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By Jason Michael
NEVER IN MY LIFE have I felt so much as a quantum of sympathy for the British Conservative Party, its politicians and members, and its selfish and self-serving quasi-political ideology. But earlier today something approaching sympathy was stirred. As the chaos of the morning’s events unfolded; as one Cabinet resignation followed another, knowing the fate of Scotland and our independence was somehow entangled in the events, and watching on helplessly as the last vestiges of stability in the British political order dissolved into air, I found myself – and in spite of myself – rooting for Theresa May. Whether we like this or not, regardless of our opinion of the Prime Minister or any of the personalities involved, the disturbing reality is that it will be the British government that shapes not only the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union, but also the domestic field of play on which we must continue the campaign for independence.
All fantasies of a second referendum and a people’s vote aside, we are faced with two possible outcomes to the present crisis; May’s capitulation to the expectations of the EU and Ireland or that of the Brexiteer rebels in her Cabinet and in the ranks of her party. These, given that Scotland has no power over these events, are the only two options on the table. Neither of these – it is true – gives anything to Scotland or Wales, but one is markedly better than the other. It is no secret that a no-deal exit from the European Union will force the British government to shore up its power within the UK and consolidate all its reserves; all its political and economic assets, if it is to stand a chance of weathering the storm ahead. In a word, this means Scotland’s assets.
We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a hard Brexit of this nature will see the British government descend like a wolf on the flock. By any means necessary the British state will crack down on every locus of resistance that stands or threatens to stand in its way. With every ounce of its strength – up to and including the imposition of a state of emergency and the use of the armed forces – the hegemonic British state will level the devolved administrations, arrogating all power back to where it imagines it belongs – London. While it might be the case that a hard Brexit clamp-down will re-energise the independence movement and accelerate Scotland’s progress towards independence, this will be the worst possible route out of the union.
The other option is that presented by Mrs May’s acquiescence, the proposed deal she has delivered to Brussels and put before her Cabinet. She says that “building… a new and enduring relationship for the good of our children and grandchildren is a matter of the highest consequence,” and she is right, but this is not it. This deal is a short-sighted and pragmatic solution to a long-term problem. But it preserves the status quo on the same shoogly peg it has been on since the 2014 referendum. More than this, it actually prepares the current constitution for a controlled demolition with regard to the six counties in the north of Ireland. This is something we have never seen before, and, with respect to the concession it makes, it makes other concessions thinkable in ways they were not since the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty.
Possibilities are created in this for Scotland. Mrs May’s approach throughout, as she said today, “has been to put the national interest first.” We should believe her when she says this, but we should be prepared to listen closely to the nuance in what she is saying. When she speaks of the “national interest” she is not speaking of the United Kingdom. Had this been what she meant by “national” she would not be saying it in the context of a deal she is trying to make which will see the amputation of part of that nation. Northern Ireland is not her nation. English politicians are not unionists, they have no need to be unionists. They are imperialists. What we comprehend as the union they see as the extension of England – the United Kingdom as Greater England.
This point was grasped well, albeit too late, on Tuesday by the DUP when in a statement ahead of talks at Downing Street it wrote: “No unionist Prime Minister could argue that such a deal is in the national interest.” The nation to the naïve Ulster unionists is the union, but Theresa May is not a unionist. She is an English nationalist and an imperialist – the very definition of a Tory. The Empire – the nations and territories of Greater England – serve the needs of England’s national interest, a service which includes amputation when required. But right now, when it is clear the six counties have become surplus to England’s requirements, Scotland is not.
It comes as no surprise, then, when she speaks of “our national life,” that there is precisely no mention of Scotland or Wales in her proposal. This is also why she has the boldness to claim that the people of Britain are “looking to the Conservative Party to deliver.” No one in Scotland and Wales is looking to the Conservative Party to deliver anything. She is not talking about Scotland and Wales. This proposal she has made is in England’s national interest and this is why it is so concerned – with a characteristic lack of concern – with Northern Ireland. The removal of the six counties from the union is in England’s national interest. What is in the best interests of the union is of no consequence because the union serves, as it always has, the interests of England.
As this penny drops in Belfast there are important matters to reflect upon in Edinburgh. First, we must recognise and accept that “the national interest” on May’s lips is neither the union nor the Scottish interest. Independentistas have already realised that this national interest is not their national interest, but unionists north of the border have not quite come to see that it is not in the best interests of the union either. Given their common cause with Ulster unionists, this proposal may just be the wake up call they need. Scotland will be used and disposed of as England sees fit, and that will have nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland’s national interest nor indeed the interests of the union as that construct is understood by unionists in Scotland.
Realpolitik demands that we in Scotland accept May’s deal for what it is and take from it what is needed, the knowledge that we are a vassal of Greater England. That special status has been granted to Northern Ireland, in spite of May’s claims to the contrary before now, must drive us to demand the same; refusing to accept anything less than the same exceptions that have been proposed for Northern Ireland. Both unionists and nationalists have to put Scotland’s national interest first. This interest is now in direct competition with England’s interests in Scotland, and our failure to assert our rights and nationhood may prove disastrous if we fail to realise the danger in making the same assumptions made by unionists in the north of Ireland.
Mrs May’s proposal, whether she has grasped this or not, concedes that the union is already dead. Everything else that progresses from the Brexit project from this point on will be state policy decided at Westminster by English MPs in the English national interest. It is this which opens the way for Scotland to both assert its own national will and grant England what it truly wants – a kingdom of England, away from the concerns of other nations and unions. It is in Scotland’s national interest that we do this, and this is why we must support May’s deal over the no deal alternative.
Theresa May on Brexit: ‘Am I going to see this through? Yes’
12 thoughts on “In the National Interest”
Thank you for this.
