Monday, 11 February 2019

For Scotland, the next vote, referendum or not, is Do or Die. A referendum POST Brexit, to confirm leaving the way that 1975 confirmed joining, seems sensible. It would also give Scotland the chance to make its own choice. This morning, I wouldn't give it a snowball's chance in a circle of hell of happening. It might, however, be the standard against which to judge which of the Nightmare Before Christmas Assortment of outcomes we're faced with at the moment, insofar as it would offer the electorates in the UK and specifically in Scotland a chance to think again.
First, obviously, do the "British People" really want to entrust their fate to Boris Johnson Globalism, when, to judge by this morning on @BBCr4today , he, like most other Leavers is actually relying on pretty much remaining when it comes right down to it. (Just as a brief aside, it strikes me, and it must strike EU negotiators, that having kept buggering on about wanting this Brexit malarkey for year after year, British politicians seem to be constitutionally unable to treat it like it anything that is actually happening...)
A post Brexit referendum at the end of transition confirming whether the UK REALLY wants to leave, would give voters in Scotland a specific challenge: Do we REALLY want to go along with whatever England does, or do we REALLY want a Scotland specific relationship with the EU?
Reflecting on the Scotland-Specific meaning a putative "Confirmatory" EU referendum in the UK would have rather forces on me the following assertion that I want to test: the next election, no matter WHAT it is, is effectively a referendum on the constitution. Without necessarily meaning to, let alone planning it, it seems to me that we have arrived at a place historically where it is inescapably the case for what we used to call "the Yes movement", including the SNP, that the next vote we get is a decisive one for that constitution. Any election we take part in has to be about the decision we make on the question of our relationships with Europe and with the UK. An existential crisis is going to happen next time we vote, like it or not.
I have never been a fan of a simple repeat exercise on the 2014 referendum and "getting it right this time." I don't think the SNP Leadership is either. This is not a source of frustration to me. A second referendum loss is far more likely than a win. But more importantly, it is a principle of history that you can NEVER stand in the same stream twice. The 2014 Indyref came out of a very special set of circimstances among the most important of which was David Cameron's rock solid certainty, (advised by Labour) that he was going to win it. As far as Cameron was concerned, Project Fear in Scotland was a rehearsal for the really IMPORTANT referendum, which was the UK one on EU membership. Many books have already been written about both calculations and both outcomes. But we MUST remember that when it came right down to it, the 2014 referendum was a Tory scheme to DESTROY the Nats...and the fact that it didn't work and that we're even TALKING about a Scotland specific response to Brexit isn't actually bad going.
More important than the simple observation that time has moved on since the first half of this decade is the equally simple observation that it has moved on a LOT, very, VERY fast...and that any prescription for what we do next predicated on a past model is likely to come unstuck.
So I return to the new premise I want to test: that the next electoral test, no matter what it is, needs to be approached by the SNP (and others of the Artists Formerly Known as the Yes Movement) as seeking a mandate for a specific Scottish relationshop with the EU. Now...this sounds terribly dry and boring and unimportant...but then, until 2016 so did the EU itself...(hence the ease of the Leave vote winning and the unreality in which Leave leaders have dwelled ever since)..and now we know it's really important to who we - Brits and Scots- ARE in the world.
For example, the Brexit process has revealed that shared EU membership was absolutely CRUCIAL to the success of devolution in Northern Ireland...and, it will soon clearly emerge, in Scotland and Wales too. At its simplest, the "return" of trade and standards regulation from Brussels to the an absolute bureucratic consequence of any form of Brexit, hard or soft. Brexit will centralise power in London in a way that is unthinkable in the context of devolution. All those who created and supported the devolved settlement under which Scotland has been governed for the last twenty years will very soon find that without the roader context of EU membership (for the last forty five years) devolution simply won't work.
It should be a maxim from now on: You can have Brexit or you can have Devolution: you CANNOT have both. No Tory or Labour administration of Brexit Britain will be able to tolerate the notion that somewhere in these islands, someone can do things differently. But this, of course, is where the whole project falls apart...on what was always the Achilles heel of Empire: Ireland. That failing Ireland leaving the EU on the day the UK does, just as it joined the EEC on the same day in 1973, the entire Brexit project is incoherent. Ireland will do no such thing. And, it is my contention, that the next line of defense of ANY kind of "democratic control", whatever we call it constitutionally, is for Scotland to insist on an independent relationship with the European Union.
We need to make decent trade deals that protect the identity of Scottish Branding. (Glass of British Glenlivet anyone?) We need to control the big stuff too, like immigration policy...and agriculture, tourism...Every defender of devolution knows that devolution itself is a defense against the excesses of a UK government which cannot arithmetically reflect our views on matters of health care, education policy and on and on and on...What is really historically significant about Brexit in the context of devoluition, is that Brexit will wipe that line of defence out. We will helpless in whatever breezes Boris Johnson blows whichever orifice he blows from. And THAT is what the next election, for Westminster or Holyrood or the EU is about.
The next election, whatever it is, is a question about who governs Scotland. And if, to draw a final seventies reference, the answer to the SNP is "Not you, mate"...then so be it. But make no mistake, if the SNP win the next election in Scotland, then everything must change.  

