We’re all having to rethink our position these days to respond to fast-changing events. We try to hold on to our principal aims as long-term objectives while readjusting to the here and now. To me that means I yearn for independence but accept that remains on the horizon while I deal with immediate Brexit concerns.

One way I changed my own mindset was in admiring the bold pro-EU stance taken by Tim Farron who is the only UK leader talking my language about the need to stay inside the European family of nations, not just for trade purposes but for humanitarian ones of mutual support and social solidarity. It means standing against public opinion as expressed in the referendum because it is a point of principle, one that can’t just be dropped because of a short, dishonest campaign based on xenophobia. That’s not easy when the ‘people have spoken’. So there I was adjusting all my partisan dials to accommodate the Lib Dems whom I’ve previously written off as dishonest and untrustworthy, when the Scottish branch actually vote against single market membership being protected. Against the single market. It not only destroys my touching faith in Liberals, it confirms their place back at the bottom of the trust rankings. Good night, Tim.

What possesses our representatives when it comes to protecting the national interest? For Liberals who have been in my lifetime the most pro-European lot of all to perform a U-turn at the very moment their country needs them is pretty shocking. Did they really consider their constitutional role to represent and defend the Scots or did they only look at their narrow and short-term self-interest…

Yesterday’s vote I find hard to take. My Liberals were people like Russell Johnson, Charles Kennedy, David Steel with solid European credentials. When they merged, none other than the former European commission president Roy Jenkins joined them.

The group Liberal Scotland in Europe wrote: This period of political history may prove to be the most significant for our constitution in 300 of years. It is for the Scottish Liberal Democrats membership to decide what role the party will play and what route we will choose. But if we are to secure the best future for Scotland and the strongest relationship with both the UK and EU, we will need to leave no possibility unexplored. If we fail to do that our children and grandchildren will not forgive us.

That’s the basis on which the autumn conference debated options including independence – and threw it out, even as a theoretical possibility if it became clear it was in Scotland’s interest. The one-eyed, one-way approach was perpetuated at Holyrood yesterday and taken to the extreme. Voting effectively against Scotland in the single market contradicts everything Liberal Democrats have said for 25 years and renders their pro-European credentials nothing more than weasel words. As soon as Farron stands up to say he’ll vote against Article 50 or will campaign in the next election calling for an end to Brexit, his critics will simply demand to know how that squares with his Scottish branch voting against market membership.

I’m puzzled too by the Tories voting the same way. It was their party under Margaret Thatcher and guided by Lord Cockfield that brought about the single market which remains British Conservatism’s greatest contribution to the EU. To abandon it now – in favour of what, exactly – is revisionism. It sounded at first as if Davidson’s Tories were anti Brexit, explicitly backing Remain and the single market. Even after the vote as she slithered and dithered into an accommodating stance, she was at pains to welcome free movement. Then, come the crunch, she and her party defect…all ideals in tatters. I suppose this is what she calls effective opposition – opposing the government irrespective of logic or principle even if it means contradicting her own party’s history. What a kick in the teeth for Thatcher’s legacy.

I leave the mangy old cur of Scottish Labour to last – the pathetic, cowed runt of a political movement devoid of impetus or idea. Like a doe-eyed bag of bones curled up beside the fire and good for nothing, it somehow pleads to be treated gently, as if this sorry pass is not its own fault. ‘I used to be something, you know’, it seems to say but those days are lost in the mists of time. If the questions were worth asking they would be of the fundamental kind – what are you for? Who do you represent? What is your policy programme? What is your objective? How will you attain it?

Labour can’t hold a policy position for more than 24 hours, its message fleeting, incoherent and irrelevant. Brexit threatens to be the most important strategic change in direction the UK has taken in 50 years with clear warnings of economic destruction for hundreds of thousands, company closures, rising living costs, a currency slump, literally unknown future trading arrangements, with doors slammed in the face of essential immigration with our global relationships and image harmed. When the call came for decisive action and unity in the face of such catastrophe, Labour, the people’s party, collapsed. With no position worth sustaining, they opted out and abstained. Truly Dugdale leads a pitiful mob.

