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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28 thoughts on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou

  1. Couple of points…..

    Firstly the statement that ‘The EU is a club of nations. Scotland is not a nation.’ Scotland is not a state but it IS certainly a nation. Likewise the EU is a collection of states such as the multinational UK state (for now). Semantics perhaps but important nonetheless since a key to our whole positioning on this matter is that Scotland is a nation whose democratic decision must be respected. Unlike, say, Bristol or London which are manifestly not nations and, thus, must accept the will of the nation of which they are a part.

    Secondly, the Catalan situation may have been relevant in the first indyref but I think much less so now. The context has changed radically and Spain’s concerns can be addressed far more easily. Scotland is in the EU at present and is only threatened with exit due to the impending actions of the UK state to withdraw. The prospect of Catalonian independence would only be comparable if Spain also intended to withdraw from the EU. Incidentally, I dare say that, if this eventuality ever arose, the EU would be quite keen to retain Catalonia given its inherently expansionist nature. So there is a clear and crucial distinction with the prospect of Scottish independence. One is independence from a state exiting the EU; one is independence from a state very much in the EU. This distinction, if necessary, could be enshrined in treaty to the effect that ‘devolved/autonomous/semi-autonomous ‘regions’ may exercise the right to retain EU membership subject to negotiation in the event of the withdrawal of the parent state in situations where that is the clear will of the people residing in that ‘region”.

    • Scotland is a nation, Derek. We are in a political union at present which will end when we opt for independence again, which will happen in tandem with England leaving the EU.
      This inevitable fact will be the basis for continuing membership of the EU as the successor state.
      We are not going to sit on the sidelines while Theresa May signs away our birthright.
      On the Corbyn leadership mess?
      Who cares/ Labour is finished Up Here. One MP and a risible 17000 members?
      A nothing party.

      Yet you spend time mulling over a basically English Party’s dilemma?

  2. Heidstaethefire.

    I don’t know about you, Derek, but I imagined that the Scottish result would be slightly higher, but that the in/out result U.K. wide was going to be the reverse of what it was it turned out to be. What really surprised me, though, was the strength of the reaction in Scotland. I had imagined that people here would be doing a ” …hold your nose and vote yes…” as I did, and we would be back to looking for a medium to long term, but steady, increase in support for independence. Shows how much I know.
    I agree with you on the Idea of a “…. government in waiting,” and really, that’s just a continuation of the competent governance agenda. The important difference, though, is that there is now a foreign policy component, and one that is being carried forward brilliantly, especially when we compare and contrast with the omishambles/clusterfuck/bourach that is the British establishment. And while it’s good to have the support we’re getting from Europe, we need to make sure that we’re going into Europe with the intention of improving it; it’s not good enough just to sign up to the current neoliberal consensus. I think, though that the status quo is about to crash and burn. I suspect, too that the Eurocrats are beginning to get that, if only because of the threat to their positions
    I’m not sure though, where it leaves us in terms of the timing. Possibly the establishment will be too exhsusted and/or distracted to put up much resistance if we go during the next year or two. On the other hand we probably have only one more shot at this. We might need to be patient for a little longer. Nicola’s well known caution, rather than Eck’s taste for a gamble, will be an asset here. Interesting times, indeed

  3. Good article Derek, and good politics from the First Minister, acting as though Scotland were an independent nation in its own right. Another nail in the Union coffin.

    On the EU, however, I still feel uneasy. Let us not forget the frosty treament the EU dished out to the independence movement back in 2014. They were quite happy to be a patsy for Westminster.

    To be blunt, I don’t trust the buggers…

  4. Spain has just publicly stated that no discussion can take place between Scotland and the EU about EU membership because Scotland has not yet regained its independence. This clearly suggests that Spain will not now oppose discussions when Scotland does become independent again. IndyRef2 has become even more likely thanks to Spain.

  5. Both Spain and France are reluctant but this is very early days. Anyone who expected instant acceptance wasn’t being realistic. But the difference in the situation from the previous indyref is readily visible. As has already been pointed out, unless Spain plans to do a Brexit, the situation with Catalonia is now enough different that I am convinced they can be brought around with Ms Sturgeon’s strong negotiating hand.

  6. Spain is an insignificant joke of a country with no money and 50% youth unemployment. As long as Gibraltar exists they have no strategic significance for either the EU or NATO. Fuck them. Throw them out of the EU and let them back in when they’ve banned bullfighting.