Monday, 15 October 2018

Taking the Cure

Despite the best efforts of Irish, Welsh and Scottish nationalists, the process of Breaking Up the Union of Great Britain and Ireland is a job for the English, and always has been ever since the process really got started  in Dublin in 1916. Now, by an irony of history, it turns out that our shared membership of the EU across these islands was not only the essential underpinning of the Good Friday Agreement, it was the last glue that held together the devolved Union within the island of Great Britain as well. One of the battles yet to be properly fought is over the respective roles of the devolved Parliaments in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. Meanwhile, it is of totemic importance to the DUP’s ongoing dance of glee and grievance that the Assembly in Stormont is currently shut.  That the Parliament in Holyrood has been effectively sidelined by…well, what shall we call it nowadays…the Imperial Parliament? London, is essential to what is laughingly still referred to as a “smooth” Brexit.

The discomfort of calling Westminster either the Imperial Parliament (of the past) or indeed the English Parliament (of the future?) points to the structural dysfunction that Brexit is newly and ruthlessly exposing. The centre, to quote Ireland’s poet of 1916, cannot hold. To misquote England’s great poet, there’s quite a lot in a name. The names we call things are what all this boorach is about.

What is as old as the hills, or as Sherwood Forest, is the insouciant ease with which the words “England” and “Britain” or “English” and “British” are still apparently regarded as comfortably interchangeable, as, unfortunately, they still are in an essay on the English roots of Brexit published last week in the London Review of Books. This lazy identification has never been possible in any of the other constituents of the Union of British Nations. For one thing, we’ve always had our own patron saints and emblematic outlaws over and above St George and Robin Hood, potent though those symbols of Englishness are. My own profoundly loyal North British grandparents were wearily familiar with the phenomenon, and always regarded a hybrid identity as both Scots and British as being intrinsic to who they were – they regarded the Scots as the Best of British - whereas George Orwell, for example, in his justly famous panegyric on Englishness, The Lion and the Unicorn, acknowledged awareness of the uncomfortableness of the identification of the English and the British for his Scottish, Welsh and Irish readers in a rather irritated footnote.

No exploration of the very English roots (and likely destination) of Brexit can even remotely come to terms with any of it actually means if it doesn’t start with the insight that all four nations are going to have to learn how to name things all over again. No matter how irritating it is that the Scots, Irish, Scots-Irish and Welsh have got a head start in adapting to a new world of multiple rather than subsumed identities.

Unionism, for example, cannot be understood unless it is understood that the same word means subtly different things in all four nations that make up that union. And that hybrid rather than merged identity has always been the syntactic rule in three of them. Englishness needs to learn how to speak its name if it is to face the world with confidence. As Antony Barnett has argued in his excellent book “The Lure of Greatness”, it is only as the European English that the English will find a future.

Britishness, like every other national identity, was a series of projects, not an essence. Starting as a Protestant bulwark against dynastic Catholic Europe, it successively evolved into a commercial Empire and a Welfare State. When it ceased to be any of these three things then it ceased being a useful way to think about what it means to live on these islands. It became a distorting mirror in which to see ourselves.

But just as in 2014, the status quo, despite appearances, is not an option on the ballot paper. Just as there was no way “back to normal” in a No vote in the Scottish referendum, the events of the past few years have permanently let the English genie out of the British Bottle.  The Brexit process, like the process of the referendum in Scotland, has shone a ruthless light on tectonic change. There is no way back to the relationship with the EU that the UK used to have, and there is no way back to what Britishness, civic or civilising, used to mean.

