Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Well, there goes the crystal ball

First of all, this is clearly a fucking conspiracy to stop me getting any work done.  And second, this is going to be hellish. Third, the crystal ball needs top come out of the cupboard, despite its utter failure to predict Brexit, or Trump...or this.

Psychological need rather than prescience, I fear.

What can happen in the UK?  Well, Corbyn could step down and/or the labour Party could split.  A single issue “Remain in the EU“ Party might actually have a chance of taking the Tories on…(a better chance than Labour have as they are anyway)  Paul Mason is already – fruitlessly - suggesting a grand alliance of opposition parties.

But let’s just take a reasonable bet on none of that, or anything like that, happening.  (We’ll know quickly…if it doesn’t happen by the end of this week, it’s not happening.)

Everything depends on the two Labour parties…but the chances against innovative ideas are pretty damn slim.  The chances are that Labour will go into this election as one party and get gubbed seven ways to Christmas on the 2oth anniversary of the Blair landslide.  May will now have an irrefutable mandate for the hardest of hardcore English National Brexits.  I think any thought of the new Tory intake (400, 450?) being anything other than xenophobic dingbats of the deepest water is ill founded.
Oh…UKIP will vanish and the Lib Dems will pick up some seats…some of them in Scotland...You heard me right…There will be a highly organised and motivated anti-SNP bandwagon in which the Tories and the LibDems will joyfully participate, with Scottish Labour trying desperately to cling on to their one seat.  They won’t succeed.  But the the SNP will have to fight like hell to lose only ten seats and not fifteen or twenty.

This has clearly been on the cards for a while.  This is why “now was not the time” for an indyref.
The Lib Dems and Labour will try to present themselves as opposition to the Tories, but in the Scottish (scarcely relevant) bit of this general election, nothing will be so important for any of them as “Beat the SNP.”

Labour will lose everything in Scotland, and the Tories and the Lib Dems between them will win ten seats and claim that settles Scottish Independence as an issue till the Sun turns into a red dwarf and swallows the planet.
There is no way we wake up on June 9th with anything but a bloody big mountain to climb, whoever we are.

Corbyn will probably quit, but the Labour Party in the UK, reduced to 150 seats at best, will still need to split to sort itself out between those who are interested in being the government of England, and those who want to wave their virtue at everyone like a bunch of liberal toss bags.

And yes, the government of England is what they will have to go for, because, in an unholy, messy, awful way…this brings the inevitability of either forced absorption or separation closer than ever.  Scotland will be gone from the union in any terms of positive identity.  Brexit will either absolutely confirm that, or we will finally, messily escape it…possibly by electoral mandate in 2022…possibly not. That’s one murky glimpse too far inside the crystal ball.

A referendum?  Who knows?  The Break Up of Britain?  Tick Tock

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Wild Thought - is Brexit about to do Independence Talks a HUGE Favour

On a lunatic morning when Michael Howard appears to be suggesting War with Spain to Keep The Buggers Off Our Rock, when Simon Heffer seems to be suggesting the return of the Groat as negotiable currency and it as announced that we are going to spend £500m of turning our passports Back to British Blue, an even wilder thought is occurring to me.

I was listening to Mike Russell and Jackson Carlaw as they talked about the Scotland Act and negotiating how we might go about creating a common legal and fiscal framework for the European Laws and Regulations as they appertain to devolved areas like fishing and farming...

And it occurred to me...Are these areas not exactly the same areas, in terms of trade and labour standards, as would need to be negotiated between a separated Scotland and England?  Is not a degree of agreement between sovereign nations (such as will now have to happen in an offshore version of the EU) in order to pass the Great Repeal Bill and give it legislative consent not a more or less exact duplicate of the kind of negotiations that would have to happen post Independence?  Isn't Brexit once more shooting the Unionist fox?

During the last referendum campaign, over and over again, angry demands were made of "Yes" about exactly these issues.  How will you trade?  What will be the rules? What will be the common framework? We were assured again and again that it was quite impossible for Scotland to arrive at any kind of reasonably negotiated position with regard to the rest of the UK.

Now it seems, in order to arrive at a settlement for Brexit, we're going to have to come an agreement anyway...and surely no one is going to seriously suggest that thew agreement we come to as four polities in order to facilitate Brexit is going to then be torn up?

