Here’s hoping Scotland keeps a conflicted England in the EU
Last week, before the Scottish election we talked about the tactical divide in the Independence movement.
There are those who think that we need to keep a steady keel and not rock the boat in order to not spook potential future Yes voters. And there are those who think that we need radical change now in order to give potential future Yes voters a more defined choice.
Although not perfect, the election results are a small victory for those who believe that the best route to Independence is to differentiate Holyrood from Westminster now. The SNP are in a strong position to lead the way in this. There were some good ideas in all the party manifestos. The SNP have the power to deliver most of their own pledges. However, if they are smart they will allow room for the other parties to get some of their ideas into the statute book. They have the option to set about making the parliament and the legislation it produces mature and consensual. Which would be a marked juxtaposition from how things are done in London.
Now we turn our minds to the EU referendum which like the Scottish Election will be viewed through the prism of the Scottish constitutional question. And there are four possible outcomes with regards to this lingering problem. The first two wouldn’t really change anything. Scotland and the rest of the UK both voting to leave is highly unlikely and not worth considering. Both voting to remain is a strong possibility but perhaps the worst for those who care about Independence as this is the status quo result.
The other two plausible options are more interesting and in my opinion one of those scenarios is much more appealing. Lets take those in turn:
Scotland can be taken out of the EU against its will
This option is one that some people are getting excited about as it could herald a second Independence referendum. The news that the Greens would support a second referendum has been met with great anticipation. However, a premature referendum on the back of that scenario could as easily lead to the death of the Independence dream. There is no point having another referendum until we know we can win it. Maybe getting dragged out of the EU will tilt the polls significantly in favour of Independence, but we should not bow to a large amount of pressure within the movement unless a Yes vote is certain. A second referendum defeat would be catastrophic.
In order to win Indyref 2 we need to persuade soft No voters that an Independent Scotland is viable while keeping on board soft Yes voters. For that two things need to happen:
- The Scottish Parliament needs to be seen to represent the views and interests of the Scottish people more than Westminster does. The decisions made in the respective legislatures and the political process by which they are made need to be significantly different. The recent minority government at Holyrood sowed the seeds for mature consensus politics which could further that goal.
- We need to sort out the problems with the white paper, the over-reliance on oil, the lack of surety on currency, the grey area with regards to the EU. A constitution could be crowd sourced and presented to the people at the time of a future vote.
While being dragged out of the EU against our will may help in that it would illuminate UK political divisions and bring clarity to the EU question, this might not be enough to win a second referendum.
Scotland could keep the rest of the UK in the EU against its will
The last scenario is more interesting: that of a significant remain vote in Scotland overturning a narrow leave vote elsewhere. This is a very realistic proposition and already the right wing Unionist press are getting hot under the collar about it. It is important to note that this can only happen if the rest of the UK is split evenly and Scotland is strongly in favour. In that respect it wouldn’t be anti democratic in the sense that there would almost be as many English people who would be happy about the result than those who would be raging.
However, there will be a massive negative reaction in the right wing media. And it will be a contradictory one for it will come from the same people who tell Scottish people to get back in their box when they complain about how seldom Scotland gets the government it votes for. Those who say that we are part of the UK so it doesn’t matter what an individual region thinks will be going ballistic at this perceived democratic deficit.
This scenario is probably the best one for Independence. It will bring the deep seated animosity felt by many right wing Unionist voices to the fore. Those who peddle the subsidy junky myths and those who see Scotland as a whinging grindstone around the neck of England. The result will also show a Eurosceptic England in union with a Europhile Scotland. The aftermath will also leave the two main English parties divided. Labour members are already at each other’s throats over Corbyn and the party drift to the left. The Conservatives are going to be at open war over the Euro fallout.
However, more importantly, it will buy us time in order to construct a more robust prospectus to take into the second Independence referendum, as well as give the pro Independence Holyrood parties the space to make a success of consensus politics.
In five years, at the next election, we could have several parties with a referendum pledge in their manifesto. We could have a UK divided on the results of a close EU referendum,with political parties in England destroying themselves from the inside. We could have a robust Independence proposition to put to the people. And we could have a political culture that sets us apart from the rest of the UK.
Please comment below and enter an email address to receive notifications of new articles.