  7. Don’t think a damn thing need added to that dissection Derek.

    I think the SG can safely count today’s enterprise on the plus column. The new advisory committee is in the process of assembly, the fact finding meet n greet is going well and the electorate have been kept informed every step of the way.

    A government on top of its brief and being seen to act accordingly.

    Meanwhile elsewhere….

  8. Tory No voters in my acquaintance sneer that Nicola’s efforts in foreign relations are “posturing” and that the very last thing the country needs now is another independence referendum. My fear is that post Brexit won’t be hard enough on enough of them to get them to shift from No to Yes come Indyref2. Inexplicably, they seem to fear their fellow Scot more than they fear the the vile corruption of Westminster. Was Ms Lamont (remember her anyone?) on the button with her “genetically programmed” remark after all?

    • Don’t you think that Tory No voters are in the category of No voters who would not vote for Scotland’s independence under any circumstances?

  9. Derek,

    You say, inter alia,, this:

    “The EU is a club of nations. Scotland is not a nation. The UK will always take precedence.”

    The point about the SNP, and me, is to reclaim that nationhood. How hard is that for you, Derek Bateman?

    Not completely sure you quite see it the same way as me. You, sir, need to work it out.

    Sure, delete me again…..

  10. AyeForScotland


    Derek has stated many times that he is a nationalist. He is not saying in this piece that he sees Scotland as not being a nation.

    Derek explains it perfectly well that while ScotGov are being seen in an exceptionally good light in the EU, the EU need to be equally diplomatic to Scotland as protocol dictates as such. Things are changing and we’ll be there soon enough.

    Nicola’s meeting with the President of EU parliament and the President of EU Commission is a fantastic first step. We need to play the game just now and gain independence when the time comes.

  11. I hear many people whom I suspect voted No last time saying they now think independence is the only route forwards for Scotland.

    I think Nicola is taking multiple soundings but basically we don’t really have much of a choice. It is likely that if there is a general election a government will be elected which will be even further to the right than the current one given the collapse of Labour. It may include UKIP MPs in large numbers as traditional Labour voters desert the party. We are faced now with a government which could, if it wished to, decide to not accept the EU referendum result, on the basis that it was founded on a tissue of lies and is not in the country’s best interests. It could order a fresh referendum on Europe. But it chooses not to. Craig Murray predicted that the Tories would quickly re-form after this ‘division’ and form a united front. Which is what has happenned.

    This shows that there were very few Europhiles in the party and that euroscepticism was the majority position, it was simply a matter of degree.

    In such circumstances a new right wing government could slash the Barnett formula and even abolish the Scottish government. The current government refused to pass that part of the Scotland Act which proposed that the Scottish Parliament should be permanent.

    The main threat to us pulling off a second indyref is if the Tories manage to put together a reasonably competant and moderate government. Then a wider spectrum of No voters might be tempted to give UK one last chance.

    • “The main threat to us pulling off a second indyref is if the Tories manage to put together a reasonably competant and moderate government.” – I agree with that. I would also add that the other threat is a fudged deal or “Norway Minus” type agreement where technically we remain in the EU yet lose certain privileges e.g. voting rights etc.

      My fear is that this will placate supporters on both sides of the debate sufficiently to mitigate the threat of Scottish self-determination.

  12. Thomas Valentine

    Is the any basis to the suggestion that England was goaded into leaving the EU?

  13. You would be as well writing down all the possibilities of what might happen politically in the U.K over the next few years, and then sticking a pin in, blindfold. The chances of you getting it correct would probably be much the same as burning the midnight oil, wracking your brain over all the scenarios that might happen.
    I’m no Brahan Seer, so I don’t have a clue as to what might occur, but what I do have is a belief in Nicola Sturgeon, and the S.N.P Scottish Government, doing the very best for us, the people of Scotland, and achieving our ultimate goal, independence.
    So while I want to remain in the E.U, and I think Nicola is playing a blinder in that respect, more than anything else I want the people of Scotland to be able to make their own minds up about any future matter, and not be subjected to the whims and fancies of a completely dysfunctional Westminster administration, whom we did not vote into power.
    On the other matter of Jeremy Corbyn, and the concentrated M.S.M campaign to remove him, I heard Alex Salmond raise an interesting point on L.B.C yesterday. He stated that while 63% of Labour voters were in favour of Remain, only 39% of Tory voters were of the same mind. If that is correct, then why are we not hearing calls for David Cameron to resign? Oh, I forgot.