I know the get-out: Access is different from membership and membership implies sovereignty. Well, tell that to any of the 300,000 Scots whose jobs depend on it. Tell that to the hard-pressed families whose household bills tip them over the credit limit and tell that to the overseas students whose fees keep our universities thriving. How does it look to the public? I’d guess it fits perfectly in the wee box marked Hypocrites that cynical voters keep their prejudices in. Smug politicians on £60,000 play games with my job, my mortgage and my future…

Nobody was being asked about independence in this vote. Nobody was being asked to abandon principled positions, not pro-Union nor pro-independence. They were in effect being asked for unity – to put Scotland first, the Scotland that voted clearly to Remain. The opposition instead said: ‘Nah. You’re alright. I’ll pass.’

What they have done of course is undermine Scotland’s long-term chances of getting a hearing in Brussels for any kind of exceptionalism, never mind a deal. That may depend not on Nicola Sturgeon and her skills but on a country united and imploring the 27 to look kindly on us as fellow travellers. A country that can unite across parties and with everything else, including independence, put in second place, presents a case that’s hard to dismiss. When roughly half the voters are represented by voices that are seen to be actively against membership or couldn’t care less, the entire case is weakened.

It is perhaps understandable that Labour, Lib Dems and Tories in Wales have an anti-EU stance despite its crippling implications for the local economy. They can argue the people are with them. Not so in Scotland where, in Labour’s case, the idea of party ‘autonomy’ could have been used to support a position different from that of the London leadership based on the referendum result.

It seems nothing, not even economic meltdown, can persuade Unionist politicians to utter any word – even ‘membership’ – that just might imply a sovereign Scotland some way down the line. The Liberals of course have thrown the idea out irrespective at their conference. It allows the elected members again to trade on the Tory and other anti-independence votes that elected them last time but it raises a question: If it comes to it and the only option is hard Brexit and a poor deal for the UK outside the single market and facing years of tariffs while new trade deals are negotiated, is it still Union or bust? What if there is an offer from Brussels for Scotland to inherit the UK membership, if it demonstrates a desire for independence? As it stands the Liberals won’t even consider it – the people can go to Hell. Is Labour far behind? Will the outright resistance to self-determination withstand even economic catastrophe, turning a Brexit Union into a suicide mission? Is the self-loathing they project on to Scotland so extreme that it overrides rational thought?

These are complex and fluid times when flexibility and manoeuvrability are called for. Closing off any option is clod-hopping politics at the best of times. To do so today is against national interest. We can celebrate the common sense that delivered the vote to protect our place in the market – along with the Greens – because it really matters. But for the Union, it was a day to be ashamed of our parliament.

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33 thoughts on “EU-Turn

  1. Scottish Labour:

    What are you for? Career opportunities for the otherwise unemployable

    Who do you represent? Oor wee sel’s

    What is your policy programme? Don’t understand the question

    What is your objective? Maximum income, minimum effort – and staying off the burro

    How will you attain it? whatever trickery and dishonesty it takes

    • Correction: for “burro” above, read “burroo” – apologies to those hispanophones who thought I was referring to a donkey…. although in this context…..

  2. I don’t believe the stance of the unionist politicians in Scotland has anything to do with party politics or or a whip line from Westminster. The London offices barely acknowledge the MSPs in any case.

    No, this is something far more basic and selfish. It’s job preservation for those politicians who see Independence as a personal threat, not a social or economic threat. In an independent Scotland, there are no British parties and these guys are all redundant. Worth noting the SNP would be disbanded as well although we’d expect some new parties to be developed which included many of the most talented politicians across the spectrum. But the ability of some to jump on a national party bandwagon for ‘automatic’ election would disappear.

    They’re not selling out Scotland for the Union. They’re selling out Scotland for their own self-interest. Just like the nobles who signed up to the treaty in the first place.

    • This.

      A million upvotes

    • Chas has pretty much covered it. You asked Derek in your article:

      but it raises a question: If it comes to it and the only option is hard Brexit and a poor deal for the UK outside the single market and facing years of tariffs while new trade deals are negotiated, is it still Union or bust? What if there is an offer from Brussels for Scotland to inherit the UK membership, if it demonstrates a desire for independence?

