Saturday, 18 March 2017

Scotland's future: not defined by Brexit

Lazy journalism begets inept and unscrutinised politicians.  It also assists in manipulating the terms of debate to a simplistic set of stylised buzzwords, deployed in cliche-ridden soundbites.  Although the current sparring between Scotland's elected First Minister and the UK's usurped Prime Minister is highly entertaining, it obscures the challenges that nearly tipped Scotland into independence in 2014, and has the danger of shifting the terms of debate to where the Tories want them to be.

The racism and ignorance that much of the BBC's UK-wide coverage encourages is unsurprising - I managed a few minutes of an extremely peculiar Question Time before resorting to Laphroaig and the certainties of bed, where it was clear that the pensionable and bigoted Dimbleby was completely out of his depth.  Confirmation bias, maybe, but nevertheless indicative of a forthcoming dumbing down of any of the discourse that a mature constitutional democracy should aspire to.  The obvious rejoinder is that the UK is neither mature nor democratic, which defines the scale of the opportunities for discussion and debate.

It suits the BBC and the Tories, in their simplistic vilification of the SNP, to portray this as a combination of nationalism and sour grapes after the EU referendum.  Gladiatorial combat is much easier to present than a nuanced exposition as to why there is a significant, activist-based campaign in Scotland seeking to revive the debate about independence and the future of a broken Union.  Far easier to ignore this than engage.  Additionally, there is a risk that the anti-Brexit lobbies will adopt Scotland's cause as their own - using Scotland as an expositor of the failures of the United Kingdom for their own ends.

Whatever the future timings of any independence referendum, and the political context of relationships between a dictatorial, centralising state and an emerging, upstart representative democracy, the case will need to be considered on many levels, and with more dimensions than a simple binary choice would indicate.  The balance of probabilities, the risks and the opportunities are all to be defined - and only then will it be possible to make a final judgement on the correct choice.

This is not party-political, but a choice for citizens.  Sturgeon, as a much more astute operator than almost any other contemporary office holder, realises this.  It is not about promoting the SNP but about a vision of what Scotland is, what it might be and what are the blocking factors to achieving the right end point.  The 2014 campaign was fought mainly around the economy by the British establishment, and on a false set of promises Cameron and Brown delivered in the panic before the referendum itself.  The prospectus needs to be honed to be convincing.

For the nostalgic Unionists, disturbing the status quo is seen as unthinkable.  Despite the infliction of constitutional outrage through the Brexit process, apparently this level of turmoil is acceptable for the colonials whether or not they support it.  Irony and jaw-dropping are the natural response to the exhortations only to make decisions on the basis of evidence and not to be impulsive, which the Nanny of Downing Street parrots like a demented gargoyle whenever she is pressed on the subject.

A progressive engagement needs to be centred on the basis of engagement of both identity and economy - with no presuppositions that a 19th century model of the nation state remains viable.  Scotland is no smaller than many European states, which appear both to flourish culturally and economically.

There are social, political and logistical issues that need to be defined - although the Scottish Government's White Paper before the 2014 referendum remains a model of relative thoroughness compared to the UK maladministration's farrago of lies and busking that characterises its current approach.  A nation defined by geography and values does not have to be coterminous with historic borders, nor with the conception of sovereignty that is currently peddled by the rose-tinted Empire Loyalists.

The cultural disconnect is getting greater with each ham-fisted, leaden intervention by UK politicians and their lackeys.  The political disconnect is huge - with the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Scotland acting as echo-chambers for the reactionary cause.  In the case of the latter this is distinctly illiberal, caused by hubris that has not been punctured by near-annihilation and posturing alongside the Tories.  The pro-independence cause will be able to pick off people whose allegiance is not SNP, and pitched carefully it should create a broader coalition looking beyond the pre-referendum party fissures and to what a modern polity would look like.

Whenever the next referendum occurs, choices will be made on the day, and with a strong emotional drive.  The absence of a legitimate UK narrative, and the fissures in Northern Ireland, will reinforce the emotions - but it is a key challenge to those forces, including the SNP, advocating and planning for an independent future to provide the rational underpinning.  Brexit is part of the democratic deficit and the end of the UK legitimacy.  For those of us who are leaning towards supporting independence this needs to be a symptom, not a cause.  It is the final insult in a cumulative process - it does not in itself define the right direction for the future of Scotland.

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