Will I ever give up independence? Would I stop believing if we couldn’t get into the EU? If (stick with me here) the UK ever offered a genuinely federal system would it end my dream of full self-determination and sovereignty?
Eh, no. Not that I wouldn’t settle in the medium term for a federal arrangement giving 90 per cent of powers to Edinburgh as I fully expected to happen after both a 45 per cent Yes vote followed by a crushing general election SNP win – fool that I am.
I’d take it with both hands and then just damp down the independence embers in my pipe the way granddad Bateman did with his Condor sliced and await the time to puff them back into life. We Scottish nationalists can be pleasantly patient knowing our day will come.
So why do we expect British nationalists to surrender in the face of Brexit? If I believed in the UK, I’m damned if I’d stop because we’d be out of Europe. I’d be more likely to think it was an opportunity to show just what the country could do – which is of course exactly what May’s Brexiteers are saying. I agree there is much disquiet around the country at the implications that nobody took any notice of before the vote but I doubt if many of those folk would call themselves believers in the British cause. Most of them were just fed up with life in a dismal democracy with built-in poverty and automatic privilege for the few.
The numbers who appear to be moving into the Yes zone in the opinion polls will be a scatter gun of the politically uncommitted, soft Unionists and the self-interested who suddenly see funding drying up for their personal interests. On which point I happen to know there was a scary amount of I’m All Right Jack in the university sector from some who would otherwise regard themselves as radicals at Scottish referendum time. They bought the line that funding would be cut and inter-university exchange trips would be jeopardised by Barroso so voted No. That looks small-minded and short-sighted today.
There will be all kinds of people reassessing their No vote in the light of the uncertainty of Brexit and the, at least temporary, sliding economic figures and forecasts. There’s only so long you can hang on to the idea that Britain knows best. Do you still believe Alistair and Gordon had the best interests of the country at heart now they’re swimming in the tank with the sharks who started the financial crash in the first place? Is the fall in the oil price really the only brake on your patriotism?
If the mood music remains the same and May presses ahead with our departure while her Atlanticist Brexit ministers preen and puff like buccaneers of capitalism, disillusion will grow with the old Westminster-led project. If the reaction in Brussels toward the UK remains spiteful and resentful with a theme of punishment, then the choice for Scots will crystallise. (I harbour a thought that it might not need much more than intelligence and goodwill to prevent Brexit happening at all – subjects for future blogs.)
But I can see no earthly reason why any Scot who holds the UK in his heart and, despite everything, cleaves to it with the unshakeable faith of the stalwart, should desert her now. I’d be disappointed if they did. Having something to believe in is the reason for indy marches and demos to express the feeling of engagement and excitement that comes from shared purpose. I don’t know what Britnats do for fun – watch the Proms maybe. But then I do that.
I suspect an awful lot of those diehards are also emboldened by the feeling that they were cheated of their victory at the indyref. Everything has gone backwards at a rate of knots for them and now, like the nightmare of dread, they face potentially a second vote. The first referendum was like an emotional wringer for Unionists forcing them to confront issues of sentiment and loyalty they had spent their lives avoiding. They were made to feel unScottish by the welter of argument and eventually had to admit that they really didn’t believe in Scotland enough – enough to run its own affairs, raise its own taxes, stage parliamentary debates, forge international relations and generally not make a complete balls of it. It wasn’t nice for them.
They honestly thought September 2014 was the end. It was over – until it wasn’t. They now feel, I suspect, like a beleaguered minority who lose even when they win. That’s why they rallied in the Scottish elections to the best non-SNP candidate in so many seats. Their loyalty to Union was stronger than it was to party.
I don’t know if we can ever win over more than a few of the committed who became uneasy soon after indryref1 when talk about a second go started up. Whatever misgivings Yes had about pathetic vows and broken promises and rejected amendments, to them this was cheating. It was undemocratic and lacked respect for the process and the people’s decision. I doubt if they’re impressed by the idea that Brexit has changed everything – they heard the demands for a second referendum well before the European vote even took place.
I don’t think the Unionists are truly represented by Torrance and Mccolm and the usual agitators. There are too many of them to be described in simplistic terms. On our side we demean them too easily. There is even a need to understand more deeply what motivates continuing No voters which is why I argued that the SNP budget, by not increasing higher level taxes, was an astute move. It makes it clear that all Scotland is included and while cybernats demand we hammer the middle class, it is the SNP that better understands the prejudices and drivers of those yet to be convinced.
I accept I too can only oversimplify but on the other hand, I’m trying. There is always a way – just as Brexit itself can be avoided with understanding and goodwill, so there must be a route to Yes for at least some of the remaining Unionists. If they can’t make it over, at least I can understand. I wouldn’t sell Scotland out at any price.by