      You answered it yourself inadvertently, but correctly, imo when you wrote:

      How does it look to the public? I’d guess it fits perfectly in the wee box marked Hypocrites that cynical voters keep their prejudices in. Smug politicians on £60,000 play games with my job, my mortgage and my future…

      Their motivation by and large is their wage imo. Sure, there are a lot of voters in Scotland who feel and identify with Britain, and British identity. But their politicians are generally as self serving as you will find anywhere. There are perhaps a few who feel passionately committed to their British identity. But even during the first independence referendum, does anyone seriously think the likes of Alastair Darling were being driven by principles, ideals etc, or the desire not to lose his place in the House of Lords, and its associated directorships/consultancies in major banks? One of the last SLAB politicians I had respect for was Malcolm Chisholm, I think he was and is genuinely principled, while Sarah Boyack and Pauline McNeil have struck me as being decent politicians and people, and loyal to the Labour Party in Scotland as well. There may well be a few others. But the exceptions are few and far between now. Self preservation is the name of the Scottish unionist game.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald

    Given the historic position of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats and the view expressed by Mr Farron, I find Mr Rennie’s stance incredible. The Tories are simply doing what the UK Tories are doing and shuffling towards some kind of unity, because, more than any other party, they realise ‘unity is strength’, especially when you are in power and can shape things to the benefit of you and yours and to hell with anyone else. They realise that the Right is in the ascendancy across much of the western world and despite the fact that Ruth considered Boris a tadger and Boris considered Dave a lightweight and Dave considered Teresa lukewarm, etc. In a ‘post truth’ world they can congregate around ‘power’ and the media which they control will never really pry into previous positions. What the Tories say now is ‘true’ as what they say now. What they say tomorrow, even if it is a direct contradiction of today, will be ‘true’ then. That is what post-truth is about.
    As for Scottish Labour leadership it is all about being cocks on a local dungheap and, the spiteful: “if ye urnae wi us yer agin us, so fuck yese and we’ll gie haunners tae anywan that is agin yese, even Tories.” I know many Labour voters, I was one myself for most of my life, and most are decent and loyal people. They are not being served by the Dugdale/Foulkes/Baillie/Gray/Darling/Robertson et al clique.

  4. No the unionist parties did not cover themselves in glory over the vote and why? Simply because they are over invested in another argument, another agenda and another narrative altogether.

    Their respective parties and the state construct they are so wedded to come first. Not jobs, not people, not the right to choose, but simply their own myopic self interest. Well done them for underlining and confirming what the Scottish electorates next choice is going to be all about.

    Not that there was ever much doubt TBF.

  5. A superb blast against the abject self-serving of the Unionist parties, Derek.

    Lies, evasions and unprincipled unapologetic U-turns are increasingly their trademark as they wither. A complete failure to represent and support the people of Scotland, irrespective of political outlook. And thereby only contributing to their own increasing irrelevance.

    This article deserves to be read by every voter and young person across the land.

    Thank you!

  6. Apart from the message this sends to Europe – and it may well have holed the SG’s case below the waterline – the message from the Unionists is “Dear constituents, you may have elected us but we don’t give a fuck what YOU think”

    They are beneath contempt. Hatred of the SNP overrides everything.

  7. Well Derek, when push comes to shove, I think all of the branch offices will vote for us to go down with the Titanic. They cannae help themselves. They are so screwed up, bitter wee naebuddies, who obviously hate Scotland and her people. Sad really, but that’s what we are up against.

  8. “Is the self-loathing they project on to Scotland so extreme that it overrides rational thought?”

    In a word, yes.

    We see Scotland as a country, Unionists obviously do not. I find it hard to understand how they can hold such a strong line, there must be people within these parties who are disgusted with this behaviour, where are they and why are they not speaking out?

    However this is just the latest in a line of examples where Unionist are happy for Scotland to get the short end of the deal, need I even mention oil or renewables? These people are so pro Union (Stockholm syndrome?) that everything is worth sacrificing, in the case of Lib Dems even one their core policy positions.

    I am struggling to understand this mindset but then they might say the same about mine as a Scot Nat but I like to think I am more pragmatic than that. I do not object to Unionists and their output just because they are Unionists, that is what small minded people do.

  9. Unionist MSPs in Scotland have shown themselves to all be Tories ,no matter what colour they claim.

    Scotland deserves better than that bunch of self-serving unionist shite.

  10. They just wanted to swipe at the SNP. They just hate Scottish independence so much. I thought the vote passed though, 65 to 32?

    • Yes, it was passed. But how strong a message would we have sent if it been agreed by all? My mind was truly boggled by that vote.
      Nice summary Derek, of a new low in the political game. That’ll have lost them a few more votes in next May’s elections.

      • Not really, they have a friend in BBC Scotland who do not make viewer saware. Reporting Scotland never mentioned it. Cannot understand Derek sticking up for his former employers albeit in a convoluted way.