Brexit is only the symptom. “Britain” is now the disease that awaits a cure.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Last Redoubt

Bizarrely, the image that comes to mind for the politics of Brexit for the rest of 2018 comes from the Battle of Rorke's Drift in 1879. Maybe it's may age...and seeing "Zulu" on the telly on so many Sunday afternoons. 
The defence of Scotland's place in Europe is a series of redoubts...fortified positions that you have no confidence of being able to hold. But you have to do all you can to hold one position before you are forced to retreat to the next one. he first line of defense is the simplest...and yet, for many Independence activists the most troubling.  Keep the UK in the EU. You have to do everything you can by every means. In every arena. Westminster, Holyrood, the courts, public opinion. At this moment, there even seems to be the glimmer of a chance of a referendum to decide between whatever deal HMG can cobble together...
So, for me, to be logically consistent, and to take all possible allies with you, we have to wholeheartedly try that. Remember, there is no realistic expectation of the first line of defence holding...but if and when you have to retreat to the second line of defence, a vigourous attempt to hold the first defence will have helped enormously in organising allies.
Those aliies will include...and here's the tricky part for many Nationalisits...Unionists.
In the case of Scotland and Brexit, the second "redoubt" is specific to Scotland: defending the existing devolution settlement and a differential Brexit deal for, no matter what Arlene Foster says about blood lines...there will have to be for N Ireland and Gibraltar. Again....and again Devolution supporters who oppose Independence will have to be part of that defence.
Do you see where I'm going with this? That to make every line of defence the strongest it can be, we need everyone with us. What this means is Independence supporters doing everything they can in these first two lines of defence to bring as many allies with them as possible. And THIS means refuting the accusation of "really being interested only in independence" by making sure it is seen not be true. If we can hold the "British Redoubt" and keep all of the UK inside the EU, then that is what we should commit to do. If it is Devolution we can successfully defend then that is what we should wholly commit to do. 
I believe that if we do both of these things, without any other agenda, then when the time comes (as it probably will) to retreat to the third and last redoubt, which is seeking to rejoin the EU or EFTA and thus protecting what we have been trying to protect all along... ...then the means we need to do that, political Independence of the UK State will be self-evident and consensual...and will get support rom a lot of people who don't support it yet. 
But here's the more difficult argument to make when there's an SNP conference at the weekend...for this journey to work for the people who voted No in 2014, the SNP case must genuinely be above suspicion at each redoubt. We must be genuinely commmitted to the successive defences of the whole of the Uk...and then devolution. And if those defences hold, that has to be enough.  That's where we have to stick. This journey cannot start with independence, even if we think it probably ends there. If what we propose is Indeopendence Now...we lose everyone else. And I believe that we lose the EU...and we lose a referendum that Unionists will boycott anyway, a referndum that even if we win...we lose..
Therefore, I believe that right now, when the idea of a "confirming referendum" is current, we have not yet exhausted the "all UK" defence of Scotland's relationship with Europe. #I think the SNP needs to as near as damn it commit to that campaign. And do all we can to hold that line. I think that this means, along with a commitment to a second EU referendum...and here is where we need to take a deep breath... taking a second Independence referendum of the table if a "UK Remains in the EU" defence succeeds. 
Now, before I get shouted at...consider this. There is NO other way to persuade non-Independence supporters of a genuine commitment on our part to the aim of Remaining in Europe. Second, more importantly, the mandate for "Indyref 2" was a "material change" in ther circumstances of the UK...then that will be a material change which we will have PREVENTED from happening. 
As I say, I have no particular expectations as from week to week, the blathering chaos of Brexit gets more and more disorienting. But I want to see my representatives and my government adopt a realistic and clear posture that can hold the line and carry wide support no matter what comes next. 
I think this might be the way to do it.
Finally, whatever the next electoral test is...a general election, a second EU referendum, even the Scottish elections in 2021, the issue of Independence will be on the agenda. For me, to insist on Indyref 2 right now before anything else betrays an unjustified lack of confidence that the logic of the developing situation is entirely on our side. But if and when it comes, what is wrong with Independence being on the bais of consensus?  What is wrong with taking people who voted No in 2014 with us? 
What is wrong with a walk in the park in five years...even if we we need to be confident enough to behave a little strategically now?

Monday, 10 September 2018

A Bespoke Deal for a Scottish Brexit. A tactical argument

I wish I could draw graphs...or flow I think it might help clarify my argument on a Scottish Brexit Deal being the probable way forward - but I'll try to set it out verbally step by step.