The free trade framework that the UK government aspires to create within thye UK and thyen with the EU will HAVE to include Scot;land on both counts.

So this morning, not only did the Unionist case lose the argument of the "Spanish Veto"...It also lost the argument on trade.

There's really only Trident and blue passports left.

Tick, as they say, tock

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Tick Tock

However the story ends, whatever the date of whatever we call a second referendum on independence within the next two or five years, and whatever that referendum’s result, there is already an immediate and concrete result to the announcement of the referendum as an intention. By taking the concrete step of voting in Holyrood next week for the invocation of Article 30 applying for the necessary transfer of powers to hold that referendum, suddenly, to the massive and entertaining irritation of the chaotic, panic driven fog of the Brexiteers and their hapless, captive government in Westminster, Scotland’s interests will now have to be a factor in the UK Brexit negotiators' considerations.  Nicola Sturgeon has forced our feet under the negotiating table. And if there is any Unionist commentator who thinks there was the remotest chance of that happening WITHOUT the threat of a referendum to balls up the Brexit process, then I have these three bridges over the Forth that I’d like to interest you in.

Indeed, if the rumours were true that the Tories were planning to crash the UK out of the EU by allowing the negotiations to fail, as seems likely, then that’s a damn sight more difficult now.  A hard Brexit has Barnett consequentials in more ways than one. So it could be that the people of the UK as a whole now owe the SNP an enormous debt.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech yesterday was emotional, and I think heartfelt, but the thinking behind it turns out to be even more pragmatic than I had anticipated.  Because as we wake up this Sunday morning, not only are the Brits listening with a mixture of admiration and outrage, so are the Europeans.  Make no mistake, the EU negotiators are not as openhearted (and quietly practical) as the invitation to “come to Scotland” that was one of the highlights of yesterday’s speech. This is a power game, and for them, Scotland at this moment has principal value as a way of undermining the UK case.  Depending on how things go, we can be a useful tool in the negotiations to come.  Certainly, we can expect some back channels to open up.  The Brits may not want to give us "a running commentary", but there are 27 other people who will bhe glad to share… now. 

Because it is only the leverage of a potentially independent Scotland that is meaningful to the Europeans. Make no mistake, without the threat of a referendum, they EU would not be taking Scotland…and the idea of our remaining while the rUK paddles off into the Imperial Twilight, at all seriously. We will be leaving the EU.  And we will need to negotiate a new relationship as a European country if we vote to leave the UK. As we look at today’s opinion polls, that is not a done deal.  But the process over the next two years will be politically grueling (as are the five years after that) …and the divisiveness that the Unionists go on about will be universal.  Scotland having finessed its own importance in this period will go down like a bucket of sick in all those parts of England and Wales which voted to leave and are going to get thoroughly shafted, with the City of London, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and BLOODY Scotland once again using the remains of the ramshackle unwritten constitution of Ukania to their comparative advantage. The breaking up of Britain has been massively accelerated, and that isn’t just true here, no matter what the polls are saying right now.  This is no longer a matter of mere opinion or preference.  This is historical slippage and breakage.  And it was always too big a job for Scotland on its own.

Two things, I think, are clear, here and now, today…no matter what comes next.  First, the people of Scotland became and remained sovereign for the first time in our history on September 18th 2014.  “We may have chosen to remain in the UK, but WE chose.  That was unprecedented, and history cannot take that back.  Secondly, Brexit was a moment of English Nationalism that entirely took the British Ruling Class by surprise.  And they have committed themselves to go with it.  There is no no way I can see of the Union surviving in anything like its current form for…actually…more than another generation…no matter what the political exigencies that will lead us to a vote in the next five years…and no matter what the result.
It feels, this Sunday morning, like a done deal. 

Tick, as I believe I’ve said before, Tock.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

There IS a an deal to be done for Scotland.


If this report in The National is right, then the UK government DOES have the option of a differentiated deal for Scotland - if we stay in the UK and leave the EU. The EU are open to talking about it as part of the Brexit talks. 

The proverbial ball is now within WM's court. If they were half smart, they'd invite the devolved assemblies NOW to participate in direct talks with the EU after Article 50 is invoked. If the WM parliament were remotely serious about the devolution settlements for London, Northern Ireland , Wales and Scotland, then we would all be sending delegates into those talks,...not be left sitting in the room outside. Will they be that smart? Will they take that path?

