Seduced?

The National concludes an article on the latest frantic manoeuvrings in the grotesque Brexit farce with the words, “There was scepticism over how it would work.” In this instance, it was referring to a draft bill that “could see Brexit reversed”.

The bill would give the Prime Minister and Parliament six weeks to reach a consensus on a way ahead.

If they can’t agree, then May would be forced to either extend or revoke Article 50 unilaterally.

You can see why there are doubts about the viability of this scheme. But those eight words at the end of a piece in The National could apply to Brexit itself as well as pretty much everything Brexit-related. And particularly to all the measures being suggested as ways to resolve the situation created – or, at least, given force – by the 2016 EU referendum. There is cause for serious scepticism about how any such effort would work. They are products of denial about just how totally irreparable the situation is. Quite simply, Brexit can’t be fixed.

When David Cameron opened the can clearly labelled with a warning that the contents were potentially lethal he released a host of highly venomous worms. Those nasties are not going back in the can. To egregiously mix my metaphors, the genie of narrow, insular, xenophobic, supremacist British Nationalism isn’t for returning to its bottle. The Leave vote carried by England’s voters (with a little help from Wales) gave licence to the basest, meanest, shallowest and most mindless political dogmatism. No matter how it plays out, Brexit will poison British politics for decades to come.

Not even stopping Brexit will prevent this. In fact, revoking Article 50 would only serve to concentrate and strengthen the poison. Not that this should be seen as an argument against revoking Article 50. It is merely to point out that if this is done in the hope of resetting everything to some pre-Brexit state of relative political stability, then that is a woefully forlorn hope. Polls suggest that anti-EU sentiments are as prevalent now in England as they were in 2016. It’s as if the further the Brexit process descends into chaos the more support for it hardens. The more clear it becomes how much Brexit is going to hurt, the more a perversely macho and ominously militaristic ‘Empire / Dunkirk / Blitz / 19666 World Cup’ spirit is invoked. Desolation? Devastation? Ruination? Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on! We can take it! ‘Cos we’re British, innit!

The Mad Brexiteers are going to be just as angry at being denied the masochistic rapture of a catastrophic Brexit as others are at being subjected to its cruelty. That anger may dissipate over time. But it will do a lot of damage while it is a significant factor in British politics.

Brexit can’t be fixed. Not even by stopping it. Anybody working on the assumption that there is a way of resolving the Brexit situation is operating on a false premise. There is no resolution. No prevention. Only damage limitation.

But it is not only the ‘usual suspect’ who are hooked on the notion that Brexit can be fixed – either by changing it or by stopping it. The otherwise very sensible SNP also seems to have been entranced by the notion. Go the increasing annoyance of many in the party and the wider independence movement, Nicola Sturgeon et al seem to be prioritising relieving the UK of Brexit over relieving Scotland of the Union.

So intent is the SNP on saving England from its own folly that one of the most influential and, dare I say, revered figures in the party has recently set out a quite astounding proposal. speaking at an event in support of a ‘people’s vote’, Joanna Cherry MP said,

I believe that, ultimately, what may be required is a temporary cross-party UK Government to seek an extension of article 50, to hold a second EU referendum and then revoke art 50, before holding a General Election.

This is being talked about by many commentators, including influential commentators in Scotland such as Dr Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Centre for European Relations and Lesley Riddoch the pro-independence journalist…

I confess, I had not heard this suggestion before. Or it might be more accurate to say that it hadn’t previously caught my attention. I may have seen some mention of the idea, but dismissed it for the nonsense it so evidently is. Not that this has prevented others enthusing about it. Lindsay Bruce, for example. penned an article for Wings Over Scotland in which he even suggests that this coalition might attract some “disgruntled Tories”. Think about that for a moment. The SNP subsumed into a UK coalition government dominated by British Nationalists and including Tories. Try selling that one on the doorsteps in Glasgow and Dundee!

Claims are made for the efficacy of this ‘unity government’ which rival in hyperbole even 1960s TV washing powder commercials. The amazing things it can do include, not only fixing Brexit, but getting Scotland a new independence referendum and a host of new powers for the Scottish Parliament in the meantime. It will, proponents assert, give Scotland a stronger voice in the British parliament and make everybody think the SNP is wonderful and persuade thousands of ‘undecideds’ that they should opt for independence. Truly, the Cillit Bang of coalitions.