Right now, with everything still up in the air, we still need to oppose the UK leaving the EU by whatever means. A Westminster vote to remain, a UK wide  “People’s Vote” with remaining as an option. IF/WHEN these both fail…

Put forward a specific Scottish Brexit plan…more or less the Norway option…with the aim being to deliver what the Scottish Parliament agreed on…and has NEVER rescinded, Scotland staying in the single market... by itself if necessary.

(It is of no small significance that a bespoke deal for Northern Ireland is well within the bounds of possibility, and if the DUP were less important to the Tories numerically, it would almost certainly have happened by now.)

If the case is made for this by the SNP and the wider Yes movement, it will...or should... get the support of Remainers…it will look rational by contrast with Boris and Co and it will not scare off 2014 NO voters…because Independence will not be on the agenda.

Indpendence will not be the prefix to every argument. It will be the conclusion. And that is the right way round.

In the course of this autumn and winter, we will either get an exit deal on Brexit agreed by the UK government or we won’t. In neither scenario will any attention necessarily get paid to a specifically Scottish demand. This is not a reason not to make that demand. Loudly and repeatedly. And to stick with it.

Why? Because an exit deal for March 2019 is not the end of the story. In March, in theory, we enter into a transition period which ENDS in a new relationship between the EU and UK in 2021. Our argument is that at the END of this transition period that Scotland insists on a deal that keeps us in the single market.

Even now, even after March, it is theoretically possible that the UK will see that kind of sense, but it’s very unlikely. In practice, that would probably need to be a bespoke, specifically Scottish deal. Again, our sticking to the pragmatic outcome would be politically very strong.

Even if the dreaded “No Deal” happens, there would in practice need to be SOME deal. This is what the Rees Moggs and assorted loonies are shooting for. It is absolutely no more unrealistic for Scotland to shoot for a Single Market deal at the same time.

So…this time in 2019, the Scottish electorate would have a continuing mess of screaming that will constitute Full English Brexit…and, by contrast, a calm, pragmatic ambition which the Scottish political parties would find it difficult not to support. Because it wouldn’t have an IndyRef label stuck all over it.

The fact that Independence is almost certainly the only way for Scotland to maintain a healthy relationship with Europe would then be demonstrated rather than merely asserted.
Once again, Independence would be the conclusion not the predicarte. And that makes conversation possible with those who voted No in 2014.

In summary, I think that through any imaginable set of circumstances…and an awful lot that can’t be foreseen yet, a stated position right now that Scotland will only accept a Single Market Deal at the End of Transition, is far and away the strongest card we can play. And keep playing.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

A Brexit Deal for Scotland? A Scottish Deal on Brexit.

