There is a saying in Russian that history is a practical testing ground for the ways of good and bad. As the depressing atmosphere of June 24th recedes into the immediate distance even though the Westminster chicanery continues daily we have, in Scotland at least, moved some way beyond arguments about the pound as a currency, a Scottish or a British passport or any other obfuscating paraphernalia passed off as politics or semantics disguised as threats. Who would have thought, would they, that almost everything thrown at the Yes movement by Better Together in 2014 turns out to be a lie. The issue here, now in July 2016, is democracy itself. Events since the end of June have made it so.
The referendum was never about the European Union – that was only the pretext. Nor was it about immigration, English nationalism, faceless Euro-bureaucrats or regaining control of “our” country or anything else the Leave or Remain side claimed. What this whole business was engineered for was to ensure that the Conservative Party is the party in power in Westminster for the next twenty years, or maybe more if the practical testing ground of history can bear their gruesome weight. What will emerge after this manufactured mess has been cleared up will be a one nation Conservatism, so beloved of John Major and lip synched by David Cameron, but that nation will be England and the Conservatives will be installed as the natural party of government, just like the Whigs and the Liberals before them. So, ironically, the party which will deliver the dreaded ogre of the “one party state”, so regularly raised by Conservatives against socialists in the past, will be the Conservative Party. This has come about, as is being proven daily, because they have abandoned democracy for power. The Tories now use power as a noun rather than a transitive verb but children in Caithness classrooms can tell the difference between a noun and a verb just as a dog can between a bone and a stone.
The nameless and faceless ones (even though we know their names and recognise them when we see them) who pull the strings and pay the puppets of the Tory Party are interested only in promoting their interests and protecting their assets. It may console some of us on the left to say that the EU referendum shows, yet again, that the people do not trust any politicians but what the referendum result itself proves is that the “natural party of government” do not care about what the people think: it is of no interest to them. That is one of the downsides of a representative parliamentary system where direct democracy is always neutered. The Tories allowed UKIP to canvass on their behalf across the north of England, saying one outrageous and dangerous thing after another, knowing full well that come the next General Election the only votes that would be lost would be by the Labour Party to UKIP. The dark executive of the Tory Party are not interested in the north of England but what they are interested in is power and they knew that a referendum on the EU would kill off the Labour Party in the north of England just as effectively as the 2014 independence referendum killed off Labour in Scotland.
The loose talk in the mainstream and social media that the Leave side had no idea as to what to do once they won is just that, loose talk. Make no mistake; this whole sorry episode has been carefully planned for some time. As the Buddha said (allegedly), “An enemy is the greatest teacher.” The orchestrated shenanigans of the EU referendum in June 2016 was designed by the dark executive to eliminate political enemies because whatever the referendum result the process was designed so that the Tories won. They will simulate confusion to present the pretence of “chaos” and the press will perpetuate the myth by focussing on leadership elections and am-dram betrayals but the uber-Tories, the dark executive, know exactly what they are doing. Nothing has been left to chance. The financial algorithms they apply in the City of London can be metamorhphosised to similarly rig the politics of Westminster whenever the need arises. Whether they are “in” or “out” of the European Union or whether Scotland becomes an independent country or not are matters of indifference to them: these are peripheral structural rearrangements, a pain in the procedural derriere, but not central to their concerns, not a threat to their core interests which are the procurement of power and the accumulation of wealth. Nothing else matters and the civic and popular institution of democracy will not be allowed to interfere with that. That, as far as I can see, is how the Tory coup worked last month and how, in general, it always works.
But the dark executive are not invulnerable, they are not supermen. For all their arrogance, expectation, sense of entitlement and record of success they do understand hubris: they know that the whole constructed edifice of power and wealth can – and inevitably will – come crashing down and it terrifies them which is why their tactics, while ever so carefully planned, become ever increasingly desperate. The practical testing ground of history can only support so many Tory coups before the inevitable erosion of the ground beneath their feet begins to be un-shoreable or the avalanche of unforeseen events just sweeps them clean from the ground.