  14. Only 14.9% of Scots voted Tory at the 2015 General Election meaning we got a government we didn’t want,
    a referendum we didn’t vote for and a referendum result we voted squarely against.

    The Scottish democratic deficit. QED.

    Next time you speak to a No voter remember that fact above all others.

  15. Jonnny come lately

    I wish many of the above posters would have the same faith in Scotland as JP Morgen. According to Reuters JP Morgen have in a note to clients informed that they expect Scotland to be independent with its own currency before Brexit in 2019:)

  16. No one can stop Scotland from leaving the European Union when and if we are in the heavenly position of being freed from the rest of Britain. Obviously we’ve got to have indi ref 2 before England/Britain leaves Europe or els we are seemingly F*cked.

  17. As the Tory government are pretty well in a state of paralysis just now why not add to their discomfort not by refusing to carry out their will here in Jockland but by just not implementing it . all requests to deport the Australian family file that under a to do list a we will address it when we have the time , cut the Tory msps at Holyrood out of the loop obstruct their access to any information and site a admin error they never wanted a Parliament so why assist them, in short be bloody awkward with a promise of more to follow, treat their Tory stoodges the same as they treat our MPs in their Parliament because it is their Parliament we are only there to observe.

  18. An excellent article , Derek.

    I think the EU position can be summarised as follows, “We have listened to you. If you want to be an EU member, vote for independence.”

    I think it’s that simple.

    I think the FM knows that too.

    Game on.

  19. We all saw the reaction of MEPs when Alyn Smith begged them not to let us down.There will,no doubt,be technical and legal issues which would have to be over come to allow Scotland to remain in the EU,but there is also a monumental emotional and moral challenge to be overcome by any Europhile politicians before they can turn their back on a nation of EU citizens who have just voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.

    Expel,exclude,remove,rescind,cast out.Which phrase is most appropriate?

  20. Mealer, I think there is no mechanism to expel a state from the EU. Of course, at the moment we are not a distinct member state, since we are unfortunately part of the U.K. However, what would it say about the EU if it did nothing and allowed Scotland to be removed against its will?

    I think that would be a huge blow to the EU’s image as a club which welcomes aspiring states. For this reason I believe ways will be found to admit Scotland with little fuss, IF we do the needful in Indyref2. The disrespectful delaying tactics of England only strengthen our hand.

    Fortunately our numbers are stacking up since former No voters are upset about Brexit and are converting to Yes. And I’m sure the FM will adopt a clear and defensible position on currency, out biggest weakness last time.

    I’m not usually a happy-clapper around the camp-fire kind of guy but I’m optimistic.

  21. Unfortunately Scottish remain voters are for the moment, technically , lumped in with the millions of Ruk remain voters as far as the EU can concern itself.

    Otherwise we could expect an immediate reassurance from the EU of our continuing status. I was surprised the UK government did not insist on this principle for the REF result. .arguing it was a UK wide exercise and not one for exposing regional differences. In the same way we would not tolerate the Borders or Shetland remaining with the UK in the event of REF2.

    However, fortunately the genie has left the bottle and we know we are a United nation divided from our neighbours so significantly that we can legitimately vote for separation and therefore both de facto and de jure remain within the EU as continuing RUK/ Scotland. …great innit?

  22. Lochside, the old cliché, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” will determine EU action, and I believe they are not disposed to give England any favours after their years of anti-EU rhetoric. The likes of Alyn Smith and Angus Robertson speaking in French and German send a powerful message of solidarity when contrasted with English monolingual arrogance.

    The FM would not have opened up the charm offensive with the EU had she not already received some measure of unofficial support.

    “Great innit?”

    Yeah, yeah and thrice yeah, brother.

  23. Robert Graham

    its way past the time for the SNP to go after the BBC interviewers as soon as the usual but but but starts , Mic off while making it clear why , if the bbc stooges will not sure of the reaction they will soon get the message , why the hell be nice and pleasant to them while they continue to spread shite lies and total misinformation oh they might lose support from them aye right what f/kn support or even impartiality.
    a refusal to play in their little twisted hate fest towards the SNP will soon become a real pain in their arses

  24. Derek, if you haven’t seen this?


    Make a point of it.


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