“Supporters of Scottish Independence should vote No if there is another Independence Referendum”
That statement seems an oxymoron. Surely if you support Scotland being an independent country, then you should vote Yes in another independence referendum? This argument is not just a semantic political one, it is a tale about Scotland today and about how politics is being conducted in the modern Western world. For me it is also deeply personal. In this essay I will explain what is happening in Scotland and why I, as someone who believes in Scottish independence and who voted Yes in the last referendum, will vote No in the next one – if it happens. This is a tale of three referendums and it is a lengthy one so I am splitting it into three parts – I will post one per day over the next three days.
- The Fantasy – in which we look at how the SNP adopted the EU as a religion.
- The Nightmare – in which we look at how a party of freedom became authoritarian.
- The Dream – in which we look at a better future for Scotland.
1. The Fantasy –
“Your contributions are disgraceful…no idea where your head is”…(a politician complaining about my writings!)
This is a very difficult article to write. Not least because for me it involves a significant change of opinion and the giving up of a long cherished ideal. I am also aware that in the current climate in Scotland there is an element of personal cost, and I know the abuse that sadly will follow. I am also deeply conscious of my own limitations and lack of knowledge and so I have to be really careful. However I am off work with the lurgy and I need to think this through and get it of my chestand find out where my head is!…so here goes.
It is necessary to point out that what follows is my own personal opinion and not that of the Church, or of the Bible – although as always, I hope my Christian thinking influences everything.
I am also not writing this from the perspective of someone who hates the SNP or who thinks that everything they have done is bad. I am actually an admirer of much of what they have done and would be classed as an SNP supporter and voter. I am a socially conservative, economically left-wing, believer in Scottish independence. I voted Yes in the Scottish Independence referendum and well remember the day when we just failed to win that referendum. It was a dull and gloomy day in lots of ways. But as a democrat (and also someone whose hopes and trust is not placed in political leaders or solutions) I accepted it and got on with life, thinking that one day independence would happen.
Now I have changed my mind. In an ideal world I would still like Scotland to be an independent country, but in the current climate, if the SNP ever have the nerve, or are foolish enough to go ahead with another Independence Referendum, I will this time vote No. And I am not alone. Take this from The Scotsman
“Despite only making up 14% of Scottish voters, over four in ten (43%) of these “Leave+Yes” voters have since abandoned their pro-independence position, with 28% now saying they would vote to stay in the union.”
There are many Yes voters who feel that they have been sidelined, abused and ignored by the SNP leadership. We feel that the SNP has not only handled this wrongly but has made a fundamental mistake in its current EU policy. I have spoken to many in the party (including some in power) who would agree with much of the following analysis. Others don’t agree. And the establishment hate it.
1 – The SNP has exchanged the idea of Scottish Independence for the fantasy of the progressive EU – There are those who think that the SNP are just using the EU referendum as an excuse to get Scottish Independence. I think this is a faulty analysis which does not take into account the changes in the party over the past three years. They think that the SNP only care about independence and are just using the EU issue to get it. Whilst the initial change in the original anti-EU stance of the SNP was a tactical change (basically to argue that we would not be on our own), the current passion for the EU is of an altogether different order. It is not some kind of Salmond like Machiavellian plot to get another Indy Ref and Scotland out. I don’t believe that Nicola Sturgeon is either that deceptive or that stupid. I think that the current SNP leadership really do think that being part of the ‘progressive’ EU is more important than Scotland being independent. Which is why when some activists say to me ‘we agree – but let’s get out first and then we can vote on joining the EU’, I have to point out that does not work. The whole current SNP case is that we have to leave the UK, not to be independent, but so that we can join the EU. Any referendum based on that premise deserves a no vote.
How did this happen? How did we get to a stage where a party that was committed to the idea of Scottish independence was willing to bargain it away in order to stay within the EU? After the Independence Referendum the SNP membership increased by over 100,000. It wasn’t just that these were people who were sold on the idea of Scottish independence. No the SNP became the ‘go to’ party for social progressives and those who wanted a fast track career in politics. We received some really good people, but also some who were clearly inadequate and in a political (if not a financial) sense, those who were ‘on the make’. Somewhat counter intuitively, instead of broadening the party base, the massive increase in membership resulted in an increasingly narrow ideology. The whole nature of the party as a broad party with a wide range of views united on the one common aim of an Independent Scotland, disappeared almost overnight. We have become the Lib Dems of Scotland – only with a more Nationalist tinge. Anyone who does not buy into the progressive, EUphile agenda is out.
