Westminster is not the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as it pretends. The massive democratic deficit in the House of Commons – in which English seats more than double the combined seats allocated to Scotland, Wales, and the occupied counties in Ireland – ensures that Scotland is not represented in what is mathematically and for all other intents and purposes the English parliament. Westminster is where the democratic will of the Scottish people – an entire nation – is dominated and so silenced by the will of England and its people.
Responding to Black Lives Matter protesters who pulled down a statue of a slave trader – a slave trader for fuck’s sake, the Prime Minister used the term ‘thuggery,’ a term that has been used to describe and dehumanise young black men in the United States; exposing them to the violence of the police officers of a racist state and the reason these protests are taking place in the first place. But we don’t expect any better from Johnson, do we? – the man who thought it just swell to recite the putrid racism of Kipling in a Myanmar temple and denigrate British Muslim women.
Right-wing populist governments with designs on capturing the state and fascism, such as Donald Trump’s and Boris Johnson’s are, are bringing home the shock doctrine consecutive US and British governments have employed on their foreign interventionist adventures since the US-backed coup and military takeover of Chile in 1973. This is the neoliberal dream; to see powerful and cohesive democracies softened up by truncheons, rent asunder by socio-economic division, and fractured into thousands of squabbling factions of the oppressed.
But let us be absolutely clear on one thing, no matter what he has said in his latest panicked announcement, neither Boris Johnson nor the British government have been on this track from the beginning. In fact, they are extremely late to the party. Our hope – and it is a sincere hope – is that these measures will be enough, but the greatest likelihood is that the gate has been closed long after the horse has bolted. People were always going to die of this virus. There is no way to stop a virus. But Boris Johnson has by his wilful inaction and arrogance set Britain up to fail – and fail bad.
It is completely unnerving that the British government considered this approach in the first place, and we should have all been questioning the expertise of these gormless ‘experts’ the moment Whitty said the British public’s response to crisis was ‘extraordinary outbreaks of altruism,’ and when Vallance suggested, based on an expert sub-group, ‘that people don’t panic, they take what seems like logical decisions based on what they believe.’
As if on cue, no sooner was Brexit Day over than news began circulating of a notice posted for residents in a Norwich tower block telling people to speak English or go home. ‘We do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats,’ said the notice, before going on to encourage immigrants to return to their own countries and free up housing for white English-speaking British people. Monika Wiśniewska, a Polish author living in England, took to social media to describe how Polish people were now being described as ‘vermin.’
Less than fifteen minutes in I was too dejected to listen any more. The social media feed was telling me I wasn’t alone. Another over-hyped empty announcement from ‘the only person who can win our independence,’ another dead-end from ‘the only show in town,’ and another painful frustration from ‘the only party that can do it.’ Of course, I bought none of this. Reason and the experience of the past six years warned me to expect nothing, but hope – that twisted trick the psyche plays on us – had me thinking there was a chance; slim and unlikely, but a chance.
There are no legal routes to independence. We cannot challenge the British government over its refusal to grant a Section 30 because there is no mechanism in law with which to do this, and there is no constitutional requirement of the British government to do it either. This was always a fiction. Scotland does not have the same relationship of consent with the London government the people of the north of Ireland have in the Good Friday Agreement. Britain does not legally require the consent of the Scottish people to government Scotland.