There’s a lot of remarkable stuff going on in politics at the moment. You hardly need yet another commentator telling you what an unmitigated shambles the entire Brexit project is. You can probably do without some blogger groping for adjectives to describe the British political elite responsible for this debacle within a fiasco within a thing that we don’t even have a word for yet. Most of you will understand well enough the implications of recent developments in the increasingly farcical process in which, two years on from that fateful referendum, British politicians continue to squabble like bagged cats over what they want Brexit to mean.
You’ll doubtless have had your fill of articles attempting to read the entrails of the eviscerated ‘Chequers Accord’ and enumerate all possible permutations of resignations, alliances, leadership challenges, snap elections and the rest. You’ll have read or listened to so many ‘experts’ offering different accounts of ‘What It All Means’ that you may not have a clue what any of it means, but at least you have some idea of what some of it might mean depending on what the rest of it turns out to mean.
You’ll be dizzy from having things presented from every conceivable angle and perspective. You’ll be weary. I sympathise. Really! I do! But I crave your indulgence as I briefly discuss a remarkable thing that is not much remarked upon.
I refer to the curious fact that, despite everything that has happened and is happening, there are still people insisting that we should wait and see what happens next before acting to extricate Scotland from a political union which has gone from being merely deleterious to being downright disastrous.
What is it that these people imagine might happen which could possibly make the Union acceptable? The arguments for procrastination fall into three broad categories. There’s the ‘Wait For Clarity’ argument. This is the plea that we bide our time until is becomes fully apparent what the Brexit ‘deal’ is. Let me just repeat here something mentioned earlier. It is now two years since the EU referendum and we are still waiting for the plan and/or proposals which, in a scenario where sanity got a bit-part, should have been worked out long before the referendum was even contemplated. What rational reason is there to suppose that any kind of ‘clarity’ might emerge from the noxious fog surrounding the Brexit process?
The analogy I’ve used previously, but which bears repeating, is being pushed off a high building. You don’t have to wait until you hit the pavement to know that it isn’t going to end well. The British political elite is intent upon dragging Scotland off a very high building. It rather goes without saying that we did not consent to this. In fact, most of us are loudly objecting to being pulled over the edge by the Mad Brexiteers with their magic parachutes woven from inane jingoism, tawdry bunting and wishful thinking. But our protests are going unheeded.
The Mad Brexiteers insist – not without a certain perverse justification – that we gave them a licence to push or drag us off any tall structure of their choosing by voting No in 2014. So we should just shut up and enjoy the thrill of plummeting into the abyss.
This first category of postponers and prevaricators argue that the people of Scotland need to know all the details before they can be asked to resist. They need to know precisely the height of the building and exactly what kind of terrain they’ll be landing on – along with lots of stuff about wind direction and velocity and how much change they’ll have in their pockets. They say that, as soon as we see absolutely every bit of information there is and ever can be about the falling process, we’ll be better able to judge whether the inevitable high-velocity interaction with the ground is something we’re prepared to contemplate. And they expect this information to become available any day now.
Next, we have the ‘Wait For Three Buses!’ argument. According to this argument, Brexit isn’t so much like Scotland being dragged off a tall building as Scotland being thrown under a bus. The advice is that we should stand by while the people of Scotland are thrown under the wheels of this bus so they’ll know the pain of allowing themselves to be thrown under the wheels of a bus and learn from this that being thrown under a bus is not a good thing. Possibly every bit as bad as meeting the pavement after a brief vertical trip.
The more enthusiastic advocates of this course of action prefer that we wait until there are two or three buses bowling along in our direction so that the people of Scotland get doubly or triply mangled. Just to ensure that they learn that lesson.
The theory seems to be that, once they know what a damned good bus-mangling is really like, the people of Scotland will rise up against those who visited this misfortune on them. Presumably gathering their dismembered limbs, splintered bones and smashed organs as they do so.
Then there’s the ‘Wait In Hope’ argument. Maybe Brexit won’t be so bad. Maybe it’ll have it’s good points. Like Hitler being an animal-loving vegetarian.
Or maybe it won’t happen at all. Maybe the British political elite will suddenly be overcome by late onset sanity and they’ll cancel the whole exercise claiming it was all just a jolly jape and asking if we can’t take a joke.
Needless to say, I reject all of these arguments. There is no possibility of any ‘clarity. I happen to think we should be protecting Scotland from traffic hazards. And it doesn’t matter how shining bright Brexit turns out to be, or even that it doesn’t happen. Because we didn’t consent to it! It is being done to us without our consent. It is being done to us despite the fact that we refused consent. It is being done to us against our strenuous objections.
That is the issue. Not Brexit, but the political union which empowers the British political elite to push Scotland off tall buildings or under buses. Brexit is merely a symptom. The Union is the disease. Brexit is a manifestation of the fatal flaws in a constitutional arrangement which Scotland should never have been subjected to. A constitutional arrangement which no sane, sober and sensible citizen of Scotland would accept were it being offered now.
Brexit has exposed the asymmetry of power which is built into the Union. An inherent imbalance which means that, within the UK, Scotland’s interests can only be served if and to the extent that they happen to coincide with the interests of England’s political, social and economic elites. Something that happens ever more rarely as Scotland develops a distinctively outward-looking, inclusive, progressive political culture while the rest of the UK (rUK) retreats into a narrow, insular, fearful British Nationalism.
Brexit has brought into sharp focus the denial of popular sovereignty which is the other fatal flaw of the Union. The sovereignty of Scotland’s people is denied in favour of the sovereignty of the British crown in the British parliament. Which increasingly means autocratic rule by the executive of the British government.
These fatal flaws have existed since the Union was imposed on Scotland. They didn’t arise with Brexit. They won’t be resolved regardless of how the Brexit shambles plays out. Or, at least, they won’t be resolved in a manner that any democrat could consider tolerable.
The British political elite does not see the democratic deficit as a problem They regard it as an essential aspect of the Union. When Scotland’s interests are subordinated to the interests of the British government’s clients, that is the Union doing precisely what it was intended to do.
When the Union enables the British political elite to deny Scotland’s democratic right of self-determination and treat our democratic institutions with open contempt, that is the Union serving the purpose for which it was devised.
The British state doesn’t see the Union as the problem. For the British state, the Union is the solution. Their response to protests against the imbalance of power is to further entrench that imbalance whilst decimating and emasculating Scotland’s democratic institutions. Their response to efforts to ensure the people of Scotland can fully exercise the sovereignty that is theirs by right is to strip Scotland of the means by which sovereignty might be exercised whilst bolstering the power wielded over Scotland by the British government.
Brexit is not the problem. The Union is the problem. And it is a problem which needs to be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency. More and more people are recognising just how real and imminent is the threat of rabid British nationalism. Paul Kavanagh, for example, writes today,
The independence movement needs to stop talking about the best time for an independence referendum, and start talking about the dire necessity for one.
We cannot afford to prevaricate. We cannot afford to hesitate. We must dissolve the Union. We must do it now!
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