But the claims made for this coalition idea are all empty assertions not supported by any facts, evidence or reasoned argument. Simply saying “the SNP will be better placed to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard” doesn’t make it true.

In reality, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that being subsumed in a coalition UK government dominated by British Nationalists would strengthen the SNP Westminster group’s position in any way. Even at an intuitive level, this seems exceedingly unlikely. Just putting the reality of the situation into words reveals how counter-intuitive is the notion that it makes the group better able to represent Scotland’s interests.

Fantasy politics and wishful thinking aside, being subsumed in a coalition UK government certainly doesn’t strengthen the SNP group and would almost certainly constrain it in ways that don’t apply to opposition parties. For all the unthinking enthusiasm greeting this notion in some quarters, I have yet to see any mention of a single thing that the SNP could do in such a coalition that it cannot do now. Nothing! Not a solitary thing.

We are assured that the SNP would be able to demand all sorts of concession in return for allowing itself to be subsumed in a British Nationalist coalition. But scrutinise this assurance for even a few seconds and it evaporates. Ask the important and relevant questions. Why would the SNP be offered any meaningful concessions? Why would they be offered any concessions at all? If such a coalition came about it would be politically impossible for the SNP to refuse to join it. Especially after having shown enthusiasm for the idea. British Labour, who would dominate the coalition, need only decline to offer any concessions and dare the SNP to put the coalition in jeopardy.

And even supposing concessions were offered, could the British Nationalists be trusted to honour their commitments? History suggests otherwise. History suggests you’d have to be a complete idiot to put your faith in any promises made to Scotland by any British party or politician. How easily some people forget.

Oh! But the coalition could stop Brexit! Or it could reopen the negotiations that the EU has stated emphatically will not be reopened! Really? This British Nationalist coalition will be dominated by British Labour. Do they look like they might be ready to revoke Article 50? How many of their MPs would rebel against such a move? And even if the EU could somehow be persuaded to reopen negotiations despite having stated repeatedly and with increasing insistence that they will not do so, does British Labour look any more capable of negotiating a ‘deal’ than their fellow British Nationalists in the Tory party? I don’t think so!

You can be absolutely certain that no SNP MP would be allowed anywhere near those negotiations. It is a flagrant denial of political reality to suppose that British Labour would want to strengthen the SNP in any way. They want to destroy the SNP. Anybody who hasn’t realised that by now must have their head up their arse. British Labour’s only reason for inviting the SNP into a coalition would be to control or constrain them. To limit their options. To weaken them. And they would only associate the SNP with the Brexit negotiations in order to blame them when things went wrong.

That’s real-world politics!

But let’s suppose there were concessions offered, despite British Labour having neither a need nor an incentive to do so. would they be meaningful at all? We’ve already seen how massively dubious is the notion that this coalition could or would stop Brexit. What about the ‘powers’ that might be promised to the Scottish Parliament?

Firstly, we have to acknowledge – if we’re being realistic – that all indications are that the British state is intent on reducing the powers of the Scottish Parliament – if not on abolishing it completely. This subject has thoroughly enough dealt with elsewhere, so there’s no need to rehash it now. We may simply note that the EU power-grab is a very real thing. As is the shadow administration being set up by David Mundell. Anybody who thinks that’s an end to the stripping of powers from Holyrood is deluded.

But this may not prevent the promising of further powers. So, if we have any sense, we must ask why the British establishment would promise new powers when its purpose is to undermine the Scottish Parliament. There are two reasons.

Devolution has always been more about withholding powers from the Scottish Parliament than granting them. Crucially, what is granted can be withdrawn. Real power is never given. Real power is taken. Power that is given is not real power. But in light of the licence given to it by the No vote in 2014, the British establishment went further. Rather than being a tool by which the power of the Scottish Parliament could be controlled, devolution was forged into a weapon to be wielded against the hated SNP. The manner in which limited powers over such as tax and welfare were framed was intended to set numerous political and fiscal traps for the SNP administration. This too is a topic which has been dealt with at length elsewhere. The only reason there is not more evidence of these political and fiscal traps is that the SNP administration showed itself to be remarkably adept at avoiding them.

