The euphoria about announcing a consultation was contained. Contained because whilst the unfolding nightmare of post-geography, pre-trigger Britain is a pretty unedifying spectacle, many of the major obstacles to a victory for a Yes vote remain in place. Everybody knows that.
You may have woken up this weekend feeling you’re living somewhere between an Alan Moore dystopia and a Bernard Manning stand-up routine from 1974. There is of course the embarrassing revelation that the unfortunate David Mundell (‘our man in the Cabinet’) won’t be at the heart of the Brexit negotiations, nor we fear, at the periphery. There’s the news that John Redwood has uttered darkly that companies who did not stay silent on the country’s EU membership would pay a “very dear economic and financial price”.
But Mundell’s absence points to a deeper problem. As Martin Kettle argues: “Far from separating Scotland from Britain, Brexit may be drawing Scottish nationalism into the heart of British politics in a new and unexpected way. ” He is quite right to say that Sturgeon set out a list of Scottish aims, “including devolved powers and access to the single market, that are predicated on remaining in the UK, not on breaking free of it, and which can only be achieved with support from others at Westminster.”
I think though that this is a hostage to fortune, a deliberate attempt to set up Theresa May to reject and frustrate what are at one level reasonable compromises. Nicola Sturgeon knows fine well that none of these things will ever happen. The Conservatives aren’t in a mood to compromise.
Not only is the idea being bandied about a few months ago that somehow the Scottish Government would have a place at the table been chucked out the window, they won’t even have their own House-Trained Jock waiting at the table.
Standard (& Poor)
It’s not just that stocks of Marmite and Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food are running low. Britain is misreading the entire political landscape and mood in Europe and faces the possible loss of its reserve currency status if it fails to secure full access to the European single market, the US rating agency Standard & Poor’s has warned.
“There seems to be this view that ‘we’re a big important economy, the Europeans export a lot to us, so they have got to give us what we want’, but is that really true?” said Ravi Bhatia, the director of sovereign ratings for S&P in charge of Britain.
The Conservatives and their compliant media seem oblivious to the realities of contagion, and now the price of food is rising.
This sort of self-delusional behaviour is not confined to the politicians. Martin Kettle bristles that “The votes and the power to change things are at Westminster and Whitehall” and offers the (daft) conjecture that “The election this week of the party’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson as Sturgeon’s new deputy is another reminder that the centre of gravity of Scottish politics has in some ways been shifting to London since 2015.”
The opportunity for common-working and collaboration against the Conservatives at Westminster is very real (even if Kenny McAskill didn’t seem too keen at #IdeaSpace). But that doesn’t conclude that Scotland is somehow some peripheral backwater. We are collaborating and connecting throughout Europe as we speak. As the Conservatives look to refit Britannia, banish art history and threaten dissenting business people, we can outline a different path. We can embrace Europe and celebrate multiculturalism and basic human rights as they are being attacked and undermined. But we also need to have a pro-active detailed and positive agenda that is distinct from our worthy anger and our righteous rage against the machine.
Tory farce will only take us so far.
#WeAreScotland needs to be more than a hashtag.
Rage, deep uncertainty and chaos aren’t very fertile ground for the big bold changes ahead.