Whatever…

Tony Blair is innocent. He did what any ambitious, thrusting politician with a crushing majority would do…bestride the world stage and play up to the great powers, embracing the power lure of igniting war. Here was a man so popular, so representative of the country the UK wanted to be, he could do anything (that Gordon Brown let him). He didn’t need career public servants and plummy generals, could ignore the know-nothings in Cabinet. Tony could live out his fantasy – the post-war hip hero in the world’s auto focus, Justified Intervention papers in one hand, guitar in the other. When challenged, the hurt voice croaked: Look. I’m an honest guy.

The issue for me isn’t that he spiralled out of control in the rarefied air of Downing Street – they all do that. It isn’t that the former CND adherent and devout Christian turned out to be unprincipled and dangerously vain. Nor that he was prone to subvert the system of government.

The real problem is that he could get away with it. As we have seen outlined in Chilcot, there is nothing in the British constitution or in the rules of government to constrain a leader hell-bent on a course of action. If he cuts out his colleagues except a trusted few, how do they call him to account? If he ignores civil service advice, can they stymie him?

If his lieutenant and propagandist has more authority than his Defence Secretary, can a complaint stop him? If a million people march against him, does he have no obligation to stop and reconsider?

Eh, no. Tony Blair became de facto the government. One man with his own weaknesses and desires was allowed to twist the entire system until it fitted his pre-determined requirements. If that meant milking the internet for alarmist claims and stating with certainty that which was plainly qualified in order to win a vote, so be it. This last point, of overstating intelligence, is a grave crime in the world of espionage and information assessment. It is like relying on gossip in an environment aloud with false friends and whispered confidences. The function of the professionals is to interrogate every claim and evaluate each statement – not to delude themselves and the country because the information matches the expectation of the boss. We now know that much of the WMD claims came from a fantasist. Ironic, isn’t it? One fantasist feeding another.

For Iraq, the consequences that Blair himself spelled out to Bush beforehand of internecine conflict post-invasion, is a catastrophe of random violence, religious division once subdued but now aflame, of physical destruction, lawlessness, mass death and human displacement in the millions.

No one could foresee all of this, it’s true, and we all look sagely in the rear view mirror. But the warnings were there. They rained in from sources around the world of diplomacy, academia, politics and the genuine objection from, well, from people. For those who didn’t predict the breakdown of all society after the invasion, there was the question of legitimacy. Many of us could have been persuaded to remove the revolting, murdering tyrant Saddam with explicit UN support demonstrating a broad international, legally-founded case and a multi-national restoration plan. This of course was Blair’s original aim. One he didn’t stick to. I spent the war in a BBC studio listening to John Reid first explain how there would be a second resolution and then, when it didn’t come, say it was never needed. I was told, if I objected to invasion, I was a friend of Saddam. Reid, another of the Scottish former socialists now smoozing as a jumped-up lord, was Blair’s wriggle-meister – there was no contortion he wouldn’t perform for his master. Chilcot points to the military failure of the decision to stretch forces into Afghanistan – this over-reach was larded by Reid with the notorious waffle: We’re in the south to help and protect the Afghan people to reconstruct their economy and democracy. We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years time without firing one shot.

But what was a man like John Reid thinking? Where were his faculties? Was all subjugated to pleasing Tony, to career prospects?

I return to the theme. Where in the system is the check and where the balance to call to account a leader forcing a doomed path? Did no one, except Cook and Short, see the looming dangers? I have never understood how Darling, a trained lawyer and at the time an advocate, didn’t demand to see a full written exposition of the legal case for war. Was he afraid to ask? What is the point of a collective leadership that fails in its fundamental duty?

Imagine you are facing a decision to send troops to war. You shrug and tell yourself you can trust Tony to do the right thing. You don’t need to account to the bereaved parents or the legless returnee, right? If this was the most difficult decision Blair had to make, what does it say about his internal agonies that he breezed to Bush: Whatever…we’re with you?