As we enter a new Parliamentary term both in Holyrood and Westminster, to describe matters as being a wee bit “in flux” is something of an understatement.  It’s like those of us living on this cluster of islands off the coast of Europe are inhabiting different political worlds while remaining on one piece of territory.
While Boris Johnson calls Theresa May a suicide bomber in cahoots with Michel Barnier, that other famous Moslem, blowing a dog whistle to racists out of both ends of his ridiculous body, here in Scotland, we seem to be tearing ourselves to bits out of boredom and impotence, just for something to do. We aren’t having the fight we’d like to be having, it seems. So we’re fighting about something else…the timing of a second indyref, which can’t possibly be decided on… just for wanting something to fight about.
In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, they’ve  got a governng party whose sole interest seems to be on insisting that they don’t want to govern anything. The DUP have opted for Direct Rule from Westminster by default as part of the same bargain which is dragging those islanders whose constituent nations voted against Brexit over the cliff with those who voted for it.
Because next door, we’ve got both an England and, inexplicably, a Wales where, despite recent shifts in opinion polls, exit from the EU remains, or at least is treated, as the “settled will of the people”...without any real thought as to who “the people” might be. The people insist that the politicians “sort it out” and “get on with it” without, apparently, the slightest idea what “it” is. 
It is still possible that opinion will shift yet further…in favour, ultimately, one hopes, of what might at least be a comparatively Sane Brexit, but to be honest, I’m not sure I've got the imaginative energy to spare to give a lot of thought to the UK dimension of what’s going on any more.
I wish the nieghbours well, of course, but much in the same way as if I lived in say, Belgium. I don’t actually wish any harm on them, I respect their decision – just about - however much I regret it. Here in Belgium, I hope you in Scotland (and they) don’t suffer too much from the consequences of their decision…but it’s kind of up to them. There doesn’t seem to be a lot I can do about it.
You’ve tried.  You’ve argued that you think it’s a really bad idea…and, to be fair, they just might sort themselves out…they’ve got a few weeks left to do that, but their political parties seem to be totally paralysed by internal division and personal ambition and choosing Blind Brexit chaos by default.
In Holland and Belgium and the Republic of Ireland stability within the EU 27 seems to be the absolute strategic priority for the remaining members. Brexit will be a shock, but the collective decision seems to be that maintenance of the Union of 27 far outweighs any other consideration at this moment.
So imagine being Belgium for a minute.  Or being Ireland.  Imagine being in a position to ask : if they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do…what are WE gonna do?
Luckily, we in Scotland already have the answer. The Scottish Parliament, in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, (albeit in a moment of briefly collectivised shock) already voted for what we’re going to do.  Right across the chamber.  Even the Tories.
We’re going to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union. That’s the Scottish Deal. Whatever else there might or might not be a mandate for in Scotland, there’s a mandate for that. We’re going to stay, by some means, in the same trading arrangement with our Irish and continental nieghbours that we’re in now. Just like Holland or Belgium or the Republic of Ireland, we’re going to continue to respect the four freedoms movement of goods, services, money and people…just as we do now.
Imagine if we could do that!
I’ve got news for you.  We CAN do that.  We SHOULD do that. We MUST do that.
We must say to our nieghbours south of the border that we respect their decision, but it’s THEIR decision, and not ours.  
But it’s too late, everyone says…we’re out of the EU in March next year! That’s what the law says!  That’s what the constitution says! We voted to remain in the UK in 2014!  We’re trapped!  We trapped ourselves!  We failed!
Not quite. As part of the UK, we are indeed leaving the EU in March next year, but only as a matter of form.  What actually HAPPENS in March (unless there is the dreaded NO DEAL…) is that we enter a transition period, nominally until the end of 2020, during which all the changes to the UK relationship to the EU Single Market and Customs Union take effect.
All we do right NOW, as Scotland, on the assumption that by hook or by crook at some point there WILL be a UK deal on leaving the EU,is to insist that at the end of that transition, whenever it really comes and by whatever means we get there, when it comes to defining a NEW trading relationship between these Islands and the EU, Scotland will remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union. Just like the Republic of Ireland.
