UKOK?

The most noteworthy thing about Unionists is how they never talk about the Union. Consume the output of media politics in Scotland from one week to the next and you’ll virtually nothing about the relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

The comments of players in the game appear, for sure, and events like Damien Green meeting Scottish ministers about divvying up post Brexit powers are treated as news but there is virtually no perspective on the working of the relationships that are the sinews of the construct that is Britain.

I wait in vain for any of the pro-Union representatives to make a speech lauding the current state of the country or to break out of the predictable studio narrative and cry Hallelluja! Thank the Good Lord for bestowing upon us a country so contented, so prosperous, so healthy and united and for national leadership so inspiring it is taken as a beacon for others around the world. Blessed we are in this United Kingdom.

Or even: things ain’t too bad, after all.

Could it be that nobody in Britain actually believes that things are going well. Is the truth that nobody has faith in leadership. Why do polls suggest majorities in all four nations believe the Union will end, perhaps within a decade?

There appears to be a self-denying ordinance gagging those who should be holding up the UK as a template for a well-run country. Instead of examples of how Britain does things better and gets results, we are subjected to many reasons why any alternative is worse. The same thing happened during the indyref when every utterance of independistas was examined minutely but with no corresponding analysis of how things actually work now.

I’ve watched the relish with which a Twitter row among Yessers is elevated to mean the end of the nationalist dream when it hasn’t touched the leadership or cohesion of the wider movement at all. A handful of mini-celeb names that mean nothing to the hundreds of thousands of independence voters across the country have let their narcissism get the better of them.

But is the SNP split? Is the Cabinet in revolt? Has anyone resigned? Has anyone in a position of authority said anything worth quoting? Is anybody opposing the continuing objective of independence?

Contrast that with a broken-back Prime Minister whose Chancellor maps out a new approach while she’s on holiday, before her deputy straightens it out again.

Here’s a section from the FT:
‘Theresa May’s cabinet is split into at least three groups over how Britain should arrange a transition period after Brexit, according to several people involved in discussions. One group, led by Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is pushing for the most gradual departure possible from the EU and tends to stress the economic risks of Brexit. Another, including Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, tends to emphasise the opportunities of departure and the need to honour last year’s Brexit referendum result and favours a cleaner break. Then there is a group in between, which includes the prime minister and her de facto deputy, Damian Green, as well as two notable Brexit campaigners, Michael Gove and David Davis.’

Considering the importance of Brexit this is little short of disastrous. Remember, these are the people in charge of the policy yet are deeply divided among themselves. Somehow a coherent argument has to be put to the EU negotiators from this guddle.

They are still fighting each other as the clock ticks down. And for noises off – the equivalent of the Yes Twitter spat – we have the recently resigned aide to David Davis saying the whole Brexit disaster must be stopped, a new political party formed and the Brexiteers who lied to the voters, jailed.

These are the people running the United Kingdom whose health service may be approaching breaking point because of their policy and funding failures (I predict the Tory solution will magically turn out to be private investment).

Even before we turn to the universally agreed destruction that Brexit will bring, the state of the nation surely demands that we hear a great peoples debate on what kind of country Britain has become.

It is now established for example that the effects of austerity and lack of investment mean people in the north of England die younger than those feather-bedded in the south. The rate of premature death in people under 45 is falling in the south, but stagnating in the north. In 2015 the number of premature deaths of people aged 35 to 44 was 50% higher in the north than the south. Since 2008, the regional death gap has widened alarmingly, bucking a decades-long trend.

Dawn Foster, in the Guardian, writes: ‘deaths by suicide, from substance abuse and chronic health conditions: a growing death toll driven by despair and diminishing quality of life for young people, with life chances winnowed away and health worsening for one section of the population while the other flourishes. These are the diseases of despair: deaths that aren’t inevitable and would be entirely preventable if only health inequalities in this country were taken seriously. The deindustrialisation of Britain hasn’t helped, leaving areas with no industry, precarious work, high unemployment and for young people, little prospect of a better life and a stab at social mobility.’

The Tory Party that 700,000 Scots voted for brought in the two-child maximum benefit cutting at a stroke a financial lifeline to three-child families almost a third of of whom are now struggling to pay for basic living costs. With a new baby to care for but no extra tax credits to help cover costs, parents reported having to skip meals themselves so they could feed all their children. Some told the charity they’re developing health problems because they can’t afford food with the right nutrition or vitamins. Others say their children now have to go without the right school uniform or materials for class.