Britain today is a global joke. There is a Monty Python theme of upper class, self serving idiocy about this self-aggrandising island, effectively bankrupt, run by public school boys, rejecting multi culturalism and partnership but afraid to push the EU eject button, rushing to upgrade the nuclear arsenal and sending to their death the young without the decency of a plan.

I wonder what remains of the Britain our parents fought for that keeps so many Unionist Scots in thrall. When you survey the all-pervasive mess that is constitutional politics in Britain and the looming damage to our economy, it’s hard not to conclude that some people must truly despise Scotland in order still to resist self-government. What part of the crumbling edifice of ever-right leaning Britain convinces some to express their proud Scot feelings by holding the UK closer?

There is, I suppose a retro war-time element to thinking that, whatever happens, we’ll be alright. Britain will bounce back. The Bank of England will be proved wrong and the economy will grow. The Americans are lying – we won’t be at the back of the trade deal queue. We’re not really rejecting immigration. Even Labour will revive, eventually.

Maybe. But it seems something has gone very wrong with a country pushing away its friends and demonising its overseas workforce. Blair’s contempt for accountability and transparency over Iraq and his toe-curling plea that it was still the right thing that he would do all over again, shows how deluded our elite is.

We can’t insure against electing people with vaulting ambition or unstoppable arrogance but we can construct processes to limit their adventurism. A requirement before military intervention in another country should be UN consultation at the very minimum, making it impossible to brush aside inconvenient judgments.

The scariest part is remembering that our parliament voted to support Blair when Labour and the Tories combined to defeat the SNP and the Liberals. If there had been effective scrutiny of the case and full disclosure, would they still have voted that way?

 

(On another matter, I’m pleased to announce my appointment to Ruth Davidson’s Commission on Brexit in which capacity I’ll be working with Adam Tomkins on a plan for the economy after we depart the EU. I’m a big admirer of Adam despite our spats on this blog and I regret calling him a twat. To this end I’ll be conducting hands-on research on how a small country deals with poverty during a prolonged tour of Portugal)

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Oh Brother, Where Art Thou

Since the Labour plotters are using a moment of critical importance to the country to indulge their small-minded coup against a democratically elected leader, let me do the same.

I’ll start with Labour in order to dismiss them from the key debate which is all they deserve. The MPs, most of whom have spent their years at Westminster scoffing at Corbyn as a corduroy comrade, have never resolved their prejudice and simply can’t accept him as leader of anything. They don’t care that the membership preferred him, massively, to their emollient elitist candidates and now talk about the three-pounders – those who bought their way in – rather than true Labour supporters. They have mentally separated the two groups believing that ‘genuine, working class Labour people’ still support them not the Corbyn insurgency.

The pleas of so-called socialists that the staggered resignations were in no way orchestrated displays another example of their wishful blindness. It is an insult not to BBC journalists but to the voters. This rebellion has been on the stocks for the entire period of Corbyn’s leadership and those like Eagle who accepted posts only to renege now, planned their departure from the outset.

Judged by conventional standards, Corbyn is a failure as the norms for political leadership are long established by the inner core of British opinion-formers. Anyone failing to meet pre-set protocols is derided like the new boy at school, the one with the wrong blazer and the funny accent. This is Westminster, a private school for grown-ups. Its inhabitants are used to pointing and sniggering at anything outwith their understanding – proportional voting, Scotland etc. So Labour does have a problem. However popular Corbyn is in the country, his failure to play the game, appease the newspapers and sing God Save the Queen means he doesn’t cut it with the nomenclature. And they take themselves way more seriously than any Mirror-reading spanner-wielder in the Midlands.

But the middle of the nuclear cloudburst that is now engulfing the UK is absolutely not the right time to mount a challenge of any sort. If Labour means anything, it is to offer advice and opposition to a dangerously inept and ideologically warped right wing government which is taking the country to the brink. The people of the UK deserve and demand leadership, insight, reassurance – an alternative, if that be possible. An alternative personality cloned from the usual studio fodder won’t make an ounce of difference except to the hundreds of thousands out there to will be infuriated at being disenfranchised – again – by an elite, especially if there is a contest in which the party machine contrives to lose Corbyn.

