Monday, 17 October 2016

Why I will (probably) vote for Scottish independence

As a "traitor", as defined by a Surrey Tory councillor whose words have been regretted by the Prime Minister but not disowned, I am clearly deficient in any rights and should, by the standards of the panicking Brexit brigade, turn myself in for a period of reeducation and removal of the capacity for independent thought.  As an old-fashioned Liberal who remembers life before the Orange Book, and internationalist this does not appeal.

There has been a predictable reaction by the Unionist side to the tone of the recent SNP conference, at which the party set out its stall for the coming bunfight precipitated by the absence of a credible administration in Westminster.  The ugly side of the right, epitomised by far too many in the Scottish Tories and what remains in Scottish Labour, is no longer masked by any respect for an alternative narrative, which in itself is a sufficient cause for consideration.

Following her coup, Theresa May made great play of engaging with the devolved nations, apparently recognising that Scotland's emerging and more mature polity would require to be taken into account.  However, alongside the platitudes that she dribbled out with respect to Ireland, it is clear that not having a clue, telling lies and then playing to an intolerant gallery of Little Englanders has rendered this not merely invalid but an exercise in specious hypocrisy.  The exclusion of her pathetic sole MP from the inner workings of the Brexit lunacy is a further calculated insult that only someone with the combined lack of insight and backbone as her party leader in Scotland would not be complaining about.

In parallel with the marginalisation of Scotland from any recognition of its differences, ignoring the 20 years of devolution and the principles of government by consent, there is an intriguing process of legal debate on whether there is any check on the UK executive power.  When the government is hiding behind a spurious and antiquated defence of royal prerogative, then it is clear that the UK state is so corrupt and irretrievable that it is hardly worth defending.

For most of my politically-engaged years, I have been convinced that the lack of any coherent British constitution will be the undoing of the Union.  It may well be that Blair's most enduring and positive legacy will have been the creation of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish authorities with proper constitutions and defined powers, as when played out against a central government that revels in its slipperiness and ill-defined despotism it creates at least some framework within which the rights of the citizen are defended and can be exercised.

Without rehearsing the irresponsibility and downright idiocy of the current UK administration's path, and the consequences that are now emerging, the arguments that were put out by the Better Together campaign in 2014 now ring so hollow as to be near silent; the fiscal rectitude and the federalist tropes are discredited.  With the little Englanders moving towards an authoritarian abyss, the choices become much clearer, and the risks of dissolving the Union appear to be offset by the damage that the egregious and unrepresentative stupidity of the May maladministration appears to be hell-bent on wreaking.

Paradoxically, Scotland voting to leave the UK may be the catalyst for the kind of democratic and constitutional reform that the current court case demands.  To watch the denial of accountability, the assault on freedom of expression and the arrogance of power that exists as a consequence of a constitutional vacuum is heart-breaking.  Destroying its certainties may be required to remake a world where the English subject is liberated.

As a federalist, internationalist and an optimist the future looks bleak and uncertain.  Whatever the hate-filled rhetoric emanating from the fascists and fellow-travellers, this is not a given, and there has to be a chance for something better, based around a more socially-coherent, outward-looking society. Scotland has much more of this than much of England outside the enlightened enclaves, and therefore I for one am prepared to listen to the SNP and weigh up its deeds against its words.

It is not about party alignment, but about citizenship and rights.  Listening to the Tories and Labour you would have thought that this is all caprice - and as with the Brexit debate in England they are behind the curve.  There is a lot to play for, but the evidence points me towards independence as a positive option.  Whatever the risks, being shacked to a dictatorial and decaying Union is no longer axiomatic as a precondition for a successful country.

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