If Unionist Scots do care about the ‘United” kingdom, why is so little attention paid to the way whole areas of the country is run? We were told we had to shun our own self government so as not to leave in the lurch the poor and vulnerable in Liverpool and Leeds. Well, we’re still here. How are we doing?

It’s when you look at the reality of de-industrialised, under-invested Britain with its rentier economy and craven surrender to foreign economic interests that you know why even Tories don’t celebrate the UK. There are no peons of praise, no hymns or hosannas that any British politician could utter that wouldn’t be treated with justified contempt. May, whose term at the Home Office was stained yet again this week in another immigration court appeal, talked about the Just About Managing – JAM families on the edge. It is her own government that is the JAM. And the UK, now the worst performing economy in the developed world and one of the most unequal, is a global laughing stock for shooting itself in the foot over the EU.

Labour too is split badly over Brexit and fighting internally over deselection of MPs. The stardust of Corbyn is dispersing as he is steadily exposed as a charlatan like all the others with anti-nuclear and student policies evaporating on examination and his Bennite distaste for the EU.

Even natural allies of Britain are scathing in their scorn at the delusional Brits. But you won’t find this as a narrative in Unionism because, as must be clear by now, like Brexiteers, they live in denial. And fundamentally most pro-Union types can never accept that any level of Hell could be worse that their own country’s independence.

Attacking Scotland and Yes is easy – and we shouldn’t facilitate that – but don’t be deflected. The enemy is the British system, the matrix of powers that is the State and their desire to exploit the nation for their own self-interest. That’s what has created the state we’re in.

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30 thoughts on “UKOK?

  1. Excellent piece, Mr Bateman. Thank you for a clinical analysis of “The State of the Union” – it should be force-fed to Yoons and switherers across Scotland!

  2. Steve Asaneilean

    In my view Brexit will be an unmitigated disaster. We are not going to get anything like a good deal and that is as it should be. Why should we get all the membership perks without being members or paying the membership fees?

    Whatever way you cut it the Brexiteers were and are driven by xenophobia and an irrational belief that UKOK is better than any other country and has nothing to learn from any other country.

    When they were pushing this agenda even they did not understand the implications as is clear from the more recent headless chicken approach to the loss of freedom of the skies or easy movement through EU immigration points or leaving Euratom which could leave our hospitals without the necessary isotopes it needs to do things like CT scans and cancer treatment.

    There is no acknowledgement of how sectors such as the health service, social care, tourism or agriculture have been propped up by the EU and by freedom of movement to the extent that we now depend on non-UK citizens to keep the sectors going.

    We have the fisherman who voted for Brexit now complaining about the implications of what they voted for; likewise the farmers set to lose their subsidy-dependent livelihoods but who also voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Well suck it up guys – no rights to choose come without taking responsibility for the consequences of those choices.

    What is even more galling for me is that it is the younger generation who stand to lose most (and who voted overwhelmingly to remain) having their futures determined for them by an older generation who have least to lose yet voted overwhelmingly to leave. That just sucks frankly and is the socio-economic equivalent of ‘donkey’ generals sending school boys over the trench tops in Flanders – and it’s equally unforgivable to my mind.

    I am increasingly seeing the younger generation becoming completely disillusioned with the UK and openly expressing the notion that “there’s nothing for us here”. And I personally know of many who have already made the choice and left. That we so readily sit back and do nothing to stop the future lifeblood draining away like this is perhaps the saddest consequence of all of the Brexit vote.

  3. Any attempt by unionists to speak up against anything that is undermining their own arguments as to why the UK is OK, is simply felt to be strengthening the hand of the SNP and the argument for Independence.

    So they defend or deflect every decision made by the UK gov that casts the union in a bad light. Its what lead them to defend the rape clause and dementia tax. Its what drove Lamont to make one gaff after another as she attacked universalism and cast Scotland as “something for nothing” culture. It is what drove Baillie to defend food banks rather than bemoan their existence. It’s why labour cheered Osborne as he claimed Scotland contributed nothing to the UK in his infamous sermon on the pound.

    So no matter how bad it gets. No matter how many lives are blighted by poor government. They will never speak out against it but rather speak out in favor of it. The institution is what matters. Theirs is an argument for Union in Scotland not Scotland in the Union Simply put, for the Union to matter and count for something, Scotland literally has to count for nothing.

    • Alasdair Macdonald

      For many, the Union just IS. It is part of the firmament and so is taken as a given. Hence, there is no need to discuss it, because it is a FACT. The earth is flat; that was a fact once. The earth is the centre of the universe; that, too, was a fact once. Today, we laugh at such ideas, but they held sway for centuries.