I didn’t rate Corbyn’s EU campaign because he seems unable to sound passionate about anything that doesn’t include Palestine or Syrian refugees. They have their place but Mr and Mrs Britain have been counting pennies for the last nine years and now see more pain stretching a decade ahead. It may well the vote was lost by former Labour voters who moved UKIP-style to Leave, they started that journey long before Corbyn morphed into leader. Labour lost four million votes under Blair and Brown and it is exactly the same type of fast-talking MP spivs who now want to wrest back control.

It takes some believing that when Wodehouse comedy characters like Johnson, Gove, Farage and Duncan Smith are destroying the economy and the national reputation, the people’s party is playing musical chairs in the playground. Indeed, history may well make a harsher judgment and call it dereliction of duty – the day the country called and Labour was otherwise engaged.

Meanwhile, the SNP, cheekily, tries to prise the title of Opposition from Labour at Westminster which rather neatly sums it up. And Sturgeon plays the role of international statesman in Brussels to the dismay of her critics who prefer the Scottish cringe when they are represented on the larger stage. The way this is reported like a foreign government descending on Brussels while editorials laud her statecraft and social media voices in England wish she were their leader, adds lustre to idea of an SNP-run state-in-waiting.

I can’t see how the FM can expect anything other than honeyed words though. Her approach is political and so is the response from Commission and Parliament. It’s as if she says: I have to be seen to this. And they reply: Us too.

Realistically, what have they to offer? The UK still hasn’t triggered Article 50. Until that happens, there is nothing to debate, nothing of substance to react to. There must still be chance that with Britain behaving like the parliamentary equivalent of TISWAS that no request will be made.

The EU is a club of nations. Scotland is not a nation. The UK will always take precedence. There are important protocols and practices to be observed and, as Spain have shown, diverse interests at work.

It doesn’t mean that over the next two years or so, a situation won’t arise in which separate deals can be done over direct engagement between Edinburgh and Brussels. Who knows – licensing for financial services no longer available in London?

What may prove critical is the channel of communication itself if Scotland wants to demonstrate it has friends in Brussels with the kind of leverage that could sway votes ahead of a second referendum. Even the absence of the Barroso-inspired negativity would be a help.

Spanish resistance could turn out to be a red herring too if an independent Scotland, rather than a devolved one, is seeking early entry. It is the subsidiary element that frightens Madrid where the hard line policy is to deny even a referendum in order to contain Catalan rebellion. It is true a fast track would worry them but acceptance into membership of any European country that can meet the criteria is a founding principle of the EU that would not be jettisoned casually out of deference to one country’s domestic self-interest.

If all fails of course we have to face the stark fact that we had our chance to shape our own destiny and declined. We preferred to give back the sovereignty we held on voting day and put our trust in Cameron, Gove, Johnson et al. Yes even in Corbyn. Life is about taking your chances when they’re presented and we as a people didn’t. In that sense the Tories are right. We voted to throw in our lot with the UK come what may and while the whole basis of the UK itself has now changed, clearing the way for another vote, we have left ourselves in the hands of others to decide if that happens. Again the whip hand is in London and it is in Brussels.

Yet there are real reasons to be optimistic this time as unforeseen events unfold before us. Surely this time, if the moment arises, the Scots will seize it whatever misgivings we have over the economy or defence or relationships? There could hardly be more uncertainty than there is today. Just ask Jeremy.

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Think About It

As you know, I’m forever reading beyond my intellectual status. This piece from the London School of Economics is interesting in that it may be discussed as a possible way forward in coming months. So you’ve time to think about it. I give my own detailed opinion at the end*

Current public discussions about how the UK is to leave the European Union have been too simplified, and have failed to come up with any solution that recognises that only England and Wales voted to leave. Brendan O’Leary outlines a way forward that might enable those nations of the UK that want to remain in the EU to do so.

There has as yet been no Brexit, and there will not be – because there is no such entity as ‘Britain,’ except as inaccurate shorthand for the multi-national state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There could, however, be a UKEXIT. But those who insist that a 52-48 vote is good enough to take the entire UK out of the EU would trigger a serious legitimacy crisis.

