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By Jason Michael
IT IS WISHFUL THINKING to imagine that the First Minister and the Scottish government are “playing the long game” on independence. It is equally as fanciful to believe they have a masterplan lying on the bottom shelf of a safe waiting to be rolled out when the timing is just right. The fact is that we simply have no evidence to support these naïve assumptions. In reality, given the volatility of the times in which we find ourselves, it is more likely the case there are a number of working plans in the pot – all contingent on changing circumstances. It is not altogether improbable, considering the break-neck speed of political developments around Brexit, that a number of plans for an independence referendum have been dropped in the shredder.
Realpolitik is the business of practical politics, based on the ever-changing conditions of the political weather than on idealised notions and ideas based on ideology. We may have independence as our immediate political goal, but the weather systems in which we must navigate a course to that end are in a constant state of flux – meaning, quite simply, that grand strategies and masterplans seldom, if ever, actually exist. So, we are left to deal with day-to-day contingencies, and, when it comes to the current state of Brexit, those are coming at us thick and fast.
"She doesn't seem to have any clear idea of what the next steps are... she doesn't appear to be prepared to move he… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
ScotsVsAusterity (@ScotIndyDebate) January 16, 2019
This, however, at the moment, is not necessarily bad news. On the contrary, the news – at this moment in time – is rather good. Until 29 March, unless Europe relents and offers the United Kingdom at twelve-month stay of execution, we are part of the EU and therefore subject to its laws, rules, and regulations. Until we are actually out of Europe we are in, and therefore we are working within a political framework in which there has been no material change. Only after 29 March, when the UK officially slings its hook, will we be in new and heretofore unfamiliar territory. Post-Brexit our rules of engagement with the British government will inevitably change, but for the time being we have a small and shrinking window of opportunity wherein we can pull off a coup de main on independence.
Beyond that point – let’s deal with the downside first – the British state will be forced, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to fundamentally alter its state-political behaviour. In this scenario all of the UK’s agreements and treaties with the other 27 EU member states will be set to zero. The UK will have no independent trade agreements on the international stage. It will have to begin from scratch – a process of careful negotiations that will take months, possibly ever years. Non trading states, especially states like the UK that do not produce enough food and manufactured goods to sustain their populations, are essentially failed states. The economic impact of a “crash out” no-deal Brexit on the British economy will be catastrophic.
In order to survive the British government will quickly revert to an old imperialist mode of operation; one it trusts and perhaps the only modus operandi – thanks to the education of its ruling class – it truly understands. British imperialism has always been a mercantile and financial project, excellently illustrated in the history of the East India Company and its eventual absorption into the British Empire in India. In the worst-case scenario, the British establishment will return to this form of trade and economic expansionism as a survival mechanism, except – now – London’s empire is significantly smaller, thus making it entirely dependent on Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Sadly, for us, Northern Ireland remains a financial liability – and will become more so when monies from the EU stop. Wales’ GDP sits at about £61.5 billion and Scotland’s at about £166 billion (plus its North Sea oil and gas resources) – so, guess where London’s avaricious little eyes will be looking!
Dubh Stiubhart (@The_Mighty_S) January 16, 2019
Following a no-deal exit from the European Union, Scotland will be tucked up, to quote Del Boy Trotter, “like a turkey who’s just caught Bernard Matthews grinning at him.” If there is no deal and if Scotland fails to secure a route to independence before that happens, for the foreseeable future, independence will become an impossibility for Scotland. It will be trapped in a union in which the British state relies on it exclusively for its survival.
But we are not there yet. There is a window of opportunity between now and 29 March for Scotland, playing by rules safeguarded by the UK’s membership of the EU, to steer a course through another referendum to independence. It is no longer the case that we are in doubt as to whether we would be forced to reapply for EU membership after independence. Senior EU parliamentarians have voiced their opinions in support of independence and that, as current members, we meet the criteria of membership. Moreover, given that Scotland voted to remain in the EU in 2016, it is highly likely that – as England and Wales (possibly including Northern Ireland) are leaving – we will remain within the EU as the successor state of the UK; this was the deal on the table for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you will remember, in 2014.
It is not up to me, as a humble Belgian, to lecture Brits on what to do, but I think it’s time the national interes… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) January 16, 2019
The problem we have is that time is running out. We have 72 days until this window shuts, and, if the chaos of the past couple of years is anything to go by, the political terrain will change rapidly and daily until the clock runs out. Uncertainty over Brexit has had a profound impact on Scottish public opinion. Without Brexit the polls have moved to 47 per cent in favour of independence, with Brexit those climb to 53 per cent, and a no-deal Brexit jacks them up to 59 per cent. Bearing in mind that support for independence at the start of 2012 was below 30 per cent – a number that rose to 45 per cent through the independence referendum campaign of 2012-14, these polls are outstanding. Our pre-campaign polls for independence have never looked so good.
In sum, there has never been a better moment in modern times for us to strike for independence. As we have nothing tangible from Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government on a fresh referendum, and as we have no time left to waste, it has become an absolute imperative – if we want independence now – that we in the grassroots movement kick ourselves into action and start putting pressure on the Scottish National Party to get the wheels in motion. Our determination and action have now become critical to the campaign – they always were.
Alan Bissett’s pre-Brexit thoughts and opinions on Scottish Independence