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.
After 29 March the rules of the game will change. Even the chief Brexiteers have conceded that in the immediate aftermath of Brexit the United Kingdom will suffer an economic and financial shock magnitudes greater than the 2007 credit crunch. Jacob Rees-Mogg is on record stating it might take fifty years for recovery to begin. The word from Ireland tonight was “brace for impact.” After 29 March – just 73 days from now – Britain’s economic and financial survival will become dependent on Scotland’s oil and gas resources to a degree to which it never has in the past.
It would be all too easy for me to sit back here in Dublin and comment on social media that this is what’s needed, expecting someone else to answer the call and hit the road. But that would make me part of the problem, another keyboard worrier unwilling to actually act. I don’t want to be that person and I know I don’t need permission: If not me, then who? If not now, then when? So, I have determined to hit the road – to do what I can do to convince people the time is short, to empower people to get back into formation, and to persuade others to do the same.
This is our moment. We have no time left; no time to wait on a signal that might never come, might not even be planned. Action makes things happen, and this is our time to act. We are a democracy, and in democracies the people call the shots and not the elected politicians. We set the agenda and make them dance to our tune. We don’t have a single moment to lose. If we want independence now, and if we don’t want to leave this unresolved for our great-grandchildren to fight anew, now – today – is the time to move without permission.
Time is fast running out. On 29 March, eighty-five days from today, these conditions will be realised when the United Kingdom leaves the EU – and most likely without a deal. If we are to guarantee independence in our lifetimes, then the time to act is now. Nothing, of course, is impossible, but the likelihood of yet another opportunity like this presenting itself within the next fifty years is slim to none. We have a threefold mandate under the present conditions to call another independence referendum, and time on this is even running out.
When Ruth Davidson said that we would not be permitted another independence referendum until 2027, what she means – in case you are in any doubt – is that there will be no independence referendum for Scotland so long as the Tories remain in power. As long as the Tories remain in power? But the Tories are not in power in Scotland. Scotland’s pro-British Conservatives do not even hold a quarter of the seats in the Scottish parliament. They have no claim to the democratic consent of the Scottish people – they are a minority party.
Scotland’s independence is a question of justice, and no injustice can last forever. Having come to see the nature of the injustice of British rule, we have come to know that final defeat is impossible. No matter how many defeats – no matter how crushing, in the end Scotland will be free. Our efforts now are not so much a contest against unionism. The union is already dead. Our competition is against future generations of the independence movement. We must rob them of the glory by ensuring that freedom is won in our generation, to our glory and immortal memory.
Listening to people in the “grassroots” of the independence movement, as opposed to those who have styled themselves the political, cultural, and intellectual leadership of the movement (the kites and the crows), we hear other objectives. There are those who want independence “for their children and grandchildren,” “for the future,” “to end austerity,” “to put power back in the hands of the Scottish people,” and so on. This is not the independence envisioned by Sarsfield, the leaders of 1798, nor indeed Ireland’s campaign for Home Rule.