England and Wales have voted to leave the European Union, but Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have voted to remain. These differing outcomes have to be the central focus of political attention while we wait for the debris of broken expectations to settle in the Westminster parliament, among the UK’s allies, and across beached migrants and expatriates. The resolution of leadership crises in the Conservative and Labour parties will proceed amid the shocks reverberating around the world.

There is a constitutional compromise that would avoid the genuine prospect that a referendum on Scottish independence, promoted by the SNP and the Green Party, will lead to the break-up of the union of Great Britain. The Scots have every right to hold such a referendum, because the terms specified in the SNP’s election manifesto have been met—namely a major material change in circumstances.

The same constitutional compromise could diminish the likelihood of turbulence spilling into Northern Ireland, and destabilising its union with Great Britain. The same day that Nicola Sturgeon publicly indicated preparations for a second Scottish referendum, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, demanded that a poll be held, as is possible by law, to enable Irish reunification. Sinn Féin has a point. Many in Northern Ireland fear that a UK exit would restore a hard border across Ireland, and strip away core European components of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Does the narrow outcome of a UK-wide referendum automatically over-ride the terms of the Ireland-wide referendums of 1998, and a majority within Northern Ireland? Good Friday should not be superseded by Black Friday. It would be perfectly proper to call for a border poll to give people the option of remaining within the EU through Irish reunification—especially if there is no alternative that respects the clear local majority preference to remain within the EU in Northern Ireland. But there is such an alternative.

The very same compromise may also weaken the pressure from the Spanish government for the UK to cede sovereignty over Gibraltar.

This compromise would build on the idea that each mandate in each territory should be respected, but without breaking up the United Kingdom, or Gibraltar’s ties to the UK.

England and Wales move outside the EU, but Scotland and Northern Ireland stay within it

The compromise would be that the bulk of the UK would be outside—‘externally associated’ perhaps—and some of it inside the EU. This change would reflect the fact that the UK is composed of two unions, that of Great Britain, and that of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that in each of the two unions one partner has clearly expressed the desire to remain within the EU. All four mandates within the UK would be respected in what was an advisory referendum.

Is this feasible? Recall first that many UK dependencies—including three members of the British-Irish Council, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man—are currently not part of the European Union. So it’s already true that sovereign states, including the UK, have parts of their territories subject to their sovereignty within the European Union, and parts of them outside. The terms of the foundational treaty, the Treaty of Rome, also envisioned associate status — they were designed for the UK.

Then consider past precedent. Greenland, part of Denmark, seceded from the EEC, but Denmark remained within the EEC. That, of course, had few consequences for power within the European Union given Greenland’s small population, and the components of the UK that remain within the EU would not be entitled to the same rights that currently are held by the UK as a whole.

Now consider politics going forward. Negotiating UKEXIT is not going to be easy for the next Prime Minister and Cabinet—indeed the difficulties may precipitate a re-alignment of party politics and a general election.

The Westminster parliament must give effect to the advisory referendum, and it will have to deliberate over the consequences of imposing an EU departure against the majority will of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The consensual solution would be to negotiate for the secession of England and Wales from the EU, but to allow Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain—with MEPs, but without representation on the Council of Ministers, though with the right to have a single shared commissioner.

To work this compromise requires part of the UK to remain within the EU and that would require representation for the two components that remain inside the EU’s institutions—and the UK’s overall consent for the same. Retaining MEPs in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be easy. They would be numbered as currently, proportional to population, and this would have no major implications for the big states.

But London ministers could not retain power in the Council of Ministers if the bulk of the UK is outside the EU. I suggest that the now vacated UK Commissioner’s role could be kept, but the appointment could be rotated between Scotland and Northern Ireland, in a 3: 1 ratio over time, reflecting Scotland’s greater population. The Commissioner would be nominated by the relevant government and appointed by the UK government. (A judge to serve in the European Court of Justice could be nominated in the same way.) The retention of one Commissioner and their MEPs would give Scotland and Northern Ireland a say in agenda-setting and in law-making. And it would remove any UK ministerial veto over EU decision-making.

