Earlier this week, in an act of possibly futile civic optimism, I wrote a piece which argued, essentially, for an inter-party deal that could, I think, maybe, just…offer a workable way forward for Scotland within the context of the Brexit negotiations…if and when we get past the phony war phase we’re in now.
Roughly it was this. 1) Scottish Labour accept that there is no longer a viable way that Scotland can remain in the EU single market via the UK. John McDonnell, by removing the Parliamentary obstacle that might have been offered by the UK Labour Party, has sunk that particular boat.
(this was what prompted my writing the piece – just to get the timeline in there)
2) Labour then have to accept that the only way forward for Scotland in this context is a distinctive Scottish Strategy…and fully accept that the SNP government have a mandate for leading that strategy, but that they and the Greens (and the liberals, actually) can strengthen that case by getting properly, fully on board with it.
3) I then suggested, in recognition that this would be a huge culturally abhorrent pill for the “others” to swallow, that the SNP might consider, reciprocally, in exchange, agreeing to park the independence project (specifically Indyref 2) at least until we make a decent fist of trying to get through the imminent crisis together.
This last point, of course, was where I expected to get pelters. And by gum, they have indeed been coming my way. However, picking the cow-pat out of my hair, even after the bust up in Holyrood, even after the fragile consensus on a strategy for Brexit fell apart with both sides screaming habitual abuse at each other, I do feel I have to struggle to my feet and give one last desperate throw of the federal dice.
I have talked to ardent Nats now about this, and to ardent Labour people. (Yes, it is still just possible to invade the enemy’s algorithms) And both are, I think, still open to