Commentary by Derek Bateman
I was interviewed by Kurdish television about Scottish independence (they’re not exactly disinterested in the subject themselves) and found myself articulating ideas I hadn’t really thought through. No surprise there, then. It’s when you’re confronted by questions, a mic is thrust under your nose and a camera lens is widening to get in your plooks, that you tend to come up with stuff. Idea after idea pops into your head and you try gamely to connect them into a coherent whole. All the time you’re wondering if this makes any sense in Kirkuk.
The crew were happy and I know why, having done the same job myself. I gave them four complete answers they could use without an edit, each no longer than 90 seconds. There’s nothing like getting useable material in the can, even if you don’t believe a single word of it. So I’m going to be big in Erbil, top item on Reporting Kurdistan, I shouldn’t wonder. I picture Jackie Bird in a headscarf.
My argument boiled down to basics – that this was no longer about nationalism struggling for expression through independence. That was kind of the point in indyref1.
Rather it was the failure of London and unionism to adapt to Scottish demands in a changing world. Scotland had expressed itself pretty clearly both in 45 per cent Yes (while losing) and then by electing SNP members to almost all the Westminster seats. A rational and proportionate response to those results would have been an offer of substantial powers to meet the national aspiration. That, I said, would have satisfied many Scots even those who longer term wanted independence. Instead severely limited areas were devolved, notably a single, and politically toxic tax power.
The mandate was ignored while the loss of the SNP’s Holyrood majority was welcomed as a sign of failure and was used to justify retention of real power in London. They will only concede as little as they can get away with it and only after threats. There is no sense of mutual respect or mature politics at play.
Now the very basis on which the original referendum was mostly settled – EU membership and economic stability – has been destroyed. Where once the choice, put simply, had been between a known entity and the unknown, now it was between two unknowns.
Britain’s future, in foreign relations, international influence, security, social protection, environmental safeguards, quality of goods, workers’ rights, European travel and residency, was now uncertain after the EU vote. What is certain, and is still to a degree unquantifiable, is the blow awaiting the economy in lost jobs, future prospects, markets, investment, inward migration and our likely subjugation to more powerful mercantile forces in the US and China. Our national output will fall and as the IFS makes clear today, the national accounts will be hit further on top of Osborne’s still-to-come spending reductions which will heap higher debt on the Exchequer leading to more savage service and benefit cuts.
The union’s broad shoulders are sagging. Its deep pockets have holes in them. Yet the vainglorious message of British superiority trumpets on. The UK – the Ragged Trousered Propagandist.
Just last night in the Commons the voice of Scotland’s MPs was closed down in favour of government mouthpieces in the debate on Article 50. Hardly anyone actually cares what happens in the Great Hall of Westminster Public School for Privileged Boys but it’s another sign, if you need it, of institutional contempt – not to the SNP but to Scotland. And it may be that the announcement of a date for the next referendum will signal the return of the 56. For what is the point of retaining membership of a club that disdains us, one whose snobbery overrides any concept of representative democracy?
We are ignored and must learn to follow where the wise of Westminster will lead. We are being hauled out of our markets despite the European birthright we earned as early travellers long before the creation of a spatchcock United Kingdom. We, along with sparsely-educated UKIP voters and English fundamentalists, now have an international reputation as xenophobes and anti-Europeans. We are incorporated into the British image of intolerant isolationists and buddies of Trump.
The decision now is which uncertain future do we choose? Are we to join Kezia and Ruth’s suicide embrace of Brexit Britain or are we brave enough to believe in ourselves and take the hand of our European partners? A retreat from cooperation and collectivism into Little Britain dominated by global powers? Is that who we are?
Or does this more closely meet your idea of Scotland: This thoroughly modern market economy features high-tech agriculture, up-to-date small-scale and corporate industry, extensive government welfare measures, comfortable living standards, and high dependence on foreign trade. It is a net exporter of food.
That’s the basic info box from Wikipedia if you Google Denmark. The UK that the majority voted for last time is fading fast and it’s clear the Tories will take us down with them. They have no interest in our fate and believe, as I do, we handed all the power over us back to them in September 2014. Our last chance is approaching. The choice is no longer independence or status quo, it’s a modern, supported society integrated with our neighbours versus a frontier scramble for work and security in a declining economy.
How the Kurds wish they had our opportunities. Writing in the Independent Gary Kent says: It is evident to me that, after a century of misery and a decade of failed federalism in Iraq, Kurds in Iraq need sovereignty. It is seen as fundamental to their survival in allowing them to borrow on international markets, buy arms, and attract investment to rejuvenate their economy and to turn quantity into quality in everything from education to governance.
The time to fear the future is passing. The really worrying thing is the wilful catastrophe that MPs vote for, even those who realise the damage it will do to the national interest. When the talks begin in a few weeks it will quickly become apparent that Scotland has no voice and no interest to be protected as far as the UK is concerned. The question is just how much of this can soft NOs take before they see the game is up?