The future role of the Westminster parliament would be to process EU law that applies to Northern Ireland and Scotland—strictly as an input-output machine—thereby ensuring that Scotland and Northern Ireland have the same EU law, and that the Union is retained. It would be up to Westminster to decide which components of EU law they applied to England and Wales—a convenience that may be helpful in dealing with the repercussions of what has just occurred.

The currency is a reserved Crown power, and the proposed compromise would not lock Scotland and Northern Ireland into the Eurozone. Rather as part of the UK, Scotland and Northern should inherit the entire UK’s position under the Maastricht treaty (namely, they would stay with sterling unless the UK let them go into the Euro). However, Scotland and Northern Ireland would not be able to apply the new terms that Prime Minister recently Cameron negotiated on the supposition that all of the UK would remain in the European Union.

All of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales would be an internal passport free-zone. However, one negative consequence of this compromise would be a hard customs border in the Irish Sea. But that, I think, would be better than one across the land-mass of Ireland.

Another effect would be a hard customs border between Scotland and England. If all of Ireland and Scotland remain in the EU there cannot be a single market in the UK, as defined by the EU, and therefore a customs barrier will have to exist. But note that a hard customs border will materialise in any case if a Scottish referendum led to independence.

Ireland, North and South, and Scotland could not join the Schengen agreement because that would mean that England and Wales would lose the control over immigration which was emphasised by the leave side in the referendum. But then, they are not part of Schengen at present, and there is no evidence that a majority in any of the three countries wants to be.

Would there be any other benefits to this idea, aside from keeping the UK together, which Unionists of all stripes say they want? Yes, UK enterprises could re-locate to EU zones within the UK, which would soften the negative consequences of an entire UKEXIT. These arrangements would leave England and Wales to experiment with whatever policy freedoms they preferred.

Citizenship and migration-law, would have to be reconsidered, but the ensuing difficulties could be negotiated. These matters will be on the table anyway.

(See the full article here http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexitvote/2016/06/27/de-toxifying-the-uks-eu-exit-process-a-multi-national-compromise-is-possible/

*Wouldn’t it be easier just to go for independence?

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Clusterf**k

Sorry! Been missing for a few days. Thought I’d keep my head down (while all around lost theirs). Best I think to let the dust settle. But don’t think I haven’t been in command behind the scenes. Oh dear me, no. I’ve been monitoring events in stereo. Anyhow I reckoned it was time to emerge as the world went to pot so I addressed the family this morning to ensure stability. They seemed reassured although the wee one did ask: Daddy, are you alright…?

The technical term for what is happening in Britain today is clusterfuck. Error piles on misjudgement. Mistake on mishap. Mistiming hits unforeseen circumstance. Ignorance collides with inaction and before you know it we’re at Defcon One.

This is the country and this the government that told us to avoid uncertainty at all costs. When we sought self-government their tactic was to warn of Armageddon and say any change amounted to uncertainty, for how can you be sure of the consequences.

Look at us now.

Is the Prime Minister in power? He’s in Downing Street but then so is the cat. The currency has bombed, stocks crashed, banks prepare to move staff out, future access to trading markets faces restriction, the credit rating wobbles yet the man whose job it is to stand guard is AWOL for three days. The insurgent Brexiteers look as stunned as the rest of us. Neither they nor the government they want to replace have a plan. Not even an A4 with bullet points. Nor a Note page on an iphone. Not a fucking scooby. Rebels without a clue, the lot of them, so used to being taken seriously by an unchallenging media that they believe their own publicity. Boris is brilliant. Michael is a genius. Until they’re not. Until they are exposed as blustering blowhards disconnected from the populace, pandered to by camera crews and fawning, uncritical hacks who are themselves all actors in the Westminster Playhouse.