      Paradigm shifts are hard to bring about. They happen, and when they do, it is often very sudden and substantial. But, it is getting things to that stage that is difficult, Real facts and lucid arguments are insufficient. It is an attitudinal and emotional thing. Sometimes external factors – exogenous shocks – are needed because internally things have reached a stasis.

      The ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ cliche is remarkably potent. You can point out how many ways in which it is damaged, but one minor flaw in your proposed alternative sinks it. So many people are up against it at the moment but can see, in the short term, things they might do, which might make things a bit better, for a short while. They are thinking within the existing paradigm. To suggest a different paradigm is too frightening.

      Brexit could well be the exogenous shock. Brexit was never intended for the majority of the 51.9% who voted for it on the mendacious manifesto offered. It was for the big financial players of the city, the big media owners, the 1% plus their lackeys like Mr Farage. They will negotiate a Brexit which meets their needs and they will be able to move freely between countries and to shift their capital and to import people from elsewhere in the world when they need them (and deport them just as quickly).

      The Westminster government is creaking and leaking. Ireland will break it.

      • I think you have a point. The fuzzy thinking that underpins the support of union is deep rooted and would be difficult to dislodge. In Union and Unionisms – Colin Kidd put forward the notion that the union is really like old wallpaper in an old house. The folk living there have simply gotten so used to it, they can’t imagine changing it. In fact the very idea of changing it simply fills them with lethargy. In other words the Union has lasted so long, people take it for granted that its always going to be there. He went on to argue that it would take some serious seismic shock to get people to the point were they would notice the union and examine it in the cold light of day.

        I really thought the first Indyref would do that. It did up to a point and divided opinion straight down the middle practically. But not enough to shift it totally. It still must have been a real shock for unionists to realise that their was no real majority in favor of it. It was the vow that helped them over the finish line.

        So were does the next shock come from? Mr Kidd, in his closing paragraphs, concluded that it could well be a strident English nationalism that could do it. Brexit does seem to have set that loose. I had not considered Ireland. But then, neither had the tories. There does seem to be a bizarre simpleton notion doing the rounds that this will bring RoI back in the UK. That its likely to do the opposite is beginning to dawn on quite a few people. So yes…it very well could be Ireland which does it.

      • My English born, NZ raised with me wife was an automatic No person last time. Now she is leaning, slowly, gradually to vote Yes next time.

        She has morphed, again gradually, from an angry, disillusioned, upset Remain/No voter that that position was unsustainable, annoyed that she was going to have to choose. Annoyed at the imposition of that choice.

        Now she is looking for good reasons to both be Yes and like the SNP. The trial of free sanitary products for poor women and girls was one, Trump telling the world Independence would be a bad thing another.

        Softly, softly catchee monkey. Many of the academics she works with are similar. The foreign ones are pretty much sold of course, the rest will likely vote Yes as Remainers and in horror at Tory Westminster. All the senior economist in my wife’s dept before the last one sat down as a group and asked if Scotland’s economy was a going concern. They concluded that it probably was. They were still Yes, because solidarity etc. I expect looking at Brexit and remembering that they will vote Yes, and of course for the academic interest and consultative fees new iScotland will offer them.

        Papers and books will be written about Scotland’s economy and unpicking it from Nether Britain’s. The ‘surprises’ as that happens.

        Not everyone in England or Economics is agin us. Read this:
        http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/08/12/scotland-is-the-only-part-of-the-uk-running-a-consistent-trade-surplus/

        Richard Murphy wrote Corbyn’s economic policy. But he is still largely on our side. He’s the one who got Kevin Hare to admit on Twitter that GERS says nothing about how iScotland might be. For that alone he deserves honorary Scottish citizenship.

        • Alasdair Macdonald

          David Agnew and Muscleguy,

          Thank you for your endorsement of my thoughts and for your development of the theme.

          The ‘wallpaper’ analogy is a good one. I have discussed independence with several decent, humane people, who have simply not engaged, because they cannot comprehend that there is an issue. They are too sincerely kind to say so, but they obviously think that on this issue I am having hallucinations. Nevertheless, as we saw in 2014, support jumped from around 30% to 45%, while amongst native born Scots it appears there was a majority. I am implacably opposed to any restriction of voting rights for any person who lives and works in Scotland no matter where she or he was born. It is up to us YESSERS to convince them. Scotland needs immigration – not just to pay for my pension and geriatric health care, but because immigration is on the whole a creative and renewing thing for any community.

          The Irish have always been pretty clear-eyed about perfidious Albion and I think that, slowly, but increasingly more of the Irish unionists are becoming equivocal. A very large number of them hold Irish passports and will remain EU citizens.

