Independence and the People’s Vote campaign, while both aligned against the present London government, are also in profound political opposition. Independentistas looking for a People’s Vote in order to mitigate a Brexit deal made by the British government are lending support to the union by ignoring the fact that Scotland has already rejected Brexit. The people of Scotland went to the polls on the day of the EU referendum and voted to remain in the European Union.
When the Advocate General says Westminster is sovereign and the Scottish parliament is not he is presuming a definition of sovereignty which is fundamentally foreign to the Scottish national constitution. More than this, he is assuming a unicity – a singular notion of sovereignty and power in a singular British state – that has never before been made explicit. He is giving England’s idea of sovereignty priority over that of Scotland. This engenders a worrying logical problem; unicity renders the heretofore existing duality of legal understandings impossible.
Details of an unpublished report leaked to the press reveal that Theresa May’s government is at present modelling three Brexit scenarios; “mild, severe and Armageddon” – yes, you read that right, “Armageddon.” In the event of a no-deal exit from the European Union – now the most likely outcome of the Article 50 negotiations – the “mild” scenario is a non-starter. Without a trade deal or a contingency plan – which, as yet, does not exist – the UK will be faced with at least a few weeks in which half the basic food and medical demands of the country cannot be met.
Nicola Sturgeon promised the Scottish people she would revisit the question of another independence referendum when the details of a negotiated Brexit were better known, and while the clock is still running on the Article 50 talks the reset button on the final shape Brexit will take has just been pressed. We are now no closer to knowing the probable shape Brexit will take than we were at the end of June 2016. Yet, this isn’t quite bad news for Scotland – certainly not for the independence cause.
An impending checkmate has brought May to her senses, but in doing so she has had to erase all her lines in the sand – up to and including her position on the free movement of people. As the negotiations are ongoing, when May takes this compromise to Europe it is likely Barnier will up the ante by demanding this third pillar – effectively compelling the British to take the only remaining offer on the table; a Brexit that doesn’t mean Brexit, and that would be the end game for her.
London has every reason to deny it is currently considering the idea. May’s government depends on the support of the DUP, the political representatives of Ulster Loyalists – a community in the province that wants to see no difference between its “country” and the rest of the UK. But the British government has a nasty habit of denying its plans around Brexit. It denied a power grab in Scotland, and we all know what happened then. Denial is a British tactic designed to limit resistance to its plans until they are ready to be rolled out.
Next year is too late, and it is troubling – quite frankly – to see how many people in the independence movement do not get this. Brexit fundamentally alters the political landscape on which we are campaigning for independence. Outside the European Union and without anything approaching an equitable trade agreement; which is the most likely outcome, the United Kingdom will be forced to rely on Scotland’s mineral resources. Britain cannot survive a southbound Brexit without its northern lifeline.
What is most apparent from this willingness on the part of London to create an Irish exception by adjusting the border [back to where it should be], is that the UK has now begun the process of physical deterioration. Regulatory divergence between the north of Ireland and the rest of the UK is and can only be the thin end of the wedge that will see Northern Ireland leave the UK and join a united Ireland. Regulatory cohesion and economic unity have always had political ramifications, and as the EU continues towards political unity both parts of Ireland will be pulled closet together.