Some of us tried to put the point that there was little certain about a corrupt and splintered Union except its inevitable decline. But what you know always counts for more than airy expectation. The default position of the UK as a country being run by an elite and for an elite meant the relentless rise of London continued at the expense of the vast swathe of Britain. A representative system that suits the two big and sometimes interchangeable parties distorts the basic democratic framework. Labour’s endless search for meaning – and now organisational integrity – still proves fruitless. The media is overwhelmingly right wing and xenophobic, routinely misleading people with messages that incite hatred.

And in the middle of it all is Cameron, as smooth and plausible as Blair and as morally vacuous, a chancer whose demeanour and ‘communications skills’ carry him through. But not this time. The endless trimming and compromising with an intolerant English hard right first corroded the UK’s relationship with moderate conservatives in Brussels, taking his MEPs out of the EPP grouping, then pushed him into anti immigration policies he couldn’t fulfil and finally to offering a referendum he might have won had he the wit to prepare for it and time it properly. His paint-peeling idiocy has made his country a laughing stock, a hapless bystander and a by-word for racism across the continent, never mind the loss of jobs, income and security to follow. Cameron is now historically a failure, a straw man desperately recounting his successes ahead of an ignominious departure. When we think of what might have been with a Yes vote – whatever problems were thrown at us – the contrast with today’s inglorious collapse is painful.

And yet there springs the hope. Britain has truly changed. What the Americans like to think of as eccentric but essentially sensible Britain was turned to rubble last Friday morning. The Britain whose post-imperial connections and calm authority impressed the Germans and French was flushed down the diplomatic toilet. Instead of the soaring strings of Elgar the world hears Dueling Banjos. The UK that has been an integral part of Europe all, or most of our adult lives, has evaporated. While the politicians ploughed it for votes and created an intolerant atmosphere they missed the fact that voters were using Europe and immigration as a trigger a wider unrest. Where once the protest votes would go to Labour against a Tory government, now they went to UKIP to better vent their fury. Labour’s disconnect from its core, not nationalism, led to its demise in Scotland. What is to stop it happening in England? On a related point, Corbyn’s campaign was shockingly bad and may well have made the difference in losing our EU membership. If it’s true he deliberately didn’t support his own party’s efforts fully, he deserves to fall in the on-going coup.

So the country we thought we knew and to which No voters owed their allegiance is now a closed volume put back on the library shelf of history. It is for them an existential question. Do you still want to be part of the new UK rejecting EU membership and all the civilising influence that brings to be run remotely by a government of ultras and kippers, Britain’s answer to the French FN and Austria’s Freedom Party?

It isn’t just about the practicalities which themselves are worrying enough. Your country is an identity. It has to fit you and feel comfortable. Identity politics was derided, along with much else in the indyref, but that’s just denial. Your sense of self and place are as important as the air you breathe. I suspect many are discovering that post-Brexit and realise they now don’t belong where they thought they did. And, for the umpteenth time, identity is only exclusive if you make it so. Being proudly Danish or Norwegian doesn’t mean you shun Swedes and Germans.

For those who can no longer come to terms with what they believed was their country, alternatives beckon. In Scotland there is one ready-made, on the stocks and operating successfully which even offers on-going friendly relations with the hijacked British state.

I see some are already making the move over, some stating they were hard-line Unionist. It’s impressive stuff but, try as I might, I can’t imagine what would entice me to move the other way. If it were me who had to drop my commitment to independence, could I? What could make that happen? I suppose, and no offence here, if SNP policy was for an Islamic state with sharia law, or just any religious state run by mullahs, bishops or moderators, I’d renege. Or if Jackie Baillie had to be First Minister…

What I’m getting at is that this is a huge ask for anyone. If you’re wrestling with it, good luck. Do what you honestly think is best. If you do turn Yes, there’s no requirement other than your goodwill and your vote. You don’t have to join the SNP (I don’t) although I see 2000 did over the weekend. It will take some getting used to but it’s a well-trod path nowadays. There are many thousands before you and more to come after. And you’ll find other returning Scots tramping beside you.