  11. The ability of governments (and people, and parties) to act against their own self-interest was admirably documented by the great historian Barbara Tuchman (‘The March of Folly, 1985) in her analysis of the fall of Troy, the loss of the American colonies, and Vietnam. She puts the phenomenon down to a combination of arrogance, willful blindness, and a refusal to contemplate alternatives.

    This is where we are now. In Westminster, as in Holyrood, everyone and their dog knows that Brexit is ruinous and retrograde. But the players have become locked in a mindset which refuses to acknowledge this to itself and take the necessary steps. Instead, they seek any and all ‘reasons’ to justify themselves to themselves – at any cost, even to the country they are supposed to represent.

    Once established, this mindset is almost impossible to overcome. It takes a level of statesmanship which our current crop of would-be leaders don’t possess. It takes a Mandela or a de Klerk or a Perez to realise there is an alternative to the course they seem to be set on. I don’t see Dugdale or Rennie or Davidson in that company.

  12. […] And do you know the most infuriating, frustrating, mind-bendingly ludicrous thing about all this? The anti-independence parties have just made it more difficult for Scotland to remain in both the UK and the EU: […]

  13. Misrepresentation. We are campaigning for FEDERALISM both in the U.K. as well as our continuing membership of the EU. It’s federalism, not nationalism nor unionism. Get it?

  14. They are playing a high wire game, all of the opposition. When I hear MurdorFraser, Willie Rennie and Jackie Baillie saying, the SNP only want to manufacture another referendum and they all do their best to ensure that is the only option for Scotland’s future they think that Nicola won’t have the bottle to call it. It is they that have backed themselves into a corner rather than keeping their options open.
    Not very wise politics!

  15. What think you of Reporting Scotland not even mentioning the vote? Protecting Labour at all costs

    • At the end of RS on the day I was reading on Twitter the fallout from how different parties had voted but that the motion had been carried Jackie Bird summarised the main points of news as Scottish Government having challenges to get the motion through, but in fact it had already been passed. News? Aye right, propaganda and they still tell us it’s the leader for independent reporting?

    • Unsurprised. Not that I watch it.

  16. Have the unionist parties just sent the same message to the EU that they sent to China over the MOU that is, the political situation in Scotland is not as pro EU as our EU referendum result indicated, and why should the EU treat Scotland any different to rUK?

  17. ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it’.
    Upton Sinclair.

    We could replace the word, understand, to mean being honest, or loyal, or even caring. These people even go against the own conscience if they have one, and even against their own people.

    Criminal really.

  18. Self-interest & careerism is a problem to be sure- but so too is the No Surrender die die die Unionism of the likes of Murdo Fraser among others in Scottish politics- these folk are not for turning for ANYTHING- no doubt in their medieval feudal like mindset it would be tantamount to treason!

  19. Kevin Murphy-Steele

    It’s easy to see what’s happening. Despite Nicola’s gallant (and I believe, genuine) attempts to find a “third way” out of this mess, Lab and the LibDems, by taking this position, have resigned themselves to the fact we are heading for the endgame…..i.e a hard Brexit and Indyref2, and as thus are drawing their line in the sand now.

    In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote I was optimistic that Labour and the Lib Dems may soften their tone on independence, or at least be willing to open their mind to discussing it, but it is now clear their policy is “The Union At Any Cost”. They’d rather go down with a sinking Brexit ship and be in perpetual opposition to the Tories in Westminster just to protect the status quo.

    Progressives?? My a**se!!

    • Derek, as usual, your forensic post mortem is a joy to read. You are without doubt head and shoulders above your erstwhile colleagues when it comes to analysing the sad state of politics in Scotland today.
      The prose is not half bad too.
      It is a twin edged sword however.
      The Better Together Spinsters hang on to your every word; it is akin to you holding a ‘How Do We Con the Scots Electorate Without Them Catching On’ Workshop.
      There is no doubt that Dugdale Rennie, and particularly Davidson and her venal crew are anti Scotland, deny Scotland as a nation, and are quite prepared to sacrifice the citizens of Scotland on the altar of political and personal expediency, just to keep in with their EVEL Masters/Mistresses.
      £1200 per week plus expenses for abstaining; not doing the day job.
      Just sit with your arms folded and shriek BAD SNP can’t run the trains.
      Professor Adam WATP Two Jobs Tomkins was reading his texts live on camera on Wednesday as his fellow sectarian bigot The Queen’s Eleven Murdo Fraser prattled on about England being our biggest trading partner, and threatening the citizens of Scotland with England’s Almighty Wrath if we even considered a second vote for Self Determination.
      He actually believes this trade embargo shit?
      If he does, he’s a fool.If he knows that he speaks with forked tongue, then he takes us , the citizens of Scotland to be fools.
      NS is prepared to play the long game.
      If, as is likely, there is no separate EU deal for Scotland, the 62% mandate, plus the 56 SNP MPs returned to WM in Mat ’15, is a clear democratic indicator that the ‘will of the Scottish people’ would be thwarted if we sat meekly and allowed a Tory/UKIP Consortium to force us out of the EU.
      If a separate Trade and Free Movement Deal could be negotiated, Indyref 2 would be deferred, until the horror of Brexit kicked in, and Scotland thrived as a Trading Member of the EU.
      Either way, Self Determination is the next logical step. The only question then is, when?