Unless this is handled very carefully, as is being done by the Scottish government and SNP, certain elements in England and amongst their Unionist confreres in Scotland would be more than happy to send/welcome troops into Scotland again.
Volatile, history changing times.
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Yes, I’m coming to that view too.
You are incorrect.
A hard Brexit no deal crash out will be a great asset to Scotland because it will allow Scotland to have a Scottish independence referendum and win it and remember UK is under EU law until April 2019.
A week is a long time in politics
If England ever despatch armed forces to Scotland to reverse Scottish independece England will never again be able to control Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland with anything other than armed forces on the streets and they cannot do that forever in the modern world.
By waiting too long – the SNP are being wedged.
This was always the risk in the SNP not driving the process for independence and trusting the case during the entire 2 year shit show. (and don’t come back with “there was not the appetite”…SNP left a vacuum and never focused the population’s attention with a campaign for Indy…were you just hoping it would fall into your lap because…BREXIT).
Westminster has multiple options now – None of them good for Scotland or the SNP.
– It only has to delay and automatically Brexit powers kick in – allowing the ending of devolution.
– SNP vote for her deal – they are permanently tarred (accepting UK over EU)
– Voting against the deal – NO DEAL BREXIT….(go back to option 1)
Option 1 & 3 are the same.
Option 2 is guaranteed to be the slow death of the SNP
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So are you giving in before we even get started. We would not have won our Independence 1 year ago. Now more people are coming round to voting YES. It’s very easy when you’re not in government to criticise. Personally I think they are doing a good job given the circumstances. We will get our referendum and I will be out there fighting for it. Will You?
I am not saying the SNP or YES should give up. I was only trying to point out that the politics in play are more complex than Jason stated. Westminster are playing for keeps and it will get politically brutal.
The only way for YES to win is to really know the options (not the options you want) and move the game to where the negatives for you are no longer in play.
Nicola and the SNP leadership team have demonstrated they are some of the most savvy in UK politics and I just hope they have an ace or 2 up their sleeve. But for now it is way past time for YES to get its skates on and gather the public to the lifeboats…making clean air for the final SNP actions.
I don’t agree. I think it is important to fight for Scottish independence, but it is also important to fight against any form of Brexit for any part of the UK. In the Brexit referendum, Scotland voted 62% to remain in the EU. The Scottish government has a mandate to resist Brexit…not to accept May’s weaselly deal, & not to simply remain in the single market & the customs union whilst abandoning all the other benefits of EU membership…both these options are a lot less desirable & a lot more damaging than just staying in the EU. The No Deal nightmare scenario just has to be rejected out of hand. The entire Brexit process should by now have made most Scots sit up & finally realise that independence is the best & only way forward, & it should be fought for, westminster governments are bad for us & every nation should have it’s freedom…but at the moment we are still in the UK. It is still possible for Brexit to be stopped, because it is such a manifest failure, it is in any of its forms highly damaging… It has to be stopped, the way you have to cure a disease or else snuff it… This evening I watched more English politicians drivelling on about how a new Brexit referendum would destroy trust in the political system, & I had to ask myself what planet these morons think they are on…there has been no trust in the tories, labour or the libdems for a very long time, & the Westminster system is utterly broken, it doesn’t work. A new referendum, or just axing Brexit, would go some way towards getting these political parties off the hook, but it’ll take a long time for them ever to be trusted. On the other hand, the SNP & the Scottish government enjoy a large measure of trust & confidence from the Scottish people…it would not be good to erode that by compromising what the Scots voted for. Scotland should go independent not because of Brexit, but regardless of it. An independent Scotland would better off with English neighbours that we had helped to remain in the EU, & worse off with an England next door that had quit the EU.
Northern Ireland will be subsumed into an united Ireland.
Scotland will become the equivalent of N Ireland on the mainland, the resulting resentment could see conflict of a kind never before witnessed in three hundred years.
A truly frightening prospect.
Absolutely correct and could not agree more. England has always seen and acted as though Scotland was a colony. And they have certainly exploited Scotland since 1707
Amidst all of this froth in the media, am I quite daft in continuing to think that maybe, just maybe, the Maybot plan is the same as it ever was – Brexit in name only?
And wrt NI, am I just stupid in thinking that with the current proposal, all the control over entry of goods from U.K. into EU lies with Uk, if said route is chosen to be via Belfast? So, er, it’s entirely up to the U.K. government how much inspection and restriction is placed on movements into and out of EU from and to U.K.? Surely all U.K. manufacturers, suppliers, farmers and fishers just go and register an office in Belfast? And the all internal shipments are U.K. business, and onward export from Belfast is agreed and facilitated EU/U.K. business?
I’ve wondered before why they didn’t just go for the same arrangement with us here in Scotland, as that would be an easier access route – and then I thought, hmm, paperwork – there’s no actual need to physically move goods through NI – just have the paperwork route it all that way.
We’ve a right to be fretful of NI trading advantage, big style, over Scotland with the proposal.
But then I’m maybe just daft.
All the posters on here have valid points to make. It is very difficult to see through the smog and determine which is the best option given all of the possibilities and the fact that Westminster is getting all its ducks in a row to subsume Scotland into its greater England project. It would be best if England was not left as a basket case at the end of all this as a cornered rat will fight to the death. We must allow them a way out of the catastophy they have created, to do otherwise invites self destruction.
The real question is how to do this without causing damage. Scottish and Irish Unionists must now recognise they have been played for mugs for a long time, some of them are still in denial unfortunately. I think the best and most honourable option is to allow a “Border Pol”l in Northern Ireland and continue any subsidy required for a while until the economy there gets off its knees. A simultaneous Indyref would allow Scotland too to go its own way without acrimony. Wangland can then have their Brexit wet dream.
If there is another way, let’s hear it.