Saturday, June 13, 2015

Will the 'Out' campaign have the intelligence not to run on a British nationalist platform in Scotland?

Scotland may have less than a tenth of the UK's population, but we still pose a huge problem to the 'Out' campaign in the EU referendum.  The most recent YouGov poll suggested that the 'In' camp have a whopping 36% lead north of the border.  If Scottish voters were breaking in the same way as everyone else, the overall UK-wide lead for 'In' would be 2-3% smaller.  That could make all the difference in a tight contest.

So where are 'Out' going wrong in these parts?  Frankly, the archetypal Westminster Eurosceptic you see on the TV is utterly tone-deaf in his approach to Scotland.  He (and it usually is a he) sniggers at the desire of so many of us for independence from London, and asks "how can it be 'independence' when you'll still be ruled by Brussels?".  To which the obvious response is : "OK, so you support 'real' independence, then?  You think we should be independent from both London and Brussels?"  And the answer, of course, is no he doesn't.  He wants us to be ruled from London, not Brussels.  He possibly doesn't think the Scottish Parliament should even exist.  At that point we just stop listening.

If that guy is the face of the 'Out' campaign in Scotland, it's hard to see them making much headway.  A minority of independence supporters (and Devo Max enthusiasts) will still vote to leave the EU, but they'll do it largely in spite of the official campaign, not because of it.  But supposing a radically different approach is taken.  Supposing the 'Out' campaign in Scotland is mostly separate from the English campaign, and distances itself completely from the British nationalist pitch being made down south.  Supposing the head of that campaign is someone who is known to be sympathetic to independence, and who is able to sound completely authentic when he says something like this -

"Our campaign team contains people with a range of different views on independence, and that issue is for another day.  What unites us, however, is that we all want to see the Scottish Parliament become much more powerful, regardless of whether it is an independent or devolved parliament.  And it is simply a fact that an 'Out' vote will, at a stroke, make the Scottish Parliament far more powerful than it has ever been before.  Westminster is prevented from interfering on devolved matters by the Sewel convention, but there is no such constraint on Brussels.  Every single day, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government are prevented from acting on devolved issues such as health and fisheries because of suffocating EU law and regulation.  An 'Out' vote will at last give Holyrood control over these issues in practice and not just in theory."

I doubt if that will happen, but it could be a game-changer if it does.


  1. I think the Out campaign will be distinguished by a marked lack of intelligence on all fronts, which is a shame because there is a smart anti-EU case to be made: the EU is highly undemocratic, vigorously pursuing a neoliberal/austerity agenda, and so on.
    Ultimately I reckon the whole EUref campaign will be replete with platitudes and cliches and short on facts.
    So we'll be told constantly that withdrawal would devastate the economy, which is far from certain and would depend on all kinds of factors.
    We'll also - and this drives me bananas - be told that we shouldn't "leave Europe", "turn our backs on Europe" etc etc etc, as though the EU=Europe and as though Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Serbia and Macedonia are not part of Europe - an ignorant and insulting notion.
    How sad that for many people the swivel-eyes loons of UKIP will be synonymous with the Out campaign.
    Still, a silver lining there may be, as we know, in the shape of Brexit followed by quicky Scots divorce from the rUK.

  2. Funny how it is only in Britain that the EU has this suffocating effect! Maybe, just maybe it has more to do with the suffocating effect of Westminster!

    1. What do you mean by suffocating effect?
      If you mean the EU isn't unpopular in other EU countries, that's utterly wrong.

    2. Red tape. Take a look at how other EU countries regulate and enforce.

  3. Valid points, and a perplexing one I think for those on the out side. I'm in the strange boat of wanting the UK to be in the EU, but an Indepdendent Scotland outside of the EU.

    1. Why do you want the UK to be in the EU?
      Is it because you think a UK outside the EU would be nasty UKIP land?
      Just curious.
      I'm in the tortuous place of wanting an Out vote in the UK as a whole but an In vote in Scotland coz I believe that will trigger an independent Scotland. But then really I want Scotland out of the head hurts

    2. My head hurts as well, you are not alone in reaching for the aspirin.

    3. I'm a European supranationalist and I want rUK out and Scotland to stay in.
      Scotland could be the model of an EU state - small, democratically responsive, cooperative but not so powerful that it can veto everything. The EU can't be a federal state with these large states like France, Germany and the UK. They are relics and too distant from the people. It's inevitable that the EU central govt will be distant from the people as current national govts are which is why its powers should be limited.

      Having the rUK out for a period will allow the rest of us to get on with building a better EU without the constant whining and demanding of special treatment from rUK.
      Hopefully they will rejoin when the time is right.

  4. I'm a Scottish leftie (a former SNP constituency chair). I have leftie reasons for wanting out of the EU, but, dear God, it makes me feel like some sort of shockingly weird political intersexual.

