LAST week was a rough one, I don’t mind admitting. Having to watch the House of Commons debate how, when and if the UK Government should begin the withdrawal process from the EU was horrible.
First published in The National, 16 February 2017
So many lies, so many half-truths, so many unapologetic proven shysters getting away with it. The SNP MPs, and plenty of others, tried their best but the die was cast. The Tories in the UK Government have been given a blank cheque. It turns out “taking back control” actually meant “give control to the Tories”.
Even more repellent was the way in which the process seemed, for some, to be a grand old parlour game. The banter, the drinks in the bars, the sly nods and winks.
The bizarre reporting of how Diane Abbott fended off an unwanted kiss (and who can blame her?) from David Davis. The focus was on her language, not his behaviour. However you define national interest, this wasn’t it.
Then, Jeremy Corbyn, after a capitulation so craven I’m still staggered, announced that the real fight is on. Like offering to buy a round after last orders, the Labour leadership deliberately sold the pass at every possible opportunity.
History will remember the Tories plunging us into this mess, and Labour letting them unopposed.
I can see why they would voluntarily neuter their own Parliament to strengthen their Government, but why would anyone else? The SNP didn’t secure a single amendment either, but at least it wasn’t for want of trying.
So barely two years after the independence referendum, we’ve seen the reality of Scotland leading, not leaving, the UK. Remember back in 2014 we were promised a guaranteed place in the EU.
This was the partnership of equals, the closest thing to federalism we could get. Have a read through the indyref cast list and there’s not many Better Together folk still around. Bought off or pensioned off one way or another, the Lords or sinecures in banks or investment houses, they exited the stage, no longer to be held responsible.
Where now? Keep the heid, hunker down and keep fighting. Now is not the time to go slopey shouldered or retreat to the pub. I’m conscious I might sound increasingly like the last soldier to emerge from the jungle, but I do not accept the argument is lost. Just because the House of Commons has lost its reason does not bind me nor should it bind Scotland. Just because a prime minister wants something to happen does not mean it will, particularly given Theresa May’s fractious party and her weak position in it.
My constituents, Scotland’s MPs and Scotland’s Parliament voted to Remain; the latter backed the Scottish Government’s strategy.
This isn’t over.
Remember, the Leave campaign is still lying to us but now the born-again Brexiteers have joined them. They’re pretending they’re in charge, and the very second Article 50 is triggered they will be shown for the charlatans they are. Reality has not dawned yet, they’re still pretending it will all be fine. Ultimately, 27 is a bigger number than one and as the negotiations unfold, this is going to become more and more obvious.
In the months ahead what we need is goodwill from Europe, but what existed has been squandered by a government represented in Europe’s capitals by Boris Johnson. If we turn our boat towards the rocks, the rocks aren’t out to get us, they are the consequences of our choices.
Where there are opportunities from Brexit I’ll be all over them, that I promise. But why has the Leave campaign not told us what they are? We’ve seen a series of talking heads discuss fishing or farming, but no substance whatsoever. Do we really believe that the priority of the UK Government is going to be Scotland’s farmers and fisherman? We’ll not be silent, and we’re not without arms nor allies. Seen from Brussels, we Scots are the good guys and we must capitalise on that.
The European Parliament will have a proper vote on Article 50, not a window dressing exercise as will take place in the Commons. If the UK Article 50 proposition takes due note of Scotland’s needs, maybe I’ll back it. All options remain on the table until the UK takes them away.
Will Westminster work with the Scottish Government and negotiate in the best interests of Scotland? Safe to say I hae ma doots. Scotland has friends across the EU and whatever the Brexiteers may think, this discussion does not end with a vote in a palace by the Thames. In fact, this discussion has barely started.