          However, we are in bed with an elephant and, I think that it might well be a renascent, decent, humane Englishness which emerges which could begin to change the hegemonic mindset of the many in England. London has always been in the van of genuine ‘progressive’ thinking. It is the most unequal city in The UK. It voted Remain, it saw a substantial swing to Labour – winning Kensington, for goodness sake! – and has many vibrant local activists. In Manchester and the north west there is a fair development of a ‘regional’ identity. Apart from Birmingham, the cities of England all voted Remain and for Labour (not the sour, cliquish, self seeking Scottish Labour).

          I do not want to overstate this, for it is more nuanced and not inevitable, but, I feel that it is ‘the people of England’ (to quote Chesterton) ‘who will speak’ and push things past the tipping point.

          There might well be a genuinely federalist phase.

  4. It’s like Billy Bragg said: ‘Britain isn’t great anymore’.

  5. Thank you for encapsulating what is wrong with Greater England. There is no Union. The devolved nations and province are mere appendages to the view from England and especially London.

    Significantly, this expression of exceptionalism is writ large in the way that the broadcast and print media view things. I read an article from the LSE about the historic way that the Tory party has treated the UK since the Corn Laws were passed in the 1850s. It has always been party first as Ireland and the Empire were treated with contempt. But the BBC and ITV never quite hit the sweet spot when it comes to identifying why the polity of privilege never quite look in the mirror to see the real culprits of our distress.

    As for the Labour Party – just call them Tories for the working class. You have got Jeremy to a tee.

  6. Even a lifelong Tory supporter like Matthew Parris declares that he is ashamed of the Tory party and acknowledges that the whole accumulating mess of Brexit is entirely theirs. The clownish behaviour of the so-called political representatives of the UK government is difficult even for their friends in the media to conceal. ( Was it actually supposed to be true that David Davis went to EU negotiations with his case in a Faraday cage in case of hacking? It is hard to know what is a joke nowadays.)

    Yet despite all this and the increasing squeeze which is put on ordinary families by Tory policies, some Yes supporters – as you rightly say, mini-celebs – decide that it is the time to stir up hostilities in the Yes movement, to the delight of the Unionists. Who would credit that with such a WM government and their attendant toadies in the Scottish unionist parties, they could have mounted such a distraction?

    There are people in increasingly straitened circumstances and also young people who need to believe that things will get better and that our society will offer them opportunities which will enable them to remain in Scotland. All of them need a revivified Yes movement or Scotland is going to be a parochial backwater with no visible profile in the world and perpetually enfeebled by the loss of its youth. The unionists think that they have already won and it is all over. A weakened Scotland would be their triumph.

  7. I used to think ( in the George Osbourne Powerhouse days) that London was to be the centre of the universe ( as far as Westminster was concerned) with the Manchesters, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff the satellites feeding into London. I was wrong. Now it is all about Westminster, the City and power.
    However it looks like even on the surface with Brexit, they’ve messed London up too. ( I realise there’s much more could be said about London).
    Yet if anything folk around me seem to be shrugging their shoulders and almost accepting that this is how it is. Denial ? Maybe? Or possibly because things appear to be in such disarray it’s like well what can we do?
    I only hope Nicola and her cabinet come back from their holidays with a foghorn and shout from the rooftops ( and hopefully every billboard)
    Scotland this is our social policy !!!
    This is the policy which will provide you with a baby box from birth right through to assistance with funeral costs at the end of your life if you require it.
    This is a country where assistance will be there when times are tough and if you need a helping hand , these are the services we will provide you with.
    We voted to remain part of the European community but our priority will always be here, our community .
    Steve is right. While the younger folk I work with aren’t planning on leaving, they can’t afford to, instead they’re working two low paid jobs to keep a car ( which ironically they need for work) on the road. They have no chance of saving for a house as their wages go on rent and in some ways they are old heads on young shoulders- when they actually should be enjoying life. This doesn’t bode well.
    I’m never sure if the SNP are scared of the word socialist but these are already their policies without a title. Well give them a title – social policy and give people a safe alternative and shout it out loud and then even louder.
    The unionists can snipe all they like but if a safe alternative is offered I think as the chaos continues people will listen but they need to hear it first.
    After all if only 700,000 voted Tory the majority of us obviously want something else.
    Oh and when Gordon Brewer or Gary Robertson asks ‘ how much? ‘ , it’s already costed .

  8. I am currently working in London for a UK financial services company with a global footprint. I have cut and pasted a piece below which the company commissioned from an independent consulting company on the current state of Brexit.