We have to urge them to take that path. We have to REALLY try. If (when) they don't and we get dragged into Meltdown Brexit along with everyone else (except the City...they'll get protection), it's decision time. If there is to be an announcement of Indy ref 2, it MUST be after we've really tried, as Scotland in the UK, to get a differentiated deal that takes proper account of devolution. Because it is devolution that is a necessary casualty of a Brexit that refuses to take it into account.
We should also not underestimate the alarm of our neighbours who share the values of a progressive, open, international society. If there is a way to work for a British solution to the imminent British catastrophe, we should make every effort to find it. And a differentiated Brexit is at least a better way of going forward than the undifferentiated "free" market hellbroth of off shore money laundering that seems to be the proffered future. We still want to be friends with these people, whatever constitutional shape we end up with. We mustn't just desert them or seem eager to do so.
We have to play this very carefully. Can you imagine losing a second indyref, and then being entirely at the mercy of an emboldened UKIP flavoured Tory Government for the next 20 years?
The moment to choose our own path...of independence and application for continued EU membership as an Independent state, is then and only then. This is for the very simple reason that if we can demonstrate clearly to those who voted both the Remain in the EU AND to remain as a devolved Scotland in the UK that it is devolution that is the casualty of Brexit...that Brexit will drag us forever FULLY into Toryworld...that we have a chance of converting 60% for the EU into 60% for a progressive, inclusive, international Scotland.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Of Blair and Brexit

Judging by the response so far in the newspapers and online, Tony Blair’s attempt at intervention on Friday morning in the headlong rush to Full English Brexit - or what he called, “Brexit At All Costs,” his call to neo-liberal arms - has been still born, poisoned by the toxicity of both his legacy as the begetter of the Iraq debacle, and by his being, like Hilary Clinton, exactly the wrong mouth to open at the wrong time.  What was strange, however, in watching that speech on Friday morning in London while I was, coincidentally, in London, was firstly, the strange sensation of listening to a political leader who, no matter what one might think of him, spoke in whole sentences, making a logical argument…like a grown up. (The Guardian editorial on Saturday made the same point.) The other marker of Blair’s sudden “re-presence”, as it were, was the stark relief into which it threw the utter absence of anything like a coherent, mainstream opposition to what, a year ago, was being categorically denounced by exactly that mainstream as a lunatic act of self-harm.  He was absolutely right to remark on the distance we seem to have travelled (and I include Boris Johnson in that “we” for the moment) to the point now where to cast doubt upon the ineffable wisdom of economic and cultural suicide is a crime against democracy and hope. 
The Corbynite Left Wing of the Suicidal Tendency have, of course, focussed on their former leader’s denunciation of their own hard won incoherence as predictably as John  McTernan has gushed over with an ejaculation of nostalgia. While, thoroughly unnerved in way that they have not been since their genetic surrender to Brexitititis, Boris and the rest of those who now claim to exclusively represent the Settled Will of the British People (whoever they are) have exhorted their “people” to jolly well turn off the television and go and do something less boring instead.
Because, like it or not, and there must be very few of us on the Yes side of the binary divide in 2104 who do, Blair’s speech on Friday was undoubtedly and incomparably the best and nearly the only effective political utterance in favour of the 48% of us in this disunited Kingdom who voted to Remain ...including during the campaign last year.   The “opposition”, for different reasons, has been absent or without relevance.  And that very much includes the SNP, whose advocacy of a differential Brexit for the Nations has, in a UK context, been easily dismissed by the Tories (in the absence of collaboration with any UK party and yes, I KNOW that’s not entirely their fault…) as just the Jocks whining again.
Nonetheless, the political strategy adopted by the SNP in Westminster, that of, in the meantime, acting as if it still mattered that they were there, is unequivocally the right one.  But the logical concomitant of that stance is to offer solidarity to anything, no matter its provenance, that looks like a coherent UK strategy to averting Brexit before the Tories chuck us off a cliff into the low wage, tax haven waters around an offshore Empire Museum. And right now, Tony Blair is the only sprat in the Channel. And in that light, toxic or not as his brand may be, I thought when Nicola Sturgeon responded with a degree of positivity to Blair’s speech beyond what even the Blairites in London could publically bring themselves to muster, that that was the right thing to do in principle and practice. It was smart politics that the wider Yes movement needs to wise up to.
For one thing, in 2014, we lost. The Scottish electorate voted by 55% to 45% to give the British State another go.  However much some of us may regret it, especially now, that’s what “we” did.  So, despite the aforementioned suicidal self-direction of said anachronistic Statelet, fast evolving into a bad remake of an Ealing Comedy Little England, from EVEL to a Tory Majority in 2015 to Brexit and its potential disintegration of everything that once held the British polity together, it remains the first duty of the democratic participants therein, including the Jocks, even among the ruins, to try to find a British way out of a British disaster.  Tony Blair’s call for the Remoaners to Rise up and reverse the decision of June 23rd 2016 is the first thing I‘ve heard since then with even a ghost of resemblance to political agency about it.
As a matter of purely practical politics, If we act now as if it were already a given that there is only a Scottish Solution, to the oncoming catastrophe; if we fail to even try to make common cause with those who want to see a British reversal of direction, whether via a second referendum or, (as seems SLIGHTLY more likely) a shared-in-common pro EU and anti-Brexit stance in the general election of 2020 at the latest, then we firstly condemn ourselves to continued national irrelevance on the UK stage, and secondly, we kiss goodbye to the votes of those who kept us in the UK last time precisely because they wanted to give the wheezing old Lion one last chance.  What is worse, even if we do scrape a win in indyref 2, we would be at loggerheads from the very off with those in our nearest, larger neighbouring country who might otherwise be disposed to wish us well.  And it will be in the future, as it always was in the past, in the Scottish National Interest not to have them too pissed off with us for too much of the time.
It may well already be too late to find a “British” way out of Brexit.  If all “they” can come up with is Blair and Major taking a nostalgic globalist stroll over the Millennium Bridge, the very embodiment of an unlamented, elapsed era of our political and cultural life, then it may well be that the bumpy road to independence and EU membership as a new nation is the road we’re going to go down.  But unless “we” do what the people told “us” in 2014, and give being British one last try on this issue above all issues, then we’re not going to take the people with us that we’d be miles better off taking with us.

