In a small way, I was involved in the campaign against legally-recognised gender self-ID, via the Panelbase poll I commissioned just over a year ago. The hope was always that an opinion poll with balanced, non-leading questions would help wake some MSPs up to the extent of the gulf that had opened up between themselves and public opinion on the gender topic. But given the scale of the pro-self-ID majority in Holyrood, which extended well beyond the ranks of the SNP and the Greens, it always seemed an extreme long shot to imagine that the campaign would end in self-ID actually being defeated. When the GRR legislation finally passed just before Christmas, I was left (like many others) with the empty feeling that we needn't have bothered, which I suppose inevitably follows any campaign that ends in failure. Admittedly there was still the small consolation of feeling confident that we had been (ironically) on the right side of history, and that time would eventually prove that to be the case.
Now, in the ultimate plot twist, it appears from today's Financial Times front page that our campaign may have succeeded after all, and that the legislation will not be permitted to go forward for Royal Assent - and yet that just makes me feel emptier still. Regardless of what some people might say, it does matter how you achieve your political objectives. For anyone using perverted logic to suggest a Westminster veto is somehow upholding the will of the Scottish people, please understand that way of thinking simply isn't consistent with a belief in self-governing Scottish parliamentary democracy. If a mistake is made by the Scottish Parliament, no matter how grievous, the place to clear it up is in the Scottish Parliament. The solution is not for a colonial master to intervene as some self-appointed God that enforces the will of the people as expressed in opinion polls, but only when it happens to feel like doing so. The place-man Alister Jack acting as colonial Governor to veto a Bill of the elected Scottish Parliament by means of nothing more than the flourish of his pen will be an unprecedented tragedy for the cause of democratic Scottish self-government.
That said, there may be side-benefits, as I noted the other week. A veto is likely to radicalise supporters of self-ID on the subject of independence. Maggie Chapman, perhaps the very worst of the MSP zealots, is quoted in Pink News hyping up the narrative that Sunak is on the verge of triggering a constitutional crisis. I had previously thought this effect might be tempered by the knowledge that a Starmer government is probably just around the corner and will introduce self-ID across the UK - but the ground is suddenly shifting on that point too. Having been a fully paid up adherent of the Stonewall ideology, Starmer suddenly seems to be rowing back a little, and is giving every impression of having just been alerted to private polls and focus groups suggesting that his stance could cost him votes. His refusal to even state that he opposes a veto on the legislation is particularly astonishing given that Scottish Labour full-bloodedly supported the Bill, and given that Labour MSPs have been queueing up to state that a veto would be an attack on devolution. Suddenly Scottish Labour looks once again like a mere branch office of the "whole party", to use Starmer's own withering words.
If Starmer no longer looks like he can be 100% relied upon to deliver full-fat self-ID, then forget about Peter A Bell - it could be Maggie Chapman who will be the keenest proponent of UDI going forward.