    I would say, “enjoy!” but it’s hard to given the picture it paints…

    “Below are the views from our public affairs consultancy in Brussels which, among other issues, advises us on how Brexit is progressing so we can prepare our business accordingly.

    These views represent our consultancy’s current reading of the situation, following the conversations they have with the Commission, European Parliament and member state officials; and comes after the second round of Brexit negotiations has been concluded. It makes interesting reading and highlights the challenges that we, as a technology company operating in part in the UK financial services market, currently face.

    The five different observations:
    · – Observation 1: there is a deep divergence in views between London and Brussels;
    · – Observation 2: politics prevails over economics and law;
    · – Observation 3: it is impossible to grasp the full complexity, size and the consequences of Brexit;
    · – Observation 4: significant concessions are needed on both sides;
    · – Observation 5: Brexit must be seen in a global context.

    Observation 1: there is a deep divergence in views between London and Brussels
    A number of fundamental differences can be observed when it comes to views on Brexit itself and its priority as well as on the substance of the withdrawal agreement specifically.

    First of all, in Brussels Brexit is seen as ‘something we will have to deal with’. It is on the list of tasks which also include the migration crisis, terrorism, populism, decreasing support for free trade, Greece, and the agenda for jobs and growth. Policy makers stress that the priority should be the EU’s ‘positive agenda’. Brexit is seen as a loss to all, and having to deal with it is time and resource consuming. In Brussels there are very few who believe that Brexit can be a success. This difference in approach will make the process very difficult and communication tough. Brexit is seen as a UK policy, a UK decision, something the UK wants, which contrasts with a situation where both parties wish to engage equally. Nonetheless, Brexit has been accepted as happening, although some in Brussels hang on to a tiny bit of hope that the process might be reversed in the future.

    Secondly, the divergence of views exists on the substance of issues and how to deal with it. First on the sequencing issue: the EU sees two different negotiations, the UK foresees one negotiation. From the outset the EU has been very clear on sequencing: first arrange the exit, settle the accounts, and clear all the outstanding issues; only then from a clean slate, the UK and EU can start the new relationship. In the UK this is viewed differently: it is seen as a transition from current EU membership to leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, while keeping other aspects of cooperation. This latter process is considered the most logical way in the UK, whereas the EU considers it overly complicated.

    These different views can easily be explained by the different interests at stake. One of the UK’s biggest leverages in the negotiations is the financial commitments the UK has made. In a no deal situation, it can be expected that the UK unilaterally stops paying into the budget, and that the EU breaks all ties with the funded programmes. Agreeing on continuing to pay into the EU budget, while having no guarantees on a free trade deal is not in the UK’s interest. In addition, the EU often portrays Brexit as a ‘technical issue’: as a disentanglement of 44 years of a close relationship, to be done by the EU’s ‘divorce lawyers’. To enforce this image, the EU has put forward numerous position papers with many detailed and technical issues to be sorted out before withdrawal. The is contrary to how David Davis talks about Brexit negotiations: ‘when the political will is there, everything is possible in two years’ – portraying Brexit as a purely political issue.

    Thirdly, although during the first round of negotiations there was agreement on the organization of the process, there does not seem to be any consensus yet on when the future framework agreement is supposed to be concluded: whether this is to be before or after the Brexit date of March 2019. This has implications for possible transitional arrangements and how these are perceived on either side of the Channel. These discussions are further complicated by conflicting reporting by the press in the EU27 and UK. This was exemplified by this week’s speculation on the free movement of people and the existence or lack of any possible transitional arrangements.

    Observation 2: politics over economics and law
    Although most believe that a 2-year timeframe is far too short to finalize the practical aspects of the withdrawal agreement and set up a future framework, ultimately it will be the high-level politicians who agree the final deal. Brexit is driven by politics and legal considerations are secondary. Discussions on whether it is legally possible to withdraw the Article 50 notification are irrelevant because if all sides want it, it can be agreed. Laws can change whenever the political will is there.

    Both sides have stipulated that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, which means that everything is on the table and everything is part of a trade-off. Until the agreement is signed by all, everything can easily be re-opened. After that it would be more difficult, but it is not impossible to ignore international agreements.

    Secondly, economics are also less prominent. Some economists say: as long as there is an overlapping economic interest, there will be an agreement. Some believe that passporting will continue because it is in the economic interest of both sides. However, considering ‘passporting’ is just one piece of the much larger puzzle, it remains to be seen whether this will be the case. For the EU27, the overall political goal of keeping the EU together, is far more important than a not-so-good deal for a specific sector such as financial services.

