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By Jason Michael
MOST SCOTS NOW BELIEVE that independence is the best option for Scotland, and for the greater part of the past twelve months the opinion polls have reflected this new political reality. Regardless, then, of all the negativity in the independence movement about the apparent inaction of the Scottish National Party and the bad taste left in many people’s mouths in the aftermath of the Alex Salmond court case fiasco, Scotland’s future – with the proviso nothing significant changes – is set. We are moving to independence. But before we get too excited and pop open the champagne there are a few inconvenient facts on the ground we have to consider. There still remain a few obstacles in the way of the future we want.
Scotland remains a subject nation of England within the United Kingdom, and – subject to the will of England – with the rest of the United Kingdom we have been taken out of the European Union. Scotland, together with the occupied counties of Ireland and the colony of Gibraltar, voted to stay in the European Union, but, unlike the occupied counties and Gibraltar, Scotland does not have a deal effectively protecting its place in Europe. For the purposes of law and foreign relations therefore, Scotland is indistinguishable from the rest of Britain – we are no longer a member of the EU and we have lost all our rights as European citizens.
✅ Northern Ireland votes to Remain in EU and gets a special deal ✅ Gibraltar votes to Remain in EU and gets a speci… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Ross Colquhoun (@rosscolquhoun) December 31, 2020
As of eleven o’clock in the evening on 31 December 2020 – a day that will live on in infamy – Scotland is entirely subject to the will and pleasure of Westminster, the parliament of England. The future of our democracy; our devolved parliament, depends wholly on the tolerance and patience of England, English MPs, and the English qua British government in London. Irrespective of the promise made in ‘the Vow’ on 16 September 2014, that if Scotland elected to remain in the British union our parliament would become a permanent institution, Scotland and its parliament have for the past six years been a thorn in the side of the Westminster regime and now find themselves high on the British government’s post-Brexit hit-list. It is inconceivable now that the Scottish parliament will be allowed to function as it has done to date.
In the months ahead, we can expect to see one of two things happen; either the continuation of the Westminster power grab, reclaiming powers from Holyrood until our parliament is completely toothless, or the end of Scottish devolution and the permanent closer of our parliament. Britain’s so-called independence from Europe will be a hard road and it will threaten – as it has done already – to undermine the stability and cohesion of the British union state. The British government will thus do what is required to protect the state – and, not to put too fine a point on it, this necessitates a tightening of Scotland’s leash. We are about to experience that shock.
Yet, we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position where we cannot blame England or the British government for this awful predicament in which we find ourselves. At every single step of the Brexit drama the Scottish National Party and the Scottish government rejected opportunities that would have paved the way to a referendum and independence. Immediately after the EU referendum, the ‘Maggie Simpson map’ of the results across Britain demonstrated clearly the different paths Scotland and England were taking. And despite promising that Scotland would not be taken out of the European Union against its will, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, took up the campaign in London – with newfound unionist allies – to save England from its own decision. Naturally, her supporters defended this foolishness to the rest of the independence movement in Scotland; saying we had to be seen to be doing everything in our power to save Scotland from Brexit. We gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Nothing of the sort is clear. What is clear is my determination that Tories won't drag us out of EU against our will twitter.com/bbcdouglasf/st…—
Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) July 06, 2016
Even when the Scottish government and the other devolved administrations were shut out of the Brexit negotiations, the promises continued. We would not be taken out of the European Union against our will. And as we were being told this, as the British government continued to erode the power of the Scottish parliament, the SNP repeatedly dismissed any notion of a ‘Plan B,’ limiting our route to independence to the Section 30, while it was busy legislating in Edinburgh for a Section 30 to be the gift of the London government. Any rational observer would assume that the Scottish government was working with the British state to close and lock the door on independence. Still Sturgeon’s loyalists kept shouting: ‘She’s playing a blinder,’ ‘She has a plan,’ ‘We’re waiting for her to fire the starting gun.’ An environment developed in which it became heresy to question what the First Minister and her government were doing. They certainly weren’t plumbing for independence.
Before the EU referendum, the idea was to hold off on another independence referendum unless there was a ‘material change in circumstances.’ When England elected to leave the European Union – a significant material change in circumstances for Scotland – the idea changed to a holding pattern, until the final details of the Brexit deal were known. When it was clear there would be no deal or a last-minute deal not worth a jot for Scotland the idea simply moved on to a vague hope of an independence referendum after Brexit. Sure, once again the SNP is talking about an independence referendum in 2021, but there’s an election coming up in May – and the SNP always now talks about a referendum before elections. But what good will this talk do? The Scottish government has handed the gift of a Section 30 order over to the British government, giving Boris Johnson the freedom to do what he just did; say that now is not the time, remind Scots about ‘Once in a generation,’ and kick any consideration of the question all the way down the road to 2055.
"Once in a generation" was a throwaway line in an eve of poll speech. (and, arguably should have been thrown away!)… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
ruth wishart (@ruth_wishart) January 03, 2021
It looks to me as though the present leadership of the Scottish National Party has simply created the conditions in which London can refuse a Section 30 order and the Scottish government can get off the hook because at least it asked. The SNP can talk about a referendum in 2021 until the cows come home, but without the permission of the Westminster regime that is never going to happen. It might happen if we had a Plan B – or any alternative, but we don’t. The Scottish National Party has already made it perfectly clear that it will not support an ‘illegal’ referendum – one without the sanction of London. So, what exactly does Ms Sturgeon mean about a referendum in 2021. The British Prime Minister has said No. There will be no Section 30 order in 2021 and no referendum. But the promise of it might secure the SNP another term in government. Right now, that is the only plan.
In the meantime, we have the effects of Brexit to face. No one seriously now denies that Scotland is about to face the consequences for rejecting independence in 2014. Our punishment is about to begin. There is no legal route to independence now. That ship has sailed. The law, from now on, is what the British government says it is. There will be no Section 30. By the end of 2021 there may not even be a Scottish parliament. The gradualists – read: closet unionists – have brought us to the end of the road and we have nothing to show for all our efforts. There is nowhere else for us to go on this road. It is dead end, a terminus. But it is not the only road to independence. So, Scotland, let me know when you are ready to listen and we will talk about the other road.
Nicola Sturgeon makes case for Scottish independence