What does this have to do with powers which might be offered to the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of luring the SNP into a coalition? Quite simply, with the EU power-grab the British state now controls procurement and standards. It has always controlled the budget. Budget! Procurement! Standards! Control these, and you control everything. Whatever powers may be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, policy can always be ‘guided’ in whatever direction the British state desires through its control of the key powers.

Powers promised as part of any coalition deal would be completely meaningless. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be offered.

It is, when you stop to think about it, blindingly obvious that the SNP has nothing to gain from allowing itself to be subsumed in a British coalition. And that’s before we consider the damage that would be done in terms of support for the party. The independence cause has nothing to gain from this daft coalition idea. The new referendum that might be promised and then might be allowed to actually happen is already ours. It is not in the gift of Westminster.

A Section 30 concession could be an even worse trap than those devolved tax and welfare powers. Going down the Section 30 route means accepting that the referendum could only go ahead on the basis of an agreement between the two governments. Edinburgh Agreement 2! The British government need only seek to impose unacceptable conditions – such as a qualified majority – and there’s no agreement and therefore no ‘legal’ referendum. The independence cause is advanced not one millimetre.

More importantly, Scotland gains nothing from the SNP being subsumed in this putative British Nationalist-dominated coalition. The party that is supposed to be Scotland’s voice in Westminster would be all but entirely silenced. If you think the British media ignores the SNP now wait until they are in a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn as its official spokesperson.

Of course, this multi-party coalition is too unlikely to be taken seriously. But it must be of some concern that senior figures in the SNP and the Yes movement are even talking about such a thing. It suggests to me that they have lost sight of the goal. They have been fatally distracted by Brexit. And, perhaps, fatally attracted to the convoluted games of British political. Too intent on proving how good they are at playing those games.

This is deeply regrettable. The idea that there is a path to independence through the arcane workings of Westminster is sheer folly. No matter how adept SNP MPs may be at navigating the maze. Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will not be restored by becoming part of apparatus of the British state. The very thing we seek to break with.

If Joanna Cherry is offering an insight to the way SNP MPs are thinking; if they truly have been seduced by British politics to the extent that she implies, then it is clearly well past time we brought them home.


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13 thoughts on “Seduced?

  1. Pete
    The idea is a non starter and some in the SNP need to wake up before it’s too late. Even if a unity Government was put in place then I think we can guarantee the SNP, Plaid, and sinn Fien will not be invited. If they were, and took part, then people like myself who vote SNP but not members of the party would have to reconsider that vote.

    The British are not to be trusted at any time, why would you trust a people and a system that is more interested in what they can take away than what they have ever given. To be honest we are also talking about an English system that has always been about England with its built in majority and it doesn’t matter which party is in power, what England wants Britain gets.

    The SNP need to stop the Brexit nonsense and stop playing Westminster’s game. They should have one eye on governing well in Scotland and the other on independence. I must admit the SNP disappoint when it comes to the constitution and look too comfortable in their situation and that situation bares little resemblance to the lives that most of us live. They risk being seen as part of the establishment and they need to be very careful and not take the yes voters for granted. If they fail then maybe there needs to be a yes Scotland Party.

    Bruce

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  2. Thank god someone still has their eye on the prize because I’m beginning to fear out MP’s in Westminster have lost it altogether, I get the idea they have to look like they’ve tried everything to keep the UK in the EU before we call ndtref2 but they’re going too far.

    It is not their job to save England from from itself that is not why we voted for them their job is to save Scotland and get us out of this god forsaken union by whatever means possible,

    Brexit is not our problem we voted to remain and every recent opinion poll suggests that hasn’t changed, if England wants to sail off into empire 2 oblivion let them get on with it but their job is to make sure we stay with our friends in Europe as an independent country.

    I have no idea what can be so seductive about mixing it with the sewer rats in Westminster but if as I fear they are being seduced and becoming embroiled with then then as you said it’s time to bring them home

    Graeme

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  3. Written in March 2015 Peter. This was a warning of what might come.

    Mike Cullen

    The Ship of Theseus

    With the Labour party ruling out a “coalition” with the SNP, but not a “loose arrangement”, which makes it more likely we will see a supply and demand agreement after the next election, one thing occurs to me – those of us who desire independence as the ultimate goal should bear in mind the Ship of Theseus.