We insist right now on the same end result no matter what Boris Johnson led chaos there is until there IS a deal…that at the end of the process of leaving, we “implement” or “transition to” a situation where Scotland maintains a status quo ante bellum relationship with the EU as far as trade goes. Come what may, by whatever route it takes, Scotland stays in the Single Market and the Customs Union.
Because even if the worst comes to the worst and Boris is PM by Christmas, even if we do crash out initially, there will still need to be a deal on leaving, because there needs to be a transition period that will end up with a yet to be negotiated new relationship between the EU and the UK. Everyone, even Boris, actually knows that.
In any case. That’s not our problem because we’re not leaving.  Like they do in Belgium, we respect the decision of the Parliament in Westminster In the name of democracy. But we in Scotland demand the reciprocal respect that our decision to maintain our relationship with the EU also be respected. Because that is what our people and our Parliament voted for. If we do that, if we are clear and unequivocal about that, then everything else will follow. 
Whether we get treated with respect, or we don’t, after all the shouting, it all ends the same way. With a rewritten relationship between Scotland and the rest of these islands, including the bit that is already uniquivocally staying in the EU.
There are many, many variations on exactly what happens on the basis of this principle, but here are a couple of things that will happen in the short run.
What will follow first is the following refrain of voices:
“But Scotland staying in the Single Market would mean a hard border between England and Scotland! That will mean an end to Free Trade and movement between England and Scotland!”
Really?  Seriously?  Is that all you’ve got?
If it is the insistence of the British Government that Brexit will mean no such border will exist between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which are ALREADY two separate States with different currencies…(and it is) ….one inside and the other outside the Single Market and Customs Union…then on the basis of what possible logic can such a border come into existence between a Scotland and England who will still, in 2020/21, be part of the same State?
The Brexiteers are similarly hoist on their own petard with every single argument they’ve got against a distinctly Scottish Deal on Brexit on the gallows of the Irish Border. But never mind the shouting and squealing and the talk of suicide vests… we can be very clear and decided on one thing: that no matter what the UK Parliament comes up with, Scotland is staying in Trading Europe. That is our deal with Europe, that is what is going to come at the end of any “transition” or “implementation”. We’ve already decided that. Just let Ruth Davidson vote against it. Nobody else will.
What the nieghbours do about it is up to them. They might decide to abandon us as carelessly (and without knowledge or thought) as they appoint Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland who don’t have the first clue as to the culture or history or even existence of that Province of the Empire. They might send a gunboat. They might even decide to kick us out of the United Kingdom completely!
I don’t have a crystal ball any more than anyone else does.But if we simply do the right thing right now, if we make the simple assertion of democratic self government that when Brexit comes, whether it’s Blind, Batty or In Name Only, Scotland is staying, by some means yet to be negotiated, in the Single Market and the Customs Union, then it is in the practical discovery of what those means of staying turn out to be - for example, in a new, direct negotiating relationship with the EU and with London, on the basis of our soveriegn trade policy - that we will rewrite the British Constitution. All we need to do is be clear in our own intentions. Through that simple assertion of self government will self government come.
Which is probably why we feel we have the time to get cross with each other about the timing of Indyref 2. For what it's worth, I genuinely think that argument is a distraction, a repositry of frustrated energy. I genuinely think that Brexit is doing all the heavy lifting we need to be effectively an independent 21st Century European country by the end of the next decade.
No matter what the apparent complexities of the political boorach down South, if we stick to our guns, by some way or other, we’ll get there. I genuinely think that it’s as simple as that.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Whatever It Is, Bring It On!

