I’ve been trying not to write anything for a week or so in case I become obsessed with referendums.
It’s a condition all us separatists suffer, unlike sensible people from Unionist parties who never mention the subject.
It does get a bit repetitive, though, doesn’t it? I do think a lot of the public resistance to the idea of indyref2 is just an expression of ennui rather than opposition to independence itself. People just don’t want another any time soon and would probably prefer if nobody talked about it at all to give them a break.
The first one didn’t resolve anything – not for long. And the EU version has brought the worst cataclysm on the country since the financial crash – and will have longer lasting consequences.
Whichever way a second indyref goes, the fall-out is going to be spectacular. Either we enter a prolonged period of readjustment to statehood with attendant dilemmas over debt, currency, EU membership and extrication from England or we go down as an emasculated province of isolationist, cut-price Britain. You can hear the public inquiring: Are there any other choices?
And the answer I’m afraid is No. That is the stark choice, the unavoidable reality that looms. No wonder so many recoil at the thought. You’ll need a full stomach when the time comes because, whatever your preference, the vote is only the beginning. Best to treat the intervening months as a really long downie day.
Perhaps that’s why there is mounting talk of ditching the referendum idea and going back to the original basis of the democratic case – the election of a majority of MPs. Wouldn’t that be sweet? We’d be there already – with a stonking majority. With the MPs returned, the SNP government declares the country independent. For those of us frustrated and not a little humiliated by lectures from sub-Trump pipsqueaks who give every impression of despising the country they serve, the prospect of a quick dash to freedom is tempting. It has an ideological basis that is hard to dispute (putting aside pro and anti preferences). Among its flaws though are that there was no specific claim made by the SNP prior to the 2015 election. Sturgeon said: A vote for the SNP is not a vote for another referendum. It is a vote to have Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster.
I’m not sure withdrawal of MPs would constitute our voice being heard. The supposition behind an SNP vote of course is always going to independence but you’d still need to declare in advance that withdrawal was possible depending on circumstance – many non-indy Scots vote SNP and deserve to be represented.
But beyond all these nuanced issues there is one overarching matter that can’t be willed away. An independent state only really exists insofar as it is recognised as such by other nations.
If governments elsewhere don’t accept your mandate to be a sovereign state, it doesn’t matter how loud you shout or how many flags you fly. Throughout the modern independence claim period the world community – including Spain – has made clear that if the existing state –the UK – acknowledges the existence of Scotland as a separate state (presumably after an agreed democratic formula) then they too would follow suit. Other countries look to the existing state and government – the British government in London – for their lead. Unless London makes clear that part of the UK territory has gone through a proper process to turn itself into an autonomous entity, it is most unlikely any partner nations would recognise the new status. A breakaway province unilaterally asserting nationhood would be a bastard creature which many would see as symbolizing a threat to the world order. The first thing Washington, for example, would do, is phone London for clarification. Without getting the nod, the US would sit on its hands. Most of the rest of world opinion would follow that lead. Only in extremis, such as London breaking with international norms of state behavior, would the international community look more favourably – in other words, after a recognized democratic process such as a referendum, when London refused to accept a Yes majority.
This scenario would hardly be helped by street protests by Unionists provoked to action and refusing to accept the decision.
All of which adds to the sense of being caught in a trap while the doors to escape are nailed down. I have yet to hear a coherent explanation of what the Unionists expect to happen to Scotland after Brexit. In their scenario, we are fixed in a straightjacket with London and, never mind how we voted, heading out into the depths of space, destination uncertain. Are we to believe that, whatever the London Brexiteers decide, there is no Scottish solution. We must trust the Tories and accept whatever they bring back and lump it? Our destiny is forever in their hands and, if the universal view of the forecasters is correct, accept reduced circumstances, curtailed travel and isolation – the end of our shared European social democracy as we are ripped out of union with our partners to become a free-booting, low tax entrepot?
The first referendum was for many Can we afford to be independent? The second will be Can we afford not to? In the first we were told we had too much to lose, the future was uncertain. It was safer with sensible Westminster in charge wrapped within the comfort blanket of the EU. Look at us now. This isn’t just a threat to the idea of Scotland the nation which so many are happy to dismiss. It is a direct attack on jobs and prospects, living standards, university education, public services sustained by immigrants, the environment, food safety – even air safety. The very things that middle class Scots held more dearly than their country in 2014 are now at risk, according, not to Nationalists, but the New York Times, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Resolution Foundation, the European Commission and every recognized commentator outside the loony Leavers.
This is where voting No has got us. Repeating the mistake would be an act of economic suicide for ourselves and our children.by