It is increasingly clear that the Brexit process is being used by Westminster as an opportunity to close the door, once and for all if possible, on any practicable route for Scotland to gain independence.
The hostile rhetoric coming from Westminster in recent weeks regarding Scottish independence and a pre-Brexit referendum, in contrast to its platitudes regarding some distant consent, suggests that once the dust clears after Brexit, we’ll see that the pieces have been moved into place in such a way as to make it practicably impossibly for Scotland to separate from the rest of the UK.
It looks like Westminster will talk the friendly talk of “more power” to distract pro-Scottish independence supporters, while all the while it will be doing its damnedest to quietly close the door on independence, behind a Brexit smoke screen.
Add to this situation the uncertainty of a pro-independece majority remaining in control of Holyrood in the future… and the next few years very much start to look like make or break for the Scottish independence movement.
Hence, The UK Prime minister, Theresa May’s insistence on pushing talks about a new referendum into the future, sometime after Brexit is completed.
The Scottish government’s game plan seems to be to play the EU off the UK and slip through the middle.
This is to say, that it increasingly looks like the Scottish government is coming to the conclusion that:
- a pre-Brexit referendum is fast becoming its only viable chance at independence;
- a Scottish currency (not Sterling or the Euro) provides the most flexible and robust economic and campaigning position, and;
- a Norway style EU deal – access to the single market without full EU membership – is the way forward regarding Scotland’s future relationship with the EU, and again, this works from a campaigning perspective.
However, I’ve been witnessing a worrying trend on my social media feeds since the Scottish parliament officially voted to move towards calling a new Scottish independence referendum last Wednesday (29th Apr 2017).
Some of my pro-independence friends seem to be falling for the line that it would be better to let the Brexit dust settle and then go for Scottish independence once things have calmed down. This looks like a dangerously mistaken view from where I’m sitting.
From my reading of the current situation (as I’ve just outlined) the Scottish government is being pushed into playing a game of winner takes all… with a weak hand. Westminster has been slowly but surely leaving the Scottish government with no other choice than to try to force a second independence referendum before the completion of the Brexit process closes the door on Scottish independence, possibly, for good.
The UK Prime minster’s outright rejection to enter into discussion with the Scottish parliament over a possible future independence referendum and her recent rhetoric, saying for example: “the strength and stability of our union will become even more important [during and after Brexit]”, are both strong indications that while Westminster has opted for a strategy of talking more powers for Scotland, in practice it is seeking to bring the uppity Scots back to heel, ideally, once and for all.
And how might Westminster achieve its goal? It is not going to spell out its plans, that would be self-defeating, but political commentator for the Herald and Sunday Herald, Iain Macwhirter, wrote an insightful and worrying article back in January this year. In his article he suggests that:
“Notice has been served on Scotland that further wide-ranging changes to Holyrood’s powers could be on the way by diktat from the UK Government. This will be in the wake of the legislative upheaval that takes place when Britain is ripped out of the EU. Almost anything can and probably will be altered by the Brexiters in charge at Westminster as it puts together a new single market and sets all the laws that govern it. Holyrood is supposed to exercise primary lawmaking powers, but it is a house on shifting sands, without any kind of sovereign or legislative authority. After this week, Holyrood is no longer a parliament in anything but name.”
So, it seems very likely that Westminster’s goal is to make sure that once Brexit is completed, there will be no practicable route to independence left open to Scotland. That is to say, there will be no way out from austerity Britain, surveillance U.K. and rule by and for The City’s financial interests for those of us living north of the border.
The way Scotland’s First minster, Nicola Sturgeon, has been playing things indicates that she very definitely knows that she doesn’t have the luxury of “shopping around” for her preferred date for a future independence referendum. Rather, that she understands that she is being pushed into dealing with circumstances outside of her control and is doing the best she can to make the most out of her inherently weak hand and diminishing range of options.
It is now or never for Scottish independence and the Scottish government is going to have to be exceedingly canny to even get one more realistic shot at it.
Time to get out on the streets and start campaigning – carpe diem
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