Tweet Follow @RPJblog
By Jason Michael
SPEAKING AT DINGWALL in the north of Scotland before the weekend, SNP MP and leader of the SNP parliamentary group in the House of Commons Ian Blackford was asked a wonderful question which quite clearly dragged him out of his comfort zone. An audience member stood and states his worry that if “Boris Johnson [becomes Prime Minister] and surrounds himself with like-minded idiots, they will do away with the Scotland Act altogether.” The statement electrified the room. People are genuinely concerned that this is what the British government will do. It was also something I addressed on my recent talking tour of the country, but we will return to that later.
Blackford laughed before answering, a laugh that came with an expression which said more about his nervousness than the answer he was about to give. “You could never rule out anything that Westminster would do,” he said, before continuing:
I would simply say that if Boris Johnson or anyone else was to get rid of the Scotland Act, and therefore get rid of the Scottish parliament, the people of Scotland wouldn’t accept that. It’s as simple as that.
But it’s not as simple as that, and the big hard swallow he made after answering betrayed the fact that not even Ian Blackford thought it was as simple as that. Certainly, the Highland audience never bought his answer. The room erupted in disbelief, forcing Blackford to repeat the answer and swiftly move on to the next question. Seeing as the United Kingdom doesn’t have a written constitution, as the man who asked the question himself said, anything is possible and Westminster has done precisely this in the past. When in Dublin the first Dáil Éireann – the Irish parliament – declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1919, the response from London was to send in the British Army and suppress the parliament.
"What if Boris Johnson does away with the Scotland Act?" Not even Ian Blackford was comfortable with the answer he… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) June 21, 2019
However, we are not talking about Ireland a hundred years ago. The suppression of Scottish devolution is about the present and it is about Scotland and the response of the Scottish people. So, we must deal with his assertion that we Scots simply would not put up with this. Prior to this discussion we must first consider the tensions within Westminster with regard to Scotland. Our country is moving towards independence. Of course, unionists in Scotland can deny this all they want, but their endless efforts to subvert the SNP and the independence movement highlight their very real fears that we are indeed living in the last days of the union. England – the only nation that matters in Westminster – is in something of a bind; on the one hand a majority of Conservatives and other Brexiteers would rather lose Scotland and the north of Ireland than lose Brexit, while, on the other, them with the brains know Britain’s economy depends on Scotland’s oil and gas resources – a dependence that will only become more acute after Brexit.
England will have its Brexit, but before it has what it wants it must first resolve this tension. The Scottish parliament has become a locus of resistance to London’s Brexit and austerity agendas, and pulling Scotland from the European Union against its wishes will only further strengthen resistance to Westminster in the country. In fact, left unchecked, Scotland has become the only part of the UK that has the potential to derail England’s Brexit. The occupied six counties don’t have the resources Scotland does and can be ditched without incurring any real cost to the exchequer. Scotland is a different story. When it comes to the Scottish question, London wants to have its cake and eat it – meaning, The British government must both get rid of Scotland and keep its resources. This might sound impossible, but it isn’t really.
Ian Blackford cited figures I too quoted while on tour. He spoke of the British government’s fifteen-year economic projections for any kind of Brexit scenario, showing that the whole of the UK economy would take a hit of anywhere between 2.5 and 9 per cent. His numbers were wrong. The British government report he is quoting, EU Exit – long-term economic analysis (November 2018), actually puts this economic shrinkage to between 2 and 10.7 per cent. The higher figure reflects the damage of a no-deal Brexit, and considering the 2008 economic crisis and recession – from which we are still recovering over a decade later – only wiped 2.6 per cent off the economy, this no-deal Brexit threatens Scotland with absolute economic ruin. It is over four times the magnitude of the credit crunch. More worrying than this, it takes us over the 8 per cent economic deflation threshold at which economic pain causes enough political upheaval to cause state collapse.
YesTV.Scot Cybernat 🏴🇪🇺 (@YesTVdotScot) June 21, 2019
Britain is not going to face the prospect of this level of economic chaos without controlling Scotland’s resources, yet neither can it risk Scotland continuing to upset the Brexit dream and the hoped-for creation of the Great British tax haven. In short, London really does have to have its cake and eat it if any of this is to stand a chance of working. So, how can Westminster get rid of Scotland and keep its paws on our resources at the same time? Easy – you cut off the head. Actually, using emergency powers – which have already been prepared in advance between Theresa May and the British Army – the Scotland Act can be abolished and the Scottish parliament suppressed. Blackford himself acknowledges that nothing can be ruled out. The harsh reality is that closing Holyrood and re-centralising powers in London is the last hope of securing an economically almost possible Brexit. It’s certainly the most logical thing to do – and it wouldn’t be illegal.
We have been led to believe that the current constitutional settlement is permanent, but this is a politico-legal fiction. England’s notion of sovereignty does not allow for the permanence of the Scottish parliament or any other devolved parliament for that matter. The ‘Crown in Parliament’ is the idea that the absolute power of the Crown – an unfettered and limitless sovereignty – rests in the London parliament. Such an understanding of power cannot accept the limitation of permanent devolution. No Westminster parliament can impose a restriction on the power of future parliaments, which means that any government in Westminster can cancel devolution whenever it deems it necessary. That is the precarious legal and constitutional reality of Holyrood.
This stated, would the British government dare to do such a thing – especially considering that “the people of Scotland wouldn’t accept that?” Let’s not flatter ourselves here. Britain fought a 30-year civil war in the north of Ireland, through which it denied people their civil and political rights, murdered civilians, routinely violated people’s human rights, and as a consequence suffered a prolonged IRA bombing campaign on the British mainland and an armed insurgency it could not possibly hope to defeat. The Good Friday Agreement brought that war to an end, ensuring peace for an entire generation of Irish and English people. Now because of Brexit and England’s selfish isolationist ambitions that treaty is now in tatters. Ireland is on the brink of descending back into the dark days of the Troubles, and Westminster couldn’t care less. Only an absolute bampot would imagine that the Scotland Act means more to the British regime than the Good Friday Agreement.
Nothing of this is news to Ian Blackford. He is no bampot. He knows perfectly well what the British government is capable of doing – what it is willing to do to get what it wants. No one in the room – including Blackford – was convinced with the answer he gave. The only part he got right was when he opened by saying: “You could never rule out anything that Westminster would do.” And that is the truth of it, Westminster has limitless power over Scotland. It will do whatever it wants in order to get whatever England wants, no matter the cost. If Boris Johnson and the idiots around him are not afraid of a renewed armed struggle in Ireland, you can bet your last penny they care even less about what Scots think about their parliament being shut.
Sinn Féin’s Leader on Why Brexit Threatens the Peace Process in Ireland