Jim Sillars: Who is the 90 minute patriot now?
Jim Sillars coined the phrase “90 minute patriots“ to describe part time SNP voters, after he lost his Westminster seat in the 1992 general election.
However, it is fair to say a similar allegation could be made against him now.
To use his own football analogy, if winning independence for Scotland was a European double header nobody could doubt that Sillars gave 110 percent in the first leg. However, now his heart doesn’t seem to be in it and he’s set to retire before the decisive rematch. That’s if the second leg includes the condition of rejoining the EU.
Sillars was recently quoted as saying:
I did not vote to come out the EU to go back in. I think that would apply to a good number of the estimated 400,000 Yes voters who voted Leave. I imagine they would abstain
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If I am being honest, I think that Jim Sillars is a person who generally talks a lot of sense and even now I agree with a lot of what he says.
I think it may well be wise to wait until after we get a clearer picture about what happens with the article 50 process before calling a second indyref. I too don’t think that the EU is a perfect institution and I think many of the concerns that Sillars and others have raised about it are justified. I also think that other options for remaining in the Single Market, like joining EFTA, should be considered.
Yet I still don’t understand the logic of Sillars when he says.
I, for example, could not vote Yes if on the ballot paper it said, ‘We wish the Scottish state to be a member of the European Union.
You see, while I consider all of Sillars’ objections about an independent Scotland being in the EU valid, those objections still need to be weighed up against the alternative. So, if Sturgeon were to call the indyref that Sillars dreads, a pro EU one held in 2018, the decision on how to vote should be a simple one for anyone who purports to support independence.
The choice would be between Scotland being a region of the UK in a post Brexit Tory race to the bottom or Scotland being an independent nation within an imperfect supranational organisation.
Politics is about pragmatism, and while this is not the perfect situation, one option is independence and the other is dependence.
I take the point that being part of the EU means that many of our decisions are outsourced to Brussels and that to some this is not true sovereignty. Yet, power and sovereignty are not the same things. Unlike Scotland, EU nations are truly sovereign, they just choose to share some powers in exchange for what they see as greater collective strength and bargaining power.
Yet, as we have talked about in more detail before, an independent Scotland within the EU would still have far more power that it currently has. We would gain control over the following from Westminster:
- benefits and social security
- foreign policy
- trade and industry
- nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity
- consumer rights
- data protection
- the Constitution
Before the EU referendum, the pro independence Leave voters like Sillars talked up how Brexit would make Holyrood more powerful.
They talked about powers over agriculture and fishing being repatriated to Holyrood. However, if you pay close attention to what high ranking Tories are saying, those powers are going to be stolen by London post Brexit. By not supporting independence within the EU given the choice, Sillars is going to be helping to facilitate a Westminster power-grab of competencies, while denying Scotland control over those powers currently reserved to Westminster.
Ultimately independence is about giving the people of Scotland control of their own affairs.
A large majority of the people of Scotland voted to remain in the EU as did the bulk of our parliamentarians. People like Sillars are free to campaign to change the minds of Scots but to say you are in favour of independence but also want to subvert the will of the people is a big contradiction.
What has happened since the EU referendum is that a large amount of people have moved from No to Yes and vice versa.
Those who have moved to Yes want Scotland to be in the EU and don’t like the prospect of a post Brexit UK.
If we move in the direction that Sillars wants us to move we might attract him back but probably at the expense of losing those newly recruited pro EU No voters. Yet, if we stay pro EU surely we will win many of the pragmatic Yes/Leave voters back to the cause?
Ultimately, although an independent Scotland within the EU is not ideal to many. It is a damn site closer to ideal than the alternative.
When push comes to shove, if 2014 euro-sceptic Yes voters abstain or vote No in indyref2, when only the Yes choice makes Scotland sovereign and fulfills the will of the people, then it is fair to question why they voted Yes in 2014. Then after-all, the plan was to stay in the imperfect EU was it not?
Ruling yourself out of the second leg and still calling yourself a nationalist doesn’t make sense when you look at the alternative.
In that context, if Sillars can only be relied on for one match of an indyref double header, then maybe he too is just a 90 minute patriot.
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