In Scotland we cannot afford the consequences of this feudal dissonance either politically or socially, but we are stuck in a constitutional bind so what can we do? At the very time Nicola Sturgeon was in Brussels telling everyone that Scotland was different from England and that we voted by a majority to remain in the European Union, Eve Hepburn, a Senior Lecturer in Politics at Edinburgh University, was pointing out in The National four possible ways for Scotland to go.
The first is that the UK does not leave the EU at all. After all David Cameron has left the decision to activate Article 50, which is at least a two year process for the UK to slink off into the outer darkness, to his predecessor and there may be a General Election before that. Whatever the outcome – and, of course, the Tories will win it – the question of a “Brexit” would then go to the House of Commons. The point of the Tory coup is that Labour will have no chance of winning any election any time soon or later. Who other than the SNP MP’s and a few Labour survivors would vote against it?
The second is that the Scottish Government would not agree to be part of the UK’s European exit and if it was put to a vote in Holyrood they would not approve the Westminster legislation. But the EU is a reserved matter even though European legislation affects some 80% of Scottish legislation, so that exiting the EU against our will could be argued by Holyrood as completely changing the devolved settlement. I suspect whoever emerges as the next Tory leader will change that settlement anyway. Barnett no more, it would appear.
The third scenario is that Westminster, driven on by the Brexit bloodhounds, will carry on regardless with leaving the EU, no matter what Scotland or anyone else has to say about it. Scotland could then try and retain membership of the EU within the UK which is outside the EU and those who claim the precedent of Greenland being outside of the EU while Denmark is in fail to grasp the federal nature of their relationship, which is mature. Scotland is in a stiff single state no matter what the small inky handwriting of the treaty of 1707 may say otherwise. Our relationship with England is only mature as a cheese is mature: through age. The dark executive expects us to do as we’re told. So far we have.
The fourth option is that we have a second referendum on independence. This is the only practical and ethical way to proceed. “The significant and material change in circumstances” alluded to before the EU referendum by Nicola Sturgeon is here. That we are in a significant and different set of circumstances no-one could doubt. In this England’s difficulty is most certainly Scotland’s opportunity however politicians may fret about polls. The current poll standings of 59% in favour of Scottish independence could easily swing well past 60% if the present Scottish Government holds their nerve, which to give them their due, they seem to be doing.
Whatever happens we should make a virtue out of our own difficulties. If Westminster says “no” to a second independence referendum Holyrood should pass legislation and have one anyway. How many of the opposition MSP’s would be daft enough to prove that they are political zombies by arguing against it? Let us state we will have our own currency and let us say we will take control of our banks and that our Parliament will legislate to do so. Let us also nail the lie of immigration by saying that Scotland both needs and welcomes refugees and migrants because we are a mixter-maxter nation anyway and our economy desperately requires them. We may be a small country but we have plenty of room. Caithness and Sutherland have less of a population now than they did 200 years ago. We need people to come and live and work in the Far North to generate an economic and cultural future and to counter the inarticulate, half-baked policies of all governments up to this point when it comes to the Highlands and Islands.
If you want to see the benefits of the EU just drive west from Thurso to Durness and you will see a brand new two lane road that no longer has grass growing up the middle of it. If you sail from Scrabster to Stromness you leave from and arrive at harbours which would not exist in their modern form without the EU. The list goes on and on. Infrastructure facilitates population growth and for the Highlands this is vital. A Scotland outwith the European Union is a Scotland reduced considerably.
As the American poet Wallace Stevens once wrote “Observation is revelation”. So let us see clearly what is happening and see plainly what the dark executive behind the Tories have been up to which in reality has been to cynically manipulate a non-binding plebiscite on the UK’s membership of the EU to their own selfish ends. If we look hard enough we will see the future and if we are brave enough we will be able to trace out a space in that future which is shaped like Scotland. As recent events have shown and as the red topped tabloids tell us every day: the Tories don’t give a damn one way or the other about our beautiful little, infinite country. History may just be a practical testing ground for the ways of good and bad after all.