    The Ship of Theseus is a paradoxical object – imagine a ship that, over time, has all its parts replaced – planks, sails, ballast etc. Once everything has been replaced, the question arises – is it still the same ship?

    Many snoots have been cocked recently over the SNP’s virulent rise in membership, what is it now, five times where it began? And many of these new members are folk who once supported other parties, in particular, the Scottish Labour party. Now, those that remain in that Labour party, despite how thickly they might appear to apply the clown make-up, are not stupid. They can see that the old ship is fast disappearing below the surface, with only its once proud fo’c’s’le sticking out of the sea, where Mr Murphy and Mr Miliband teeter on a giant ball like a couple of starving seals, waving desperately for help. Will they do the gallant thing and go down with the party? It seems unlikely, given they have the survival propensity of the common cold virus, so what else can they do in such a situation? Jump to the nearest ship, perhaps?

    And so we have this doublespeak from the Labour party, on the one hand trying to appeal to the Tory heartlands by ruling out a coalition, while on the other, a tentative toe of conciliation, this oily olive branch of potential discussions, barely concealing the real intentions of these “adults acting responsibly”. They know that many of their former crew are on this other ship, and that the ultimate outcome of that must be the Ship of Theseus.

    Imagine that over a parliament or two, this new ship called “Supply and Demand” thunders into Westminster, bringing a cargo of democracy, social responsibility, fairness, all of the things that once adorned the shoulders of the Labour party. Imagine, just for one second, that this turns out to be successful. That we witness a sea change in British politics as a result, and we watch Westminster undergo a transformation into a modern democratic mother ship of which we can all be proud. And meantime, this Ship of Theseus, undergoes its own transformation, as it must, into a new SNP that is closer to the old Scottish Labour Party than the current party of independence.
    The temptation to remain with that system, especially for those whose roots lie with the old Labour party, will be immense, like the song of the siren, calling us to shipwreck and our ultimate demise.

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  4. There’s an old saying, never trust a word a Tory says, irrespective of party colours.
    Always remember, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    Best we just #DissolveTheUnion

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    1. @Stan Wilson

      It is worse than that.

      English parties will blame the SNP for the brexit they end up with (and by extension Scotland). You think Unionist dislike YES now. Wait until that venom is directed at you for generations to come.

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      1. Never, ever has any good come to Scotland of interfering in English matters. We always pay the highest price. Absolute folly. I am in despair. Come to think of it, I have never been in anything but despair since this debacle began. After 2016, we should have been planning plan B, even plan C, etc. to leave the Union, because it has been evident since 2014 that a second indyref is not possible, unless Westminster does a complete volte-face (which it won’t, given that they need Scotland’s resources and powers to effect any chance of a deal with the EU) and even the most ardent referendum supporter must see that it is not even desirable any longer, and, if nothing else, this almighty, humungous farce of Brexit proves that unequivocally. Contrary to what Mrs May claimed, referendums in the UK, apart, perhaps from the one that delivered the Scottish parliament (because they thought it would stop independence, and for no other reason) simply do not work, for the simple reason that the UK is not a democratic state at its core and never has been so. If the Westminster parliament topples Mrs May and her government, and if this coalition nonsense is taken seriously, we might be back to Oliver Cromwell and the take-over of the executive by the parliament. If anyone – especially in the SNP – thinks that might be a good idea, he/she needs to bone up on his/her history. Scotland will pay heavily for any interference in English affairs. We need to dissolve the effing Union via the Treaty of Union, petitioning the UN and the international community, and we should have done that in 2016, circumventing any second indyref vote which would have returned another NO vote, in any case. That is the realism of our situation – and that is only if our present and previous FMs survive the attempt to bring them both down.

        PS: I hope you don’t mind me writing this post on your blogsite, Mr Bell.

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  5. I agree entirely with Peter.
    I think the SNP leadership has got lost in this “stop Brexit” campaign, and all the while, as time moves ever closer to March, the Independence question gets ever more serious, but yet the delayed response from Scottish Government could be, and actually will be, disastrous for Scotland.
    It’s way past time, SNP leadership took on the anti Scottish media machine, and the anti Scottish tories, be they red/yellow or blue tories, and made Independence a greater priority again.
    This wishy washy play it policte with London is getting nowhere.