The EU is presented as the solution for everything. The EU as religion is deeply ingrained in the metro-elitist culture in Scotland. One senior academic told me that of course he, and most academics were for the EU – because the EU paid them. The arts establishment, the business establishment and the political establishment are the same. But it is more than finance. It’s emotion based on a political and historical myth. The EU is all that is good. It is progressive, the defender of human rights, the Saviour of the world. That’s why the EU is seen as the answer to everything. Even today I heard Mike Russell, our EU minister state:
‘Depopulation can only be resolved through immigration”. Really? I agree with Mike that we need more immigration in Scotland, but the only way to deal with depopulation? How about supporting families, creating jobs and stopping killing our children in the womb? The 400,000 we were supposed to be short matches the number of children we have killed in the womb. But that’s another issue. However it does demonstrate the myopic state of much of the current SNP leadership. Everything is seen through EUphile glasses.
2- Independence in Europe is not Independence – The SNP came up with a slogan which was repeated ad nauseam on their social media and press “an independent Scotland in an interdependent EU”. I asked why that was different or any more meaningful than ‘an independent Scotland in an interdependent UK’. And so far no one has been able to answer that. It appears that whilst it is not ok for Scottish laws to be made in Westminster, it is ok for them to be made in Brussels. But this is because in the eyes of the new SNP, Brussells= good and Westminster =bad. One of the things that most depresses me about this – is that every argument they use against Brexit is the same argument that was used against Scottish independence (economic disaster, narrow nationalism, isolationism etc).The SNP have become the anti-English, pro- EU party.
Furthermore the economic case is not as strong as the SNP and others keep claiming. Being in the EU is not all economic joy. Of course the SNP can’t even bring themselves to think this but there are many economic advantages in leaving the EU. Read Brian Monteith’s superb article in The Scotsman about the disadvantages of Scotland being in the EU – in answering the question what price Scotland leaving the EU, he answered:
“The price? Only the saving of over £10 billion a year, control over our laws, taxes and borders together with the ability to strike free trade deals with the rest of the world where the real economic growth is.”
3- The EU is not the democratic, progressive Nirvana that the SNP propaganda machine and politicians publicly espouse. You will search long and hard for any SNP criticism of the EU at all. In fact the very opposite. It is beyond depressing to find how many cybernats obediently trot out the mantras from Party HQ, including the astonishing claim that ‘the EU is more democratic than the UK’. I can understand people who have little or no knowledge making such a claim, but when you have full-time politicians making and apparently believing such nonsense, it makes you despair at the state of politics in our country. One SNP MSP even wrote in public that ‘it could be argued that the UK is not really a democracy at all’, whilst defending the EU! This is alternative fact, post-truth politics at its worst.
The EU political executive is the unelected Commission, not one of whom is an elected politician; not one of whom can be ‘unelected’. The EU parliament does not have the power to make laws. As Tony Benn pointed out numerous times, if you can’t vote out the people who make your laws, then you do not live in a democracy. The fact that SNP politicians, in order to toe and defend the party line, can repeat such demonstrable nonsense, indicates the level of cynicism or ignorance that some of our politicians have been afflicted with (and yes I know the House of Lords is not elected – but it is as toothless as the EU parliament, being only a revising chamber, not a political executive).
Some supporters of independence get it. For example Gerry Hassan in The Scottish Review
“This British state of affairs is matched by an unhealthy situation in Europe. The EU is not the benign force of progress and economic advancement that it was seen as in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, expansion combined with the euro has produced Euro-sclerosis. Monetary union without fiscal union has led to economic and social disaster: a Europe which works for the German economy, but which has left devastation across the Med from Greece to Italy, Portugal and Spain.