    I'm going to be very interested to see to what extent the Scottish left develops a valid argument against EU membership, and shows that it is consonant to, and necessary for, independence.

  5. From what I can gather,countries such as Norway who are not EU members but have to comply with most EU rules in order to trade within the Europe but not having any say in the formulation of those regulations.
    So,those who are arguing on the OUT side because of EU regulation are also arguing against trading within the EU because you can't have your cake and eat it too.
    We have to be clear about what it is we want to achieve.
    On balance I think trading within the EU would be in our interests rather than not.

  6. I'm a leftist, separatist (my preferred word) who doesn't want to touch the EU with a bargepole. Think of the ethical confusion! If Scotland is Yes and England is No, we have a causus belli and an indyref2 which we'll probably win. So tactically, I should hold my nose and vote Yes to the EU? I'll confess I don't know what to say or do about this. Anybody else having a problem with this scenario?

    1. Yes, but I'm only slightly torn; having campaigned to leave the then Common Market in 1975, and seen precious little since to change my mind, I would have to be persuaded that different results in Scotland and England (with or without Wales and NI) really would lead to a winnable indyref.

      At present, I'm not, so plan to vote to leave. TTIP is enough on its own to ensure that.

    2. I don't see an equivalent causus belli on the horizon other than Scotland votes Aye but England swamps us and votes No so we need to be independent to avoid being undemocratically yanked out of Europe. So surely any port in a storm? Having voted Yes to independence we will get insulated from a Tory WM govt during the negotiations as they will no longer have any mandate to impose anything on Scotland Holyrood does not agree to. So win-win if you care about the weak and vulnerable.

      So I would say hold your nose and vote Aye and keep your powder dry for a Scextic vote subsequent to Independence. Because if you are right about Europe then surely being in on our own can only boost your cause?

      You might fancy living in a UK that has turned inwards and xenophobic and has just borked its trading terms, but I most certainly do not.

    3. I might just not vote. I don't like the way things are going with the EU, but then I wouldn't like the ultra neo-liberal island Britain would become if it wasn't in the EU....we're heading down a pretty crap path either way

    4. It would be easier to win indieref2 as it would be a direct choice of unions, not a devil you know versus the unknown and unknowable.

      You have the support of over 300 million versus 50 million.
      I'd say that it would help win over the last 10%..

  7. The problem I see is the official SNP line. I think ( an independent ) Scotland is best served being in the EU. But I don't think it matters one way or the other for the UK as a whole. So while I am broadly pro EU ( because I am Pro Scotland ), I would prefer not to be asked by the SNP to put out leaflets. I have put out some material before I had issues with on behalf of the Yes campaign, but I don't want to campaign " For", when I am really only enthusiastic for independence and Scotland being a free member of the EU. On UK membership I am 100% neutral.

  8. I can predict that the In campaign will be telling the English that they are too wee and too stupid and too useless to leave EU. I can predict Armageddon for pensions and an invasion of space aliens and it will piss the English off who will promptly stick two fingers up to the In campaign.

    I will be voting to get out and some of the reasons why are listed above. I am only enthusiastic about Scots Indy so I will not be campaigning for an out vote.

    I will enjoy the English being subjected to a torrent of abuse about being too wee and too poor etc because I am perverse.

  9. James,

    One of the things I have wrestled with is putting what you say quite clearly:

    "OK, so you support 'real' independence, then? You think we should be independent from both London and Brussels?" And the answer, of course, is no he doesn't. He wants us to be ruled from London, not Brussels."

    It is, ahem, obvious when you spell it out. That sort of person sees us as voting fodder for their world view, which is largely at odds with a more consensual Europe post '45. I am sort of delighted that I did not have to fight WW3 as my father fought WW2 and relatives fought WW1.

    I mention that latter point for existential reasons. Our good friend who sees London as paramount also loves going to war. It is a moot point whether being unable to get your accounts cleared or lying to get our people killed is worse. Well, no, it isn't. These blimpish folk do my nut in.

  10. DR commented very usefully on an article I posted on Bella a few days ago, where I was laying out some of the confusion many of us feel, confusion that isn't addressed by a simple 'EU good/ UKIP bad" refrain.

    DR resolved any confusion I have had about the forthcoming EU referendum by pointing out that "the basis for how we vote on the EU while we are still part of the UK is entirely different to the basis for how we might vote were we independent".

    Even if we have huge criticisms of the EU, for as long as Scotland is still part of the UK, we are better off in the EU than being taken out of it by a UK elite whose motives for leaving are not to counter the corporate agenda running Europe, but to get rid of the social and environmental rights that being in the EU still entails.

    1. Not sure I understand that....considering we'd have a better chance of indy if the UK was out of the EU, assuming we voted to stay in of course.

      There is also the case that people do not consider, that we might be going into the referendum with concessions made by the EU that result in the very UK you think isn't possible if we were still in the EU.