A Tale of Two Traps or “What the Hell are We Supposed to do Now?”
As the Mother of Parliaments packs its ineptitude for the last summer holiday its members are going to get before they and the rest of us need a Visa to pop over the Channel to the seaside, the sense of futility and uselessness that has afflicted the group of 36 SNP MPs since last year's election, introducing ignored amendment after ignored amendment to protect Scotland from the shrill hysteria of what feels more and more like somebody else’s problem in somebody else’s country, has become universal. 
Desperate futility is written across the pasty features of Honourable Members from every corner of Englandshire also. No wonder they want to run away from it all and attempt to forget it from the bottom of a jug of Sangria somewhere. And the temptation to say “The hell with the lot of them” is particularly strong not just for SNP MPs but for the 62% of Scottish voters who uselessly voted not to have ANYTHING to do with any version of this post imperial bullshit.
English Brexiteers, now loyally supported by a Scottish cohort of vapid nodding wally dugs, are actually winning the race to nowhere that the voters of Scotland decisively rejected at the ballot box not once, not twice, but three times since the election of 2015 bounced David Cameron into preferring a wafer thin Tory Majority to the good of not just our country, but of his.
And 45% of Scottish voters can quite rightly grab a hold of the 55% who voted No in September 2014 and point and say “This is your fucking fault, you dopy bastards!  You handed our future to these maniacs and LOOK what they’re doing with it!”
But Scots, even “Yes” voting Scots who want and feel they deserve NONE of this lunacy, are trapped by arithmetic too. Just like Parliament in London, we are paralysed by our own national division. We feel we need to do SOMETHING, but every avenue of escape seems blocked. There are calls for SNP MPs to boycott the UK Parliament for all the good they are doing there. But this looks like an empty gesture in the face of a Brexit Event Horizon that is fast becoming completely real. Unionist voters would simply not take part in an “unofficial” referendum on Independence.  It would be nothing but a PR stunt…and these things are all very well and have their place under some circumstances, and might even make us feel better, might even let us cry out “Nothing to do with us, gov”…but nothing would really be changed.  Brexit would still come and take us kicking and screaming with it.
I think the SNP need to respond right now to the change in Westminster circumstances right now. And, however reluctantly, I think they need to join in with a Westminster response to the increasing hopelessness that is being felt all across the chamber. I think the SNP has to declare in favour of another UK wide popular vote on the “Brexit Question.” Despite the strong and understandable temptation to say “Nothing to do with us, buddy” to the lot of them " I think something is changing in the political weather in the whole UK. It is not just six weeks of unbroken sunshine that is freaking everybody out.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still an outside possibility. Up until two weeks ago, both the Tory Brexiteers and Jeremy Corbyn were happily planning to postpone the leadership crisis in the Tory party and the subsequent inevitable General Election, until AFTER March next year, when the UK electorate would be given a choice of who they trusted to pick up whatever pieces of the UK had landed wherever they are going to land when the Europeans finally boot us out, deal or no deal. This was what Theresa May was attempting to cue up with her ludicrous “Chequers Brexit “ Package…it was an entirely symbolic exercise in party Management, not any serious attempt to deal with the Upcoming Omnishambles…but, after a fashion, it seemed to be working for a while, having factored in the even more vapid spectacle of Davis and Bojo biting the dust, and Michael Gove keeping his ambition warm for another day. For the SNP and the wider Scottish electorate, a 2019 General Election would be yet another UK election which would be differentially experienced and interpreted in Scotland, with an inflection of the National Question in that new context of "Oh My God It’s Actually Happening!” Brexit Britain.
This is still most likely to be be roughly how it goes, but at THIS moment the summer fevered chatter in the tea rooms of Westminster by those who belong neither to the Corbyn minority in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Tory MPs who haven’t drunk the Brexit Kool-Ade of their own Brexit extremists, are desperately circling another scenario. And they are doing it together.
Step One is to give up on paralysed parliamentary procedure altogether, and throw the Brexit “problem” back to the electorate with a popular” Yes/No/Forget the whole thing and stay in the EU” referendum sometime in the Autumn. I am sure the thought of Step Two is also occurring to them by now that it might be possible to interpret this vote as a mandate from “the British people” for a particular soft flavour of cuddly Brexit …and to attempt to form a National Unity government in order to deliver it.
The question before the SNP this morning is “How do we respond?” Do we denounce the whole stupid pack of them?  Do we say, “Unite your own Nation, pal…this has nothing to do with our Nation?” Do we boycott the People’s Poll on exactly the same grounds as Scottish Unionists would boycott Indyref 2 (without a Westminster agreement like last time) as “Nothing to do with us.”
Or do the SNP strategically embrace the idea. And call for it. One last throw of the British Electoral dice. One last chance to avoid the cliff jump…with the implicit or explicit proviso, that if England chooses to go cliff diving this summer, we might just have other plans.
Now, there are big problems with this idea, as has been pointed out by Kenny Farquarson among others.  If it has not been feasible up till now to interpret Scotland’s vote against Brexit IN PRINCIPLE as a vote for Independence IN PRINCIPLE, then how would that change if there were a second Brexit vote BEFORE a second independence vote?
To which the answer might be that a) an independence vote isn’t going to happen before either another another UK General Election or said Brexit Vote 2 and b) it wouldn’t be a vote IN PRINCIPLE any more, on either question. No. It would be absolutely specific on both. 
To vote FOR the specific Brexit deal the Union ends up offering would include, in effect, a vote for the Union itself. To vote AGAINST that deal would be to vote against the Union. Because within the Union, we are GOING to get whatever England decides we’re going to get.
We are genuinely trapped by arithmetic into choices we didn’t want to make. All of us. For this morning, if there is to be a call for a People’s Vote, I think the SNP has to support it. If there isn’t, I think the SNP has to call for it.  And to show willing to throw the dice as a British political party one last time. That way, the 2014 result is "respected", and , under new and highly specific circumstances framed in advance of a "new" British vote on a specific Brexit deal that implicitly INCLUDES the continuance of the Union, and is EXPLICITLY framed that way by the SNP...the actual question that is actually put before England and Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland is all rolled up together. 
A British Future, which explicitly includes Brexit, or the End of the UK itself. A third choice is only available till March.  So the SNP needs to call for the British people to face that choice and face it now.  Because after March, there are only the other two...The SNP needs to make the call on behalf, ironically, of those who vote against it...because no one else is offering them any choice about ANYTHING.
This summer of stupidity can’t go on.  Something is going to break. The weather is going to get messy.  There is going to be a lot of shouting. But the next vote, whatever it is, is, I think decisive on both questions. Another vote of SOME kind, whether a General Election, a Scottish election, a second Brexit referendum or even an independence referendum, WILL include the national question no matter which comes first.  The attitude of the SNP has to be, to any of these, no matter which comes first, bring it on.