  20. I’m sorry but here’s no way of dodging the obvious: these unionists/britnats are traitors to Scotland.

    • Let’s not be divided and ruled? If we start a civil war we’ll be traitors to our fellow Scots, daft as they may be – well, and to ourselves.

      Let’s take satisfaction from the thought that come independence, these guys won’t be the ones in charge.

  21. They are still “yoons”. The Westminster set up could theoretically break the union with Scotland and “grant” Scotland independence, or abandon it to the Gers and the “yoons” would have no say at all.
    The greatest irony of all!
    Tory “yoons” one can just about understand. Labour “yoons” are still hopeful for a Labour government at Westminster, a forlorn hope with Corbyn who is not Dugdale’s ideal. But, the LibDems are beyond the pale. The “branch” north of the Tweed has sold out. No principles left whatsoever.

  22. Steve Asaneilean

    Sadly the division is clear between those of us who see Scotland as a nation (and as such believe it has the right to self-governance and self-determination) and those who believe that Scotland should remain the minority partner in a largely one sided British union AT ANY COST.

    There really can be no doubt about it now. We have to accept that is just the way LabLibTors are and they will not change and we should not waste any more time trying to change them.

    We need instead to concentrate on the man and woman on the street – get out there and knock the doors, pound the pavement, hand out leaflets, organise meetings and make the case. And we need to start right now as though Indyref2 was just about to happen (and not let up till it does).

  23. Who was the young lad that was doing news pieces on YouTube around the referendum? He was good. How much would it cost to set him, – or someone like him – up with a salary and a rented office/studio? The equipment for filming & editing is cheap these days. You could have a one-man news station based in Edinburgh for well under 100k a year. One presenter, one production hand, two researchers and an administrator and you’d still be around a quarter of a million.

    Doesn’t independence have some rich supporters? This isn’t like asking them to buy STV and put in enough cash to take the BBC on head-to-head. It would barely be much extra trouble to put the funding through an NPO called “Scottish Policy Institute” or similar smokescreen name – you need someone’s money, but put some academics on the letterhead and let them be the face of it.

    Taking again the recent blanket media condemnation of the Scottish NHS performance results, there isn’t news available in Scotland any more, when it comes to independence. There’s only propaganda. Holyrood’s three big responsibilities are health, education and justice – and so the establishment policy is to hammer these three, regardless of truth or objectivity. You don’t have to do much research to find that a Scottish education is rated one of the best, and an English one one of the worst, or to see that the English NHS is far and away worse and more sold off than the Scottish one. (If you follow the comment sections of UK newspapers, there is still close to no awareness that Scotland’s systems in these three areas are even separate).

    The British state is venal, but if you think it’s universally stupid, you’ll lose to it again and again. For may reasons, not least the breadth of its church, the BBC is a formidable force, and on top of that the oligarch’s press imposes its own news agenda. But one thing that’s changed since 20 years ago is that social media and the web have changed the entry cost for mass communication. The American right knows this.

    Most of the news I see shared on the likes of Facebook by my nationalist friends, is still from the BBC or the Guardian or the independent. We need our own voice to counter the propaganda with some common sense, and I’d say that none of the existing internet resources – Derek, Wings or anyone else – fills that space. Even a weekly two-minute news-report-come-documentary would make a difference.

    I don’t like seeing pro-independence commentators coming online semi-apologetic about Named Person, or for liking the EU, or because Scottish hospitals only got 94% of a 95% target. Scottish “news” BS and it is winning.

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