No matter how uncomfortable the company, being a grown up country means that not everyone likes to sing the same songs.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

No. I couldn't sleep either.

Having made the psychologically damaging error of listening to Trump’s Inauguration speech, like a good many others in the world, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. But what haunted my dreams wasn’t so much the lumbering menace of “America First!” or even the Casino owners’s wager that no matter how ill thought through and asinine the policy, God would always be there to cover the bet.  No…I kept wondering to myself where I’d heard this language before?  When and where was the last time I saw a government formed of people with a radical hatred of government, people animated by the belief that the corporate thuggery that works for them in the boardroom will work when it comes to the complexities of running a country?  Who were the last people who dismissed the very idea of complexity as faggoty defeatism, who believed that a combination of their own divinely sanctioned crassness and the miraculous power of the market could magically and speedily “make America Great Again.”

And it hit me.  Iraq 2003.

That was the last place where free market ideologues were let loose like this…where education was to be run by someone who doesn’t believe in schools, where health can be run by someone who wants to destroy public medicine, where foreign policy would consist solely in looking for unprincipled, uncaring, devil take the hindmost deals with whatever power hungry thug could be found who shared your lust for a buck, where the environment and energy departments could be run by people who have railed publicly that these agencies should be shut down.

Iraq.  2003.  A defeated country…in exactly the state of dereliction that Trump depicts “the greatest country in the world” and thereby justifies the slashing and burning of the state created by Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson...and lately in the hands of that unspeakable monster of racial miscegenation and liberal conspiracy, Barack Obama.  

To be fair, Trump probably was shocked by what he saw of the rust belt states on the campaign trail, just no doubt Paul Bremer’s people were genuinely personally distressed by what they found in Baghdad. And probably Trump genuinely believes his own propaganda…that every half baked, bigoted myth he's heard on talk radio about welfare and immigration represents the “truth” that pointy headed liberals self-interestedly conceal with their unmanly talk of “complexity.”

And so, with exactly the same mixture of arrogance and ignorance as in Iraq, a colonial administration has just taken power in the United States. People without knowledge, sympathy or imagination who believe in simple minded myths they themselves have peddled, contemptuous of experts and understanding and the stuff you read in books...have arrived in a real country with real history and real cultures…and yes…real complexity. Over the next few weeks, Trump’s appointees and Trump himself will be bulling and grunting around government departments full of people who will try to explain to them reality, and who will be dismissed as feather-bedding 
obstructionists…as ornery, irritating natives insisting that actually knowing things about the country you’ve invaded might be a good place to start.

