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...
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.
Indeed nothing has changed. The Scottish government, rather than dropping the idea of another referendum, has simply delayed introducing the required legislation until after the Brexit process has been completed.