Jacob F. Farr
Naked Politics Blogger
It is too turbulent a time for Scotland to hold a referendum on their place in the United Kingdom and Europe. It would cause chaos that would severely weaken the hand of the British government when headed to Brussels for crunch talks- so we were told. As a United Kingdom we need stability, something that Theresa May has proclaimed to be her strongest asset, and a second referendum would only mean that instability would reign supreme in the coming years. It is no wonder why then, that the announcement of a general election in around 6 weeks’ time was met with mass bemusement, especially north of the border. A Prime Minister who on several occasions promised us there would not be another general election until 2020, as the country needed a period of transition and relative calm in order to make a success of Brexit, has now decided all of a sudden that she must hold a GE due to the amount of saboteurs attempting to de-rail the government’s Brexit plans.
Yvette Cooper raised an excellent question during PMQs last Wednesday, stating that the government cites saboteurs as the reason for this snap election. Cooper reminded May that the House of Commons backed Brexit overwhelmingly and the House of Lords backed it with a 2/3 majority. If there is an attempt to sabotage Brexit then we have not seen it yet. The opposition is arguably at its weakest point in a generation. It appears as though the population has been deceived. So why are we holding this election and what are the consequences when one looks at the issue through a Saltire lens?
Rewind back to IndyRef1, Scotland was torn between a decision to remain in the UK or to go it alone in an attempt to take back control of legislation as we lurched further and further towards an austerity state. Many carried themselves admirably throughout, there was an abundance of highbrow debates on social media and there was a friendliness that existed which was not seen during the Brexit campaign. There were many solid arguments from both sides and of course, there was some foul play and unfriendliness from both sides. However, it was an event that politicised a nation. The main argument that won the day for remaining was the economy, as well as the argument posed that the only way Scotland could guarantee EU membership would be to stay with the UK. Scottish people thought that with a general election to follow the referendum, they would have an opportunity to be rid of Tory austerity and perhaps the Tories’ power could be curtailed if not ousted from Westminster. There was apprehension in Scotland at taking such a huge risk when it appeared that we would continue to be Europeans as well as see the end of Tory rule with a remain vote.
How times have changed.
The separatists will not make the same oil dependence mistake they did last time round. Nor will they have to face the argument that we will be leaving a strong economy, as Britain’s standing as an economic powerhouse has been called into question after voting to leave the EU. We face a much more interesting prospect of Scotland leaving a faltering trading partner in the UK to join a stronger trading group within the EEA or EU. Only an independent Scotland can guarantee EU participation this time around. With a Tory majority in Parliament, that only looks set to increase if you believe the political pundits, it does not appear like there is an easy escape for the Scots in the foreseeable future. Arguments that won the day in 2015 for remaining will not cut the mustard this time and one feels this will land May in hot water.
Now, take a deep breath and smell the hypocrisy oozing from Westminster. May argued to Angus Robertson that her holding this GE is to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks whereas Scotland holding a referendum would weaken that hand. On first hearing this argument it sounds solid, but if one returns to Yvette Cooper’s questioning then we knows that this is not the case. By deciding to take the position of oppressive overlord, May risks losing her credibility as a trustworthy leader right across the UK, not to mention to voters in Scotland. If the vote by MPs last Wednesday is upheld and carried forward, then it can only be seen as an affront to democracy to deny the right of Holyrood to vote for a second referendum; it would be near suicidal for a Conservative party in power.
May has called this election for the self-interest of her own party. There is no strengthening of the Brexit hand unless one considers the prospect that when Brexit talks conclude, the Tories enter election year; an act of self-interest. An opportunity was seen and acted upon, plain and simple. The Conservatives saw this as a means to strengthen their slim majority. Corbyn is a man that has been tarred and feathered so many times that you ask the question, “How does he keep getting up?” It is no wonder many feel too much damage has already been done. The SNP then look a strong bet as opposition to the Conservatives if you bide beyond the wall. Sturgeon is a fierce political opponent, she is unwavering and, to be frank, a strong leader. I personally do not care for her policies or her party, but it cannot be denied that they are the best protection for Scotland at the moment. Independence looks a real possibility if May continues to act in such a selfish and destructive manner. Offer an olive branch to the Scots, further devolution and you could see the independence issue disappear rather quickly. Scotland needs self-autonomy, as do other regions of the United Kingdom to feel that they are in control of their own destiny. May has an opportunity with Brexit, I hope she takes it.