Trump – and Ryan , and all the President’s Rich Men are about to do what Bremer did in Iraq. And, when a handful of coal mining jobs are “returned” (at huge government cost...and profit to the very same colonial corporations) to West Virginia, while the government programmes that actually make life possible there disappear in a bonfire of tax cutting hubris, and an already denuded economy descends into community destroying chaos,  it will, of course,  be the nay-sayers with their “complexity” who will be blamed.  The coming to power of Trump’s colonial, conquering administration of the rich and invincibly stupid is the beginning of the American civil war, not the end.

So we don’t need to look to Fascist Europe in the 1930s for precedents for what is happening in the USA. What is happening is the natural sequel to what neo-liberal intervention did to the economies of Eastern Europe in the 90s and the Middle East in the last decade.  The colonial war, finally, has come home.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Brexit and Devolution. Turns Out You Can't Have Them Both


Please forgive the Independent's choice of image for a Scottish Constitutional lawyer...and read the piece. It seems that the legal question as to whether the Scottish Parliament has a vote on invoking article 50 or not comes down to a definition of the word "normally." Normally, you see, Scotland's parliament has to give assent to Westminster measures that will change Scottish Law. Which Brexit would clearly do. Times a million. Or three.

So the UK government's argument is that like a war, Brexit is an emergency. It is not normal. (At this point, I'm attempting, and failing, to resist the comment that, No...it's not normal...it's fecking MENTAL...)

But the only thing that makes Article 50 an emergency measure to be steamrollered over the top of devolution...is preventing the Scottish Parliament from having a vote on this matter in the first place. Devolution, which we had thought to be a stable element of the British Constitution (or at least the set of practices and precedents that substitute for such a foreign sounding thing) turns out instead to be the cause of an emergency and so must be effectively cancelled in the meantime.

Supporters of the Union who treasure the achievements of devolution...ie everyone but the Tories and Tam Dayell, theoretically ...should pause to reflect that when the UK has grown up business before it...that devolution can be easily suspended. Power devolved is only a loan that is only good while circumstances permit.

"Normally" of course we'd let you have a say...but not when it really matters, appears to be the message.

This is I think, part of the developing constitutional crisis that Brexit represents. Despite the static opinion polls for Indy Ref 2, and despite the consequence that a second independence referendum is very unlikely by 2019 when all this is supposed to have happened, in the longer term there seems to be no way for the current "devolved settlement" of the "British Constitution" to survive, no matter what happens in the Supreme Court today.

It is probably part of the same set of masturbatory nostalgia fantasies that led to Brexit in the first place that the distasteful spectacle of devolution to the provinces be done away with. If they ever give it a moment's thought, there is no question in my mind that Farage and Co want to erase as a bad dream Devolution to Jockland along with Human Rights and the Barnett formula. Lord Lawson, indeed, mused aloud that Ireland might want to re-join a post Brexit UK. There really is no bottom limit to the stupidity of these people.

What really matters for us though, is this: It turns out you can have Brexit or you can have Scottish Devolution. You can't have both. Not "normally."

My feeling is that this is going to become clearer and clearer to the electorate in Scotland, and sometime before 2030, we are going to be faced wityh the chopice between fully amalgamating ourselves back into the pre-devolutionary (pre Suez!) fantasy land of cream cakes and Union Jack bunting...or of getting the hell out.

Or do those who campaigned quite honourably for a No vote in 2014 and a Remain vote in 2016 really think it is sustainable in the long term to give their support to the creation of The New England that is being dreamed of by those with the whip hand of UK politics right now? More specifically, if it did ever come to a vote in the Scottish Parliament, I can quite see that the SNP and Greens would vote against invoking article 50 and the Tories would vote for it. The real question is what would Labour and the Liberals do? Would they vote with the Scottish government to preserve the relationship with the EU, or vote with the Tories in favour of the Union at any economic or moral cost - including the relegation of the devolution settlement that THEY created to the sidelines of the new "normality". Or would they actually retreat so far from responsibility or principle as to actually abstain?

Place your bets and pass the popcorn.

Peter Arnott