as I see it – that’s what we should be doing.
What does the Brexit vote mean for Scottish independence?