THIS week, I return to Brussels after the European Parliament’s recess, but the strange feeling of being in a parallel universe continues. While I did get a few days off here and there, I stayed home, backed away from social media a bit, and caught up with meetings and paperwork. I decided to take a few weeks off from writing this column, because it seems that the Silly Season this year was even sillier than usual.
The various spats among a few self-appointed spokespeople in the Yes movement have been a sad thing to behold. Politics worldwide is in a strange place, and a lot of people are feeling anxious and frustrated. I’m one of them. So now more than ever we need to make sure that the quiet, thoughtful, sensible majority aren’t spoken over or pushed aside.
First published in The National, 30 August 2017
Of course, the passion of the Yes movement is its strength, but the Yes movement is not an oil tanker with one captain. It’s more of a flotilla. We can be relaxed about different ideas, none of us have the monopoly on wisdom. If you don’t want to join the SNP (though go on, we’re lovely) or the Greens, then get involved in an organisation such as the Common Weal, the Scottish Independence Convention, Women for Independence, or start your own.
The dream didn’t die in 2014. Our time will come, and we need to work quietly and constantly to build the case to bring that time about. Our diversity is our strength. And our opposition have built their castles on sand. The much-hyped Corbyn bounce was proven this week to be, in Scotland, largely based on Astroturf events and telling tall tales about SNP policies.
A few seats reverted to Labour in June because Westminster isn’t the SNP’s natural election – why would it be? Hardly a resurgence.
And it was not that Labour had a good election, rather that the UK Tories threw it away. The Tories ran a UK-wide, vainglorious attempt to build a campaign around strong and stable leadership that couldn’t even organise a press conference, and the press pack (it’s called a pack for a reason) turned on them, building up Labour.
This is a hopelessly divided Conservative government reliant for its very existence on the DUP, facing an EU that is backing Dublin 100 per cent. It will end badly for them, let us not spare their blushes. And in Scotland, the Conservative and Unionist Party is now the smirking face of London rule. There are people in the Tory Party I would view as friends and they are absolutely aghast at what it is becoming. A party that has gone full Ukip, trying to politicise the military, appeal to the sectarian end of the Unionist spectrum, and offers nothing positive, and no ideology beyond UKOK. Their leader, competent and convincing during the EU referendum on the Remain side, has, with all her colleagues, done a full U-turn, because they will say anything to justify the UK Union.
The Tories’ campaign was predicated on misrepresenting the SNP Government, and the Yes movement. I know the Yes movement is strong enough to be able to debate amongst itself, and to call out any nonsense from its own side, but I’m concerned by how easily this can be spun by unsympathetic parties.
The defining issue of our age is how we in these islands interact with our wider continent. Brexit has throw this into sharp relief, and as it plays out, Scotland’s main Unionist parties will be found wanting.
No wonder they have been so keen to talk about the SNP and cybernats – many of their MSPs appear to barely understand the basics of the issues, much less their own party position. Even this week, the much heralded Labour conversion to single market and customs union membership – as a transition – was muddled and raised more questions than it answers. In itself, it was a welcome move, and I rate Keir Starmer, their Brexit spokesperson, but even if it holds as policy it is a sideshow. The real question is what will it serve as a transition to? There’s still no answer.
The SNP have a clear, unequivocal and easy to understand position that we believe will deliver Scotland’s best future: independence in Europe.
We want to be an independent member state within the EU, welcoming and co-operative, working with our friends and neighbours in the European mainstream. We’d like the UK to be there as well, but if the UK chooses isolation and a different path that is its right. We chose to remain. There will be many twists and turns to get there, and there are options such as EEA or EFTA membership that we could thole as a better alternative to crashing out, but our position is clear and I’ll hear no lectures from Brexiteer Tories or their apologists on what is best for my country. They signed, sealed and delivered Brexit, and UK Labour is singing along while Scottish Labour (with a few exceptions) have been posted missing.
A wise man would describe that backdrop as “redolent with opportunity”. Now is not the time for the Yes movement to be distracted by the narcissism of small differences.