There are, of course, people telling bloggers like me to calm down, that the polls are in our favour – which they are, but the polls don’t matter when we don’t have a party in government in Scotland with the minerals to act. All we are getting from the SNP-led Scottish government in Edinburgh are deeply problematic and divisive policy suggestions and dogmatic calls for loyalty and blind obedience – to the party and not the cause for independence.
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.
We see this authoritarian and fascistic impulse too in the behaviour of the party towards those in the party of a more radical or even simply an alternative disposition towards independence. It would not be inaccurate to describe a number of efforts against people who have aligned themselves to a ‘Plan B’ as a purge. Those who have refused to toe the utterly futile Section 30 route to independence have been attacked, left twisting in the wind, and de-selected. One MSP, who will remain anonymous, voiced concerns to me...
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.
Given that Westminster is not in Scotland’s bests interests and that devolution, as it is, is not fit for purpose – things even Murdo Fraser has conceded, Nicola Sturgeon has proposed an open process of dialogue with the British unionist parties seeking to gain something short of independence but better than what we have. In a world running short on statesmen, this was a splendid – even Bismarckian – act of statesmanship, and kudos to her for it. Some may see this as a sell-out, but I will argue the case that it is not. This is a smart move.
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.
Playing this model is lose-lose for the independence cause. Whichever route we take, be that the “we don’t need permission” option or the queen exchange model à la Keatings, the outcome will be the same – a rapid escalation from a flat refusal to the use of violence. Therefore, it is us and not the British government who are clean out of options – forcing us then to take the path of least resistance. Both will be met with resistance, there is no doubt of that, but one offers significantly less than the other. Keatings makes a good point, however...