The People’s Vote

peoples_vote_logoI have previously made it clear that I am extremely sceptical of the whole #PeoplesVote thing. Crucial questions remain, to the best of my knowledge, entirely unanswered. In this putative referendum, what would the options be? How might these options be made clear, concise and unambiguous? Who would be entitled to vote in the proposed referendum?

What would happen to the Brexit process while the #PeoplesVote was being conducted? Would the result be binding on the British government? What might be the EU’s reaction to each of the possible outcomes? the Would Scotland’s vote be treated with any less contempt than previously?

Would a #PeoplesVote referendum be capable of producing, not just a result, but a decision? Could this decision possibly be decisive enough to draw a line under the whole EU membership issue for a generation – even if only a ‘political generation’?

Despite this lack of clarity about whether a new EU referendum is useful, or even possible, huge numbers of people took to the streets to demand a #PeoplesVote. Those people cannot simply be ignored. Unless you’re the British political elite. In which case, contemptuously disregarding the wishes of the people is pretty much the mission statement. A new EU referendum isn’t happening unless Westminster allows it. And there is vanishingly little cause to suppose that the necessary level of support for the idea exists among MPs.

This poses yet another Brexit-related problem for Scotland. If a second EU referendum isn’t going to happen; or if it cannot be decisive; or if Scotland’s voice is to be ignored again, then the whole campaign is no more than a distraction from the increasingly urgent business of extricating Scotland from the Union.

Diversion and delay may well suit the British establishment. The British Tories are glad of any misdirection which takes attention away from their woeful handling of the whole Brexit fiasco. They might even suppose that the possibility of a new referendum lifts their bargaining power with the EU above zero. Pretty much the only advantage that the British side has is that both staying and going can be deployed as threats.

British Labour can’t make up their minds about how indecisive they are and so having even the vague possibility of a referendum that would take the burden of decision off their shoulders relieves them of the need to take a position on… what was the question, again?

Then there’s that fly in in the ointment of the British political system’s two-party purity, the Liberal Democrats. They are openly supportive of the #PeoplesVote thing. So you’d think they’d be keen to have MPs vote on it. But, given the likelihood that such a vote would go against them, maybe they’re not so eager after all. So long as nothing actually happens, they get to strike a pose as the people’s champions. They will want to enjoy the posturing as long as possible.

The issue has to be forced. And the only ones who might force it are the SNP group at Westminster. Hence, this Tweet from Angus MacNeil MP,

angus_macneilWe need to get this #PeoplesVote nonsense out of the way. We have to focus on defending Scotland’s democracy against the British Nationalist onslaught. Brexit is England’s choice and, therefore, England’s problem. The #PeoplesVote campaign is a desperate, flailing and all but certainly ineffectual attempt to deal with that problem.

The issue for Scotland is, not Brexit, but the Union which, by denying the Scottish people full and proper exercise of our sovereignty, allows the British state to impose Brexit on us – along with austerity, and Trident, and fracking and all the rest – in blatant, arrogant, imperious defiance of our democratic will. A #PeoplesVote does not address this issue in any way.

Let’s shrug off the distractions and get back to the serious business of bringing Scotland’s government home.

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The boost

angus_macneilI confess to spells of weariness and occasional bouts of despair. Political activism can be quite draining. I think I’m averaging around three Yes events per week, along with all the reading and writing and social media activity. Just keeping the diary up to date can seem onerous task. Then there’s the travel and accommodation arrangements. All in all, being part of the Yes movement can get to be like a full time job.

Not that I’m any kind of special case. Countless people are doing as much as I am. Many are doing a great deal more. I’m sure they get weary too. Maybe it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge this. Perhaps it would do us all good to admit that we’re only human. We get tired. There’s no shame in that.

It has been a long time, too. Some count their commitment to the independence campaign in decades. An honourable few have made it the work of a lifetime now closer to its end than its beginning. But even if you are one of those who only engaged with the independence cause during the first referendum campaign or in it its immediate aftermath, you have been involved to some degree in an unrelenting programme of events and activities for at least four years. In that time, and at the lower end of a scale of activism, you’ve probably done around 100 things.

The Yes campaign makes considerable demands of all who participate. If we get tired and irritable let’s not be too hard on ourselves –  or each other.

No matter how jaded we may get, there are always those moments which serve to revive us. The marches. The rallies. The conferences and the conventions. The occasions when we get together with like-minded folk and feed on each other’s enthusiasm. The times when we gather to share ideas and insights. The times when we embark on bold new projects. The times when we get to welcome those who have made the journey to Yes.

Then there are the developments and interventions which make us mindful of the fundamental justice of our cause and remind us how necessary – and urgent – it is that we break Scotland out of the Union. Almost daily now we are jolted out of any tendency to lethargy by some new evidence of how damaging the Union is to Scotland. With increasing frequency we are hearing influential voices raised against the inclination to complacency. Angus MacNeil is prominent among those voices.

Unfortunate as it is that Angus MacNeil persists in linking action to resolve the constitutional issue so intimately with Brexit, at least he is injecting a much needed sense of urgency into the debate. This is what Yes activists want to hear. This is what will keep us old-timers going for a bit longer. This is what will attract fresh blood and fresh vigour to the independence campaign.

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, I salute you!

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