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Nicola Grasps the Thistle

By Ed Pond

Last Monday was an exciting day. Nicola Sturgeon called for a second Scottish independence referendum. Quite possibly she was pressured into it by the Westminster wing of the SNP, to either influence or pre-empt the Article 50 amendments votes in Parliament. If the former, it didn't work. If the latter, it was prescient indeed, as the Commons later rejected the Lords' amendments, and the Lords quickly voted to back down. At last, Theresa May has the authority (no, really this time) to activate Article 50. She could do it this week, although our patience seems set to be tested a little while longer.

 

It makes more sense from Sturgeon's point of view that the referendum is soon. There is more likely to be uncertainty about Brexit in the early days of negotiation, and when the shock of the nasty English starting the process is fresh. Therefore it will appear more scary and win votes for independence. Any later, and Brexit might well seem viable while the EU appears ever more compromised.     

 

It would be against the spirit of June 23rd to begrudge the Scottish people self-determination if that's what they desire. But they did already decide on this under 3 years ago; and is leaving the EU really so much of an imposition that they need to have that bitter fight all over again? It's a pretext, a tactical issue to justify a second go at what the SNP failed to win before. Their raison d'être.  

 

As pointed out by many, the SNP's ideas of independence conflict with their sacrosanct intention to be within the yoke of the EU. If they are reapplying after the UK leaves, the terms would be less favourable, likely involving the volatile Euro. And Spain may of course not allow a rejoin to happen, with their minds firmly on Catalonia.

 

The SNP neglects those within its party or the wider Scottish electorate that recognise this inconsistency. A third of Scottish voters in the EU referendum voted to leave. Even with those that voted the other way, a vote for Remain does not necessarily mean a vote for Yes. The propositions of leaving the EU and leaving the UK are very different; and indeed polling after the EU referendum suggests there has been no real change in support for Scottish independence.

 

If the terribly nicknamed 'IndyRef2' (youth vote anyone?) does indeed happen, we must cultivate those Scots who voted Leave in 2016. We should make clear Sturgeon will 'drag them kicking and screaming', to use her language, back into the EU. For 2014's Yes voters, we should emphasise the contradiction of swapping one master who has devolved many powers for another who is increasing centralist control. With the unionists, either Leave or Remain, we have to convince them of the viability of Britain going it alone. We must make clear we can tackle it more effectively as an intact unit; a unit with that shared British kinship no foreign super-state can replace. We have faced much graver challenges together and succeeded.  


Scotland was a key Labour heartland. To stand a chance of getting back into government in Westminster, Labour must campaign for the unionist position and then work long term on reviving support across the border. If we support Scotland, they will support us. Labour should vow to honour the 'Devo-Max' that was promised by Cameron but hasn't yet been delivered. We've always valued the 5 million in Scotland and we have to show them we don't take them for granted. Yes, at times England has valued their oil and submarine bases a little more - we haven't always treated them so well. It's not so much sacking and pillaging in modern times, but testing out dodgy taxes and going to war with dodgy dossiers. If the union holds, and I'm quietly confident it will, we should all have a full and frank conversation, bury the many hatchets in Berwick-upon- Tweed, and pool our efforts into achieving a prosperous Brexit.


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