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Thank You, England

I began to feel European in the early nineties when the arguments about the single currency were raging through Westminster and I was flying to Brussels and Strasbourg with other youngish types from Ireland, Denmark or Greece. We got it, were part of it and sat in Kitty O’Shea’s within sight of the Berlaymont with a glass scoffing at live broadcasts from the Commons of plummy MPs demanding freedom from Europe.

Sad, backward, exclusive and borderline racist would be a widely-held view of their antics, like 19th century warmongers voting for full military powers to be given to the East India Company. I liked being Scottish over there because I felt connected to the continent-wide movement that was embracing the old warring nations of Europe and was quite distinct from the faintly detached English journalists with their put downs and comes-as-standard sense of entitlement. We, the Scots that I knew, seemed to be moving with the grain, modernising and opening up to influence and enlightenment. A key difference of course was that we didn’t see the EC as a threat but as an ally and a bridge to prosperity. To anyone schooled in the ways of London, on the other hand, the whole Euro contraption was a vehicle for ludicrous no-hopers trying to catch up with the real global power.

The messages beamed back to Blighty – by, among others, Boris Johnson of the Telegraph – reflected the readers’ own prejudices about foreigners and half-developed civilisations playing at being real countries ‘ like ours’. The officials I knew despaired. The politicians admitted we weren’t really Europeans at all. But I saw how Scotland could fit right into this network of influence and make friends. Spending time with colleagues from every country in the club opened me up to a positive influence which was underlined when reporters from about-to-be entrants Poland and the Baltics showed their amazement at our wealth.

So my starting point for the referendum was Yes. In. Remain. Restez. An exit was the view of the ill-informed and the right wing cranks.

And, frankly, it still is. The right wing cranks are a parade sorts who make me recoil on sight – Redwood, Duncan Smith, Fox, Farage. None of these people has the faintest interest in European solidarity built on workers rights and a work-life balance. They are money spivs, manipulators and exploiters who used the dispossessed to win. Those same dispossessed will now pay the price for the Brexiters’ success.

You aren’t supposed to blame the voters. Always respect them. Don’t patronise. But if you ask just what plumbers in the Midlands or potato pickers in East Anglia are going to get out of this, it’s hard to escape the worry they are the unwitting dupes in a power game.

This referendum had no alternative manifesto. There was no White Paper. The same Unionist politicans and tame journalists who harried the SNP and analysed to death their prospectus in 2014 said nothing about a total absence of a plan. Who supported it? Who in the Commission had hinted at a deal? What’s the timetable for a trade arrangement? How many migrants will be allowed in? We don’t know and neither do the Brexit voters who have supported an emotional idea minus any practical prospectus. Nothing wrong with emotion – I’m a nationalist – but without a plan it’s meaningless and potentially destructive.

A chimera was created in which all the grievances of the dispossessed and disenfranchised were conveniently bundled into a big bag called immigration. Even areas where there is virtually none bought it. This is how you hit back, they were told. Forget the facts and the nuance. Smash the system by kicking the establishment – and replacing it with another establishment which, almost unbelievably, cares even less about you.

What I hate is the idea that all across Europe we are now viewed as xenophobes and quitters regaled by Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders. Instead of quaint, eccentric, one-foot-in, one-foot-out Brits we are now the revolting guests shunned by all.

How refreshing to hear the First Minister pay her respects to our European friends living in Scotland yet denied a vote. Those who don’t want to play the disgusting guest any longer now have the starkest of choices and a way of extricating ourselves from what looks like a brutish rather than a British nationalism.

Without rushing into the teeth of a indyref2, Sturgeon was passionate and, for me, scarily committed to securing our place in Europe to the extent of preparing legislation. Exciting stuff. I know the case in some ways is harder to make for independence now, but as I wrote recently, that overlooks the grim state of Britain after Brexit. We were told Yes meant no EU membership…it meant the national credit rating falling…the currency losing value…shares tumbling…companies relocating…damaging uncertainty. And what have we got?

I think we should remove the claymores from the thatches, make friendly noises to foes, get a plan, breathe some heady air – and prepare for independence. Right now it looks like England may have delivered the opportunity for self-government that Scotland itself couldn’t grasp. Thank you, friends. Thank you.

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