SNP thinking on independence eventually has to move on and catch up with the times. The spirit and hopes of 1988 and independence in Europe: the EU of Jacques Delors and a ‘social Europe’ is no more. Similarly, the plans and aspirations of 2014 and the Salmondnomics vision of independence are dead in the water.”
But it is not just the illogicality of handing power over to an unelected EU commission that bothers me, it is the fantasy view that the SNP hierarchy have spun about the EU today. In the new religion of the EU (and it is believed, preached and propagated with all the fervour of the most fundamentalist religious extremist), the EU is a nirvana of progressive, social beliefs, where the poor are looked after, workers rights are defended, the environment protected, everyone rides cycles and live in a sea of milk, honey and lemonade with sexual, civil and emotional liberty. To paraphrase Belinda Carlisle, ‘heaven is a place on earth’ and its capital is Brussels. I don’t think the EU is hell on earth, but I do think it is fundamentally undemocratic, elitist and is close to collapse. It’s a good job we are getting out. The SNP are twenty years out of date.
4- An Independent Scotland joining the EU is not the slam dunk deal the SNP keep telling us
Scotland is not a member of the EU. The UK is the legal member state of the EU and the UK voted to leave. Incidentally I wish that the SNP would stop distorting the truth about the EU referendum. Scotland did NOT vote for Scotland to stay in the EU. Scotland did not even have a vote about Scotland staying in the EU. Scotland had a vote to stay in the UK and then the UK (including Scotland) had a vote to leave the EU. The fact that different areas of the UK voted differently has no more significance than the fact that different areas of Scotland voted differently in the Independence referendum. Can you imagine what would have happened if Scotland had voted to leave the UK and Shetland and Edinburgh claimed that because they voted NO, they should be treated differently? Of course in doctrinaire propaganda, truth and reason don’t really matter and ‘alternative facts’ soon become the story.
SNP supporters genuinely believe that EU governments would be falling over themselves to accept Scotland as a new member. Really? Why? The Spanish government have every reason to discourage Catalonia going the same way. And the SNP idea that we could join as a separate nation without committing to join the Euro, without hard borders with England (a far more important market to us) and with all the current opt outs of the UK, is fanciful. Their much vaunted and boasted about EU document is just the fantasy politics of a government that has NO power to enact any of it. Politics without power is easy. In fact it seems to have become a speciality of the SNP leadership to put forward as meaningful, documents which they have no power to enact.
You won’t hear this kind of realism from the SNP – Charles Grant from Business Insider
Speaking to Business Insider on Tuesday, Charles Grant, director of think-tank Centre for European Reform (CER), praised the Scottish government for the “weightiness” of the proposals, but said any special deal is unlikely given the lack of appetite from Westminster, the likelihood of a Spanish veto, and the legal difficulties of such an arrangement.
He said: “Obviously they would be politically, technically, and legally very hard to make work.”
“Mrs May would have to push for a deal herself. She would have to say to our partners, ‘We want you to give Scotland a sweetheart deal.'”
“I don’t think she wants to do that, because she is keen on the integrity of the United Kingdom, and creating differences between England and Scotland isn’t what a Tory politician like Mrs May thinks of
The above argues that the SNP has seen a significant change. It has become the anti-English, pro-EU party. It has thrown all its eggs in the EU basket and, at the moment they are all getting scrambled! But the party line is different. In the simplistic black and white world which much of the SNP now inhabit, everything has to be reduced to a Tweet. Every SNP politician and media source over the next few weeks will repeat the phrase “Tory Hard Brexit” because they don’t want to acknowledge that there is a left-wing, socialist case for leaving the EU and they don’t want to acknowledge that they have been chasing a fantasy. This tendency to simplify things has other consequences. Not least the suppression of dissent and an increasing tendency towards authoritarianism. We will turn to that tomorrow.
Part two – When Yes means No – A Tale of Three Referendums – Part 2 – The Nightmare
Meanwhile you can read my earlier thinking on this The End of the Dream – Why the SNP Have Given up on Independence – Part 1
This article is the second most read I have ever written and explains why the EU is not the progressive Nirvana it is so often portrayed as. – European referendum – The TIPPing Point