Monday, 2 July 2018

The White Man Coup Versus Humanity

This little essay started with the thought, prompted by the fact that the Trump Organization has directly profited from the Trump Presidency to the tune of $500 million dollars - so far - that we need a new word for "corruption. " Despite protestations, made on both the left and right, that "they" are all the same...they are not all the same.  With Orban and Trump and Brexit, to name but three, we are moving into new territory...or perhaps, revisiting some old territory that we really thought we'd put behind us in 1945.

Then came this, the most blatant support so far given by the new Supreme Court of the United States for racially based voter suppression.

In the State of Ohio, anybody who has not voted for three years can be removed from the electoral register.  This, of course, disproportionately affects the poor and the young and the non-white...which is precisely the idea.  The Supreme Court, before even the introduction of Trump's next nominee, has granted legitimacy...and maybe permanence... to what I am calling, from now on, The White Man Coup. 

The White Man Coup is an act of demographic panic. The Obama Presidency alerted White Men that unless they did something radical, America would cease to belong to them. So they looked around and they hired Trump to do the job they needed done. They knew that maintaining White Man Supremacy in the USA would require thuggery, corruption and bigotry. So they hired a thuggish, corrupt bigot to do the job on their behalf. White Men knew exactly what they were doing and why. This is why even Trump's palpable idiocy and borderline mental illness, his bone idleness, his well as his naked, brash criminality...matter not a whit to his White Man support base. You don't hire St Francis when what you need is a gangster.

Changes in the racial make up of the United States (and Europe), currently dramatised by the politics of immigration, are a specific set of circumstances that required, for White Men, a specific response...and this is true everywhere in White Man World from the Kremlin to Cincinnati, Ohio.

The White Man Coup, or "Brexit", as we call it here, is impervious to accusations of criminality or of Russian Interference because it is based on Racial Panic rather than what we used to call Patriotism...which would involve some respect for the rule of law. Any and all means of self defense, (as the White Man Coup sees it) is permissible. The struggle is existential. This is why the manipulation of the Brexit vote, for example, is hardly being reported in the news.

(Putin sees himself as the leader of a phallocentric defense of White Christianity, a version of the post Napoleonic War Holy Alliance against emerging democracy, and is acknowledged in his leadership by Banks, Trump and even Victor Orban...which is a hell of a stretch for a Hungarian Nationalist.)

Of course, White Men may find the crudity and corruption of a Trump or a Farage a tad embarrassing (in public), but being crude and corrupt and a little absurd, even, is part of the job description. It certainly was for the dictators in the 1930s. But because The White Man Coup treats all politics now as a zero sum game of political survival vs political extinction (beneath a Muslim, female, Mexican Gay tide), so do the hired guns of the Coup treat political victory as an imperative that justifies all measures, and are fully supported by their electoral bases in any amount of crudity, corruption and absurdity. Cruelty is the accepted price of survival, as is the shared guilt of internment camps for immigrants, for example.

As for the hired guns themselves, they know, as dictators have always known, that the alternative to staying in power forever is prison at best. So just as their supporters will go along with any amount of cruelty for the "survival of the race", so Orban and Trump et al will embrace any legal or extra legal means, any lies, any necessary measures, to stay in power forever. (Or to assure that they are succeeded by people every bit as guilty as they are.) Trump in particular knows that defeat at the ballot box means prison, and White Men fear that defeat of their coup ("Making America Great Again") means extinction, just as the Germans did (or as they told themselves in justification) in the 1930s and 40s. Democracy and the Rule of Law are minor collateral damage. Hence voter suppression, breaking Trade Unions funding (as the Supreme Court also just did) and , crucially the dismantling of International Legal Frameworks from NATO to the EU.

White Man, prompted by the Immigration Crisis, has come to believe that only the jungle is the territory of their survival. This is why the only possible redress against the Coup, the only defense for Humanity (a concept specifically rejected by the Coup, along with any other globalism, including climate change) is the force of numbers. Unless America votes decisively against the White Man Coup in November, unless we find a way of stopping Brexit, unless the EU finds a way to deal with the politics of migration that don't involve Europe (like Trump's America) becoming a xenophobic fortress then we are heading into years of darkness.

The institutions set up after WW2, the UN, the WTO, The EU...were all attempts to guarantee us against jungle warfare. They have lasted for nearly eighty years. They have months left to live unless Humanity defeats the White Man Coup.

ps the term "White Man" is deliberate. The women and members of ethnic and gender minorities who support the agenda of White Man Supremacy, in this rubric, might be called "enablers" who think they know which side of their bread is buttered. pps I am a white man.