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  6. SNP are being sucked into the English centric blackhole….the current fight appears to only be about the English mandate.

    SNP has a Scottish mandate. If the English create a disastrous condition that splits the Union and advances independence, it is not the SNP’s job to stop them…it’s their job to say thank you, and take that gift horse and work their way to the exits..

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    1. UPDATE:
      I have just watched the @joannaccherry interview on C4 (with Sammy Wilson & JRM). It is now becoming clear that every speech by SNP includes a statement that without remain Scotland are out of the UK.

      The only positive interpretation I can see of the SNP’s roll in PV is that this has an eye towards any eventual diplomatic support for Scotland’s dissolving the union. That said, the SNP has its role and YES has theirs – YES must always hold the SNP’s feet to the fire and only focus on the prize.

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  7. Well. I don’t feel quite as cynical about all the machinations. But I do agree that a coalition uk gov’t is unlikely to be productive to producing an independence referendum.

    But – we can assume that this coalition would like a better ‘deal’ – the only way to get that is to stay in the customs union, and probably the single market – then you don’t have the Irish border Good Friday Agreement issue, which is the main sticking point. So you leave the EU – which the question in the referendum was on – the EU might take this as a simplifying amendment of the agreement – and brexiteers are slightly mollified (no one very happy, but no one catastrophically angry) – and you promise a new referendum quick as you can on the customs union and single market (why didn’t they carry out a consultation on these parts anyway?) to keep the howling from getting too much.

    So, when they call this new referendum, Scotland just has a different question from the non-Scottish parts – on independence – no point in us voting in an EU one again & we would just get what England wants anyway, and England wont have us EUphiles messing up their vote. There will be no catastrophic crashing out of customs union so things can function while negotiations are going on with Scotland’s independence, and England can do WTF it likes.

    And – I see the SNP involvement in supporting any of the more sensible elements in Westminster as a good strategy for aiding in future negotiations. I am assuming that Westminster will be vindictive when it comes to us negotiating the dissolution of the union, so as many friends as possible will be no bad thing. So, joining a coalition gov’t will not be in and of itself something that brings about any concessions or power to the SNP, but it could have benefits.

    I cannot, of course, know if the SNP has any of these thoughts or plans in mind, just as much as anyone else can know if they plan to sell us out. We will be getting our independence referendum come what may, or if not – I can’t see the point in stressing about whether or not we’ll be sold out – I think we all kind of expect it, but if you have no better plan, best leave things to play out, hope for the best, realise that the options aren’t just those the unionist establishment say they are, fear is what Westminster and the unionists want us to feel – and this idea that is doing the rounds about the SNP loving Westminster more than Scottish independence just sounds like propaganda to me. I believe the SNP will be manoeuvring to give us the choice very soon. They won’t survive as a viable political party otherwise, will they?

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    1. And if, after all that, another NO vote is brought in? By the narrowest of margins? Bye, bye independence for not one, but several, generations, at the very least. Either that, or a new independence party/movement arises, as happened in Ireland, and which will be of a far less accommodating mien. Referendums in the UK are not a good idea unless the establishment thinks they are a good idea, as was the case in 1998/99 because, and solely because, they thought that independence might be destroyed totally or, at least, seen off for several generations, and, in the case of Brexit because, deep down, they believed they would win, anyway.

      So few in the independence movement have even contemplated a second NO vote, but that is what has happened in recent times when independence has been revisited (Quebec), and, in line with that, the past four referendums on independence in recent times (late 20th/early 21st centuries) have been defeated by anti-independence elements (in themselves a minority) within the country wishing independence allying with a minority of residents not originating in the said country wishing independence who are hostile to any question of independence (Quebec, Scotland, Catalunya, New Caledonia, the last name ironic, eh?). That is our reality, too, and, unless we get down to admitting that it is very possible that a NO vote is returned a second time (as the SNP knows perfectly well) and start looking for a different, but no less democratic route out of the Union, we might as well all go back to sleep. This obsession with a second indyref will yet be our downfall, either at our own hands or at the hands of the lickspittles, who chant the anti indyref mantra, making many believe that they fear one. They really don’t. They just want us to believe that they do. They fear our independence and their loss of control, and that starts the very moment we stop playing their game and start playing our own, in our own style.

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