Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Britain is now a prison - the SNP must set out its escape plan

Britain is no longer the country that most of us grew up in, and the transformation has been incredibly recent and sudden.  Every Prime Minister between Harold Wilson and David Cameron accepted that Scotland was only part of the UK on a voluntary basis and could leave any time it wished.  Even in the early days of Theresa May's premiership, Ruth Davidson was still explaining to journalists that it would be 'constitutionally improper' for London to block an independence referendum requested by a majority of the elected Scottish Parliament.  That immaculate principle of self-determination was not compromised until May's "now is not the time" schtick, which was intended to imply a deferral rather than an outright rejection of Scotland's right to choose.  But it's now clear that was merely a staging post on a quick transition towards the new colonial settlement, backed by both Tory and Labour, in which Scotland is told it will be remaining in the UK regardless of its own wishes.  The new Britain is the very Soviet-style prison that Jeremy Hunt, with a record-breaking absence of self-awareness, claimed the EU to be only the other day.  That is a truly staggering development, and the only thing even more staggering is the fact that our useless mainstream media don't seem to feel the attempted murder of Scotland's democracy is worthy of any note.

It may seem naive in retrospect, but the SNP's strategy in firing the starting gun for a referendum in early 2017 hinged entirely on the belief that Theresa May would not say "no".  It was a genuine surprise to the SNP leadership when she did, but even after that point the strategy continued to assume that her "no" had to really mean "maybe, when the pressure builds".  In the light of recent events, such wishful thinking must be dispensed with permanently.  We now know for virtually certain that a method for circumventing a London "no" will be required, and luckily two such methods exist - a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 order (which would probably need to be okayed by the Supreme Court), or a Holyrood election that doubles as an independence referendum. We need to hear from the SNP right now, or very soon, about how one or both of those methods will be used.  That does not in any way prejudge the issue of referendum timing, because regardless of whether the referendum is called next year, or in 2025, or at any point in between, it is clear that London will not give its blessing.  If the SNP is serious about Scotland leaving the prison of the UK at any point in the future, it's absolutely crucial that it now demonstrates that seriousness to the electorate by revealing its escape plan.  Not actually a difficult or challenging thing to do, but without it the credibility of the whole independence cause may start to wither, because the media will be all too eager to triumphantly have people believe that independence is automatically dead just because London says it is.

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What else has changed about Britain very recently?  Try the abrupt end of the devolution settlement as we know it.  The whole point of devolution was to end the situation that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s when the Scottish Tories were manning the Scottish Office and arrogantly calling the shots in this country on the basis of 28% or 24% or 26% of the vote.  We appear to be right back to where we started.  Ruth Davidson, who has never led her party to anything better than second place and 29% of the vote in any election, seemingly has the right to tell the landslide winner of every recent election in Scotland to "sling her hook" when she tries to implement her manifesto.  As the defeated leader of the opposition, Davidson can apparently make "announcements" about which year in the distant future the elected First Minister of this country might possibly be "allowed" to implement the will of the people.  Oddly, our mainstream media believe this state of affairs is somehow inspiring, rather than the democratic outrage it so obviously is.

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