    Observation 3: it is impossible to grasp the full complexity, size and the consequences of Brexit
    Brexit is huge: 44 years of intense cooperation to be separated, sector by sector. Overseeing all the implications of Brexit is an enormous challenge. Brexit is therefore seen as a learning exercise, enabling people to understand what it actually means to be in the EU. Much of what the EU has achieved is invisible: no more national borders, registration systems for medicines, safety checks for goods imported, water quality agencies, custom controls, and the list continues.

    Some in Brussels feel that the consequences of Brexit are not yet fully understood in the UK. One consequence of leaving the Single Market is losing the right to passport. “No cherry-picking” may sound like an empty slogan, but to EU policy-makers this concretely means: no preferential treatment of certain sectors such as financial services. This is not seen as punishment, but as a simple and objective consequence of Brexit.

    Another consequence of Brexit are the proposed changes to the EMIR framework, creating the possibility to force CCPs [Central Counter Party Clearing Houses] out of the UK. The European Commission recognizes that risks pertaining to third country CCPs will increase after Brexit as a substantial volume of derivatives transactions denominated in Euro or other EU Member States currencies are currently cleared via CCPs located in the UK. The proposals might be seen by some as a punishment for the UK, however there are also valid and objective grounds for ensuring the EU’s financial stability.

    Observation 4: significant concessions are needed on both sides
    As Michel Barnier said: there are fundamental differences in the positions. Logically, overcoming these would require large concessions from both sides.

    One example of these fundamental issues is: which Court will guarantee the rights of the citizens? For the EU it is clear that only the Court of Justice of the EU can oversee the interpretation of its laws. The UK’s position is also clear: UK judges will assume this competence. There is very little overlap in these two positions. One compromise put forward would be to create a separate judicial institution of both European and UK judges. However, if another country would leave, would there then be a separate judicial body covering the UK, EU and the next leaving country? Moreover, if things would be different and it were France leaving instead of the UK, one can imagine that the UK would be the last country to sign up to some special half-French court that would deal with interpretation of EU law.

    Next to differences on substance, from a procedural point of view it will also be very difficult to get to such a compromise. Michel Barnier is constrained by a tight mandate set up by the 27 different countries and therefore not in a position accept far-reaching compromises that are not signed off by the 27 Member States. For him to go back to the 27 and discuss a widening of the Brexit guidelines and negotiating directives would be very difficult and time-consuming. The current set of documents represent the EU27 unity, but this unity has not yet been tested. There are very different levels of interest at stake in the EU negotiations and this unity could come under severe pressure or fall apart if difficult political decisions will have to be made. The first test will be the decision whether sufficient progress has been made to open talks on the future relationship. This is ultimately a political decision to be agreed on by all 27 EU Member States.

    Observation 5: Brexit must be seen in a global context
    Having regard for all of the above, it should not be forgotten that Brexit is not happening in isolation, but it is part of a wider and global political trend where the support for an open society is decreasing. President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement is another big milestone for a decreased support for multilateral solutions in a world that needs them more than ever.”

  9. It’s a good article, a good argument, but as always, I ask this: what are the Scottish people going to do about it? The evidence says not a lot.

    Tell them about the McCrone report, and how Scotland was robbed and looted for years, and they’ll shrug their shoulders and vote to stay in the UK.

    Scotland gets pulled out of the EU against its will, and they shrug their shoulders and return 13 Tory MPs.

    The UK economy gets ran into the ground by Westminster for decades, and they start fretting about RBS leaving Scotland and pointing the finger at the SNP…

    and so on and son on…

    Short of military occupation by the rest of the UK, I cannot for the life of me see what will galvanise the Scottish people in voting for independence.

    • Precisely! The Scottish Unionist voters are like kids in the playground – fingers in their ears and singing “La-la-la-la-laah – Not listening” – whenever anyone tries to tell them something they don’t want to hear. I believe the technical term is “cognitive dissonance”, to whit – however blatantly obvious a fact is, if it doesn’t chime with what you already believe you ‘know’, then it is false and must be ignored! Sometimes I despair!

  10. I think Brexit is so seismic that it will be years before its effects are understood, for UK, its constituent parts, or for the rEU itself. But at the moment, it is like Dr Strangelove, the lever has been pulled and it will run its course.

    It’s also an issue that cuts across party lines. The Lib Dems have nailed their colours to the mast, UKIP obviously, but for everyone else it is disruptive. Hence Labour and Conservative pro-EU elements apparently casting around for joint working, or even a new centre party.

    For the SNP leadership, they’ve dropped EU membership as an explicit goal, and gone for what is probably hoped to be the middle ground of single market access.

    But a definite way forward will probably need the conclusion at least of Brexit negotiations, where the treatment of the Republic of Ireland will be the bellwether.

    I’d therefore expect the Growth Commission report, which is due soon, to concentrate on domestic levers, rather than the potential from independence. A long game over a short game, if you like.

    (and paeans rather than peons of praise, though I do like that imagery)

  11. In the event of Indy Scot in EU and rUK out of EU what happens to cross border trade between Scotland and rUK? Surely this implies a hard border unless a soft border is agreed between NI and the Rebublic. Without that, come indyref2 the unionists will scream economic disaster for Indy Scotland due to tariffs barriers at Gretna and YES won’t get off first base.

  12. There is another angle to this, that was never really looked at in any real detail. Not even the Indyref did much to bring it in to the light of day.

    The concept of union.

    What is it? Whats it for? What is Scotlands place in it? Lastly, what is meant by being British?

    If the argument is that the Union is a economic and political union of two nations, one principality (Wales) and one province (Northern Ireland). Then Scotland should have some agency within that polity that we call the UK. It has a voice. It has a vote. It must count for something. It cannot and should never count for nothing. Otherwise you simply do not have a Union but an unhappy marriage were Scotland’s larger Neighbor has become an overbearing bully, who is using the institution of Union to leverage an unfair advantage over Scotland and its affairs. Somewhere in that toxic soup is where the lie that Scotland needs to find common cause with a UK labour party to at least be left alone if not achieve some equality within the UK.

    The alternative is that Scotland was extinguished as a Nation. England was allowed to remain a nation. Scotland becomes nothing more than a region of England. This sorry state of affairs put forward by “experts” charged by David Cameron to make a positive case for Union, actually destroys the case for Union. In other words, how can a region be in an economic and political Union with the Nation it is a region of? In this example Scotland has even less agency than wales or indeed Northern Ireland. The concept that there is a union is utterly absurd. The Union would have ceased to exist not long after the ink dried on the treaty.

    it must be one or the other – It cannot be both. Where in that mess is the “best of both worlds” that Davidson endlessly hailed the benefits of? Where in that mess is British identity?

    Most ardent unionists claim dual nationality. Proud Scot – Proud Brit.

    They believe in the Union. Defend it to the hilt but never challenge its shortcomings and try to pass them off as benefits. Which Scotland in Union do they actually believe in? If its the former scenario, then Britishness is a collective term for the nations in the polity of Union. Being Scottish is what makes you British, just as being English is what makes you British etc. etc. Its not national identity but a Group identity that we share. On the surface that does seem to be what most Unionists believe in. But they are oddly incapable of defending themselves and others within it. They seem incapable of accepting Scotland as having done anything of note within it. In fact most of them take a perverse delight in its inability to manage its affairs. Some of them making a second career is creating intricate bar graphs which prove how rubbish Scotland actually is. This sort of approach is making it clear to all that Scotland, is not capable of even standing tall within the Union. Incapable of really being part of that group identity. I have even noticed a tendency to always portray Scotland as being separate from the UK. A beggar at the gate if you will. Relying on handouts and proud of it.

    Perhaps its the latter. Maybe they really do think Scotland is nothing more than a region. This also has a certain “truthiness” to it. It would explain a lot of their behavior. I mean how could a region of a nation be independent. I mean its utterly absurd. And yet we have a gorilla in the room, smoking a huge cigar and winking at us. The name of this gorilla is Union. Scotland as a region of England completely undermines the entire concept of Union. There could be no unionist argument. There could be no “better together” or UK-OK. or Best of both worlds. You could create a counter factual history of this region. No SNP no Independence movement. No need for Scottish solutions to Scottish problems. The issue would have been settled. We wouldn’t be here discussing it. Derek? Well Derek would have retired from the BBC and would be writing books about travelling and wine drinking. Who knows, maybe his own TV show on the subject on BBC4.

    So it could be the latter. But they behave as if it was the former. So like all Scots who voted yes. They also believe that Scotland is a nation. For better or worse, its fate entwined with another nation who ultimately controls their nations affairs. They are prepared to accept that, no matter how deranged that other Nations government becomes. Even to the point were they would campaign to ensure that Scotland ultimately became the latter example. Regardless of how this would actually end their precious Union. There is also a certain type of unionist, now referred to as Yoon. Who clearly try to hold both views when it suits them. Also equally oblivious to the damage it inflicts. The institution of Union is too important to bother themselves with something as trivial to them as Scotland’s reputation within it.

    To win the next referendum we need to get Unionists to actually get off the fence and declare themselves.
    The former could be persuaded to vote yes and we really do these people if we are to win. The yoons on the other hand. Nothing could deter them, and frankly they could be the YES movements biggest and most strident recruitment sergeants in winning the YES vote. The next campaign? We need to set these two groups against one another.

    • Extremely well said and well put, Mr Agnew. If more people on the “Yes” side of the Independence debate spoke thus about the Union we might well have more chance of swaying the “switherers”. Nothing will move the cognitively dissonant “Just because” Unionists but I believe that they are growing fewer in number with every year that passes.

      Thank you for clarifying my own views and setting them out in a much more articulate way than I could have done.

    • A bit long , but in my opinion a well thought through comment , that those defenders of this union could well do with reading , it presents them with the stark reality of what is this union for , what is the point of the scottish parliament if all its decisions are ultimately overridden and looked upon as just another local council, a toothless talking shop ,if so we can all pack up and do something useful like gardening etc . .

      • Yeah…is a tad long but the subject is pretty convoluted. Had to force myself from digging any deeper.

        • I doubt if you could have condensed it and still got the point across , as you say its not a trivial matter to be skimmed through .

  13. Looking back, at what point after the disappointment of 1979 did the vast majority of Scots decide that a Scottish parliament was what was needed? The devastation caused by Thatcher’s Tory governments was the likely catalyst, the kind of paradigm shift Derek talks about.

    There will come a point in the current situation (we aren’t there yet) when 10 or 15% of the electorate who voted No will suddenly wake up one morning and think, ‘independence is the only way out of our situation’. Independence will appear as the natural progression and it then becomes a case of when, not if.

    The Brexit referendum shows the danger of a narrow victory; had Leave won 60/40 then Remainers would have accepted the result (however catastrophic it might be). As it is, we’re seeing vicious infighting between Leavers and Remainers with many Scots looking on aghast.

    I am very confident that within a few years independence will be delivered with a convincing majority without a (metaphorical) blow being struck.

  14. Well said, Derek!

  15. Derek I couldn’t agree more, we need to understand our fight is not with ourselves but in making this a better country for everyone that lives here. The union can never do this and they know this

  16. Couldn’t agree more Derek. The sound of silence concerning the state of the union is deafening and with some reason. Perhaps the ongoing calamity that is Brexit will finally help to focus some minds on just how catastrophic the constitutional situation actually is. I certainly hope so.

    There is no middle ground here. It’s either Holyrood or Westminster. Independence and self governance, or continued democratic deficit and the surrendering of your rights to those who simply couldn’t give a shit whether you exist or not and couldn’t find your home without the aid of a GPS and a six man safari. It’s the stewarding of your own resources and a government which you elect, or having others steward your resources through a government you don’t elect and who is ultimately not accountable to you.

    At this point in time PARTY POLITICS IS NOT AN OPTION. People need to realise that the SNP are a vehicle, an instrument, for change as well as a party of government. If it helps folk who normally place their vote elsewhere, don’t look at them as a party, but as a means to an end. You do not need to be an SNP member or supporter to recognise that right now, at this particular period in time, they are the best chance, the ONLY chance the people of Scotland have of being given a constitutional choice. A choice NO other party would EVER be willing to give our population and most certainly not the sainted Jeremy.

    If they lose their place or influence in any way shape or form over the next parliamentary term, then the real losers will be Scotland’s population and no one else. For we will have rejected the right and the opportunity to choose for ourselves. It’s often said that running your own country is for grown ups. I agree. It’s time for some folk to grow up now. If they want a system of government where their voice will be heard, with a written and codified constitution, a progressive, inclusive and outward reaching internationalist aspect, then it’s only going to happen one way. ALL of us together.

    The SNP are the key to a locked door. All folk need to agree upon is turning that key and stepping through the door. What folk do on the other side is the grown up bit.

    • A good comment , i suspect our compliant media will go into overdrive to keep your comments and those along the same line as far away from the general public as possible .
      At all costs the union must be preserved nothing else matters , and the truth will go out the window .

  17. I’ll just say I enjoyed reading your analysis, Derek & I agree 100% ….. and I’ve not lost any faith that Independence will materialise …. because presently what passes for a Government in Westminster and their shambolic dealings with the EU over Brexit, will surely convince those living in Scotland that we have a “better option” to become a fully fledged Nation State within a true “Union of Equals” …… rather than the “Vassal” status we presently ‘enjoy’.

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