ANYONE who did not believe that the European Question is the defining attribute of politics in these islands is in no doubt after Sunday. Different people come to independence for different reasons. I’ve always been motivated by the difference Scotland could make in the world, and the difference we could make to the lives of Scots by taking control over our own lives and making decisions here.
First published in The National, 4 October 2016
So Sunday was a stand-out awful day in what has been a pretty bleak few months, watching a Tory party we didn’t vote for making statements about how we’ll interact with the world, and presuming to make the decisions for us, to boot. And by any yardstick not giving one jot about the national interest, neither ours nor the UK’s. We have seen, clearly, that the UK Government’s first priority is the unity of the governing party itself.
Party conferences can be awful things for outsiders. Part reunion, part beauty contest, part theatre and, somewhere among the open or crypto power-struggles, some business might actually get done. But, much as it pains me, this Tory conference matters, and isn’t just the usual theatre because it is the first glimpse of a carefully constructed facade put forward by the people who seek to make decisions over our lives and the lives of future generations. And it isn’t pretty. I was actually more hopeful. I still had some hope that the canny Remain-voting new PM was keeping her powder dry while the UK civil service worked on a clever fix. But even I have to admit now that the extremists are in charge.
The biggest cheer for the Prime Minister in a speech that might have been delivered from Pluto so otherworldly was it, was that the UK will be “a sovereign and independent country again”.
Think about that: the people in charge of the UK think that voluntarily entering into and participating in a common endeavour based on rules we all participate in making means the UK isn’t independent.
They’ve bought the Ukip lie – hook, line and sinker. Of course, any international agreement on anything with anyone limits sovereignty, but with that comes benefits from the common agenda and the working to common goals. I’d call that grown up internationalism. But the idea that it means the UK isn’t independent and sovereign simply doesn’t stand analysis.
So desperate is it to pander to the empty confections of Ukip the Tory party has lost its reason. It has blown its brains out as a means of weight-loss. The reasonable voices have been all but silenced. Brexit means Brexit, and it is now clear that the UK Government would rather inflict massive harm upon our (and indeed everyone else’s) interests than enter into any practical or pragmatic talks that might just involve a degree of compromise.
They are erring to the ideological purity and the splendid isolation of the solitary confinement cell because interacting with the outside world might involve making concessions Nigel Farage would dub betrayal.
And disappointment too in the Scottish Tories – born-again Brexiteers who value party over country – and their own careers over the interests of the people they serve. The Scots Tories are assuredly not Scotland’s voice in the UK, they’re Westminster’s voice in Scotland and I don’t hear one of them speaking up for their constituents. Their primary aim seems to be to tell Scots that we just need to thole it. No means no, remember?
Well, no, actually. I’m angry, and I’m not having it. Let’s remember, the independence referendum was won and lost on a series of promises. Decent, thoughtful people believed them and bought into a UK which is now clearly going to change utterly.
We were promised new orders for naval vessels, guaranteed EU status, a prosperous economy, a family of nations, a new devolution settlement, and more. All were a clear part of the No vote’s premise.
While I was, obviously, on the Yes side, I believe in the good faith of those who made the promises, but they’re not around even two years later, and it is just not good enough to try to reinterpret the result as somehow endorsing a constitutional status quo which clearly no longer exists.
The Leave campaign, in the most recent referendum, meanwhile, lied and lied and lied. I did upwards of 40 public meetings and not once did the difference between Hard or Soft Brexit get an airing from the leave side. It was a vote on a deeply dishonest campaign, with a deeply questionable mandate UK-wide and no mandate at all in Scotland.
So I’m going to fight it. This UK Government must be saved from itself. I’ll work with everyone and anyone who has Scotland’s interests at heart. Scotland must not be silent, and I’ll certainly be vocal with our continental friends. Mrs May has just squandered what little goodwill she had, and is about to find out in dealings with the EU that if you’re not at the table you’re on the menu. I’m not going to let Scotland go down with them – we can do better than this.