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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.
“In the national interest...”. Firstly, which nation? And secondly, the only people whose interest this mess is in… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Carol Monaghan MP 🏴 (@CMonaghanSNP) November 15, 2018
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.
It is long gone, Angus. Scotland is about to be subsumed into Greater England, and many Scots have nae idea. Yet. twitter.com/AngusRobertson…—
Eileen May (@suleskerry) November 14, 2018
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.
Continuity UK Tech Sector (@naebD) November 15, 2018
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’