Everyone knows that I oppose the #GRRBill because it lacks adequate safeguards to protect the rights of women, girls & #LGB people. However, the problem is made in Scotland & should be fixed in Scotland.— Joanna Cherry KC (@joannaccherry) January 17, 2023
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Pro-indy politicians who loathe the GRR Bill should take care not to lose the room by appearing to be on the wrong side of a dispute between Scottish democracy and Westminster diktat
Out of curiosity, I ran a Twitter poll last night to ask whether people supported the UK Government in vetoing a Bill passed by the elected Scottish Parliament. I wasn't entirely sure what the result would be, because when I've run Twitter polls in the past, it's been clear that my followers are roughly evenly split between sympathies for the SNP and Alba, and of course we know that Alba supporters are generally extremely hostile to the GRR Bill.
The poll still has a few hours to run, but as of 2pm, here are the provisional results -
Regardless of your opinion of the GRR Bill, do you support or oppose the UK Government vetoing a Bill passed by the elected Scottish Parliament?
Now, of course this is an unscientific, self-selecting poll, but it does suggest that a very large chunk of committed independence supporters who loathe the GRR Bill are nevertheless opposed to the UK Government vetoing it. And that shouldn't be a major surprise, because committed independence supporters are first and foremost opposed to London rule in Scotland, and there can hardly be a more extreme example of the exercise of raw London colonial power in Scotland than the vetoing of a Bill that has been properly passed by the elected Scottish Parliament.
I'd suggest there's a timely warning here for pro-indy politicians, both inside and outside of Alba, who are tempted to publicly welcome the veto because of how they feel about the GRR Bill. We've yet to see polling evidence of how the wider public have reacted to the veto, but if committed indy supporters generally abhor it - which seems to be the case - that's what matters for a party like Alba, because that's the pool in which they're seeking votes. There's a big danger of losing the room by seeming to be on the wrong side of a dispute between Scottish parliamentary democracy and Westminster diktat.
Nobody is suggesting that people who hate the GRR Bill, for very good reasons, should dishonestly shed tears for its demise. But there's nothing to be gained from going to the other extreme and being publicly seen to celebrate or gloat about the outrageously anti-democratic way that the Bill has been thwarted. You're not going to win over pro-independence converts by indicating that you prefer Tory ministers in London to be making decisions for Scotland, rather than elected Scottish ministers. Or by giving the impression that you're glad that the Tories are in power to be able to make such a decision. Or by claiming that the Tories simply had no choice but to do what they did (that's most certainly not true, by the way). Or by asserting that it was somehow the Scottish Parliament's own fault that London overruled it. Or by saying that the onus is on the Scottish Parliament to sort out the mess by coming into compliance with London's wishes. That is not going to sound to anyone like the sort of things a pro-independence party would or should be saying.
For my money a much better tack is simply to note that, while it's a good thing that the GRR Bill will not be coming into force, the ends do not justify the means, and the Tories should get their hands off Scottish democracy and let us make our own decisions - including our own mistakes. And it could also be pointed out to the SNP leadership that they bear some responsibility for this outcome due to their failure to push urgently for independence over the last seven years. There would have been no Westminster vetoes in an independent Scotland.
There's actually no downside to saying any of the above, because the Tory veto isn't going to go away just because you condemn it. You can have the quiet satisfaction of knowing self-ID isn't coming into force for the foreseeable future, while not needlessly taking a hit for being associated with the way in which that happened. You didn't cause the veto, so why the hell would you want to take responsibility for it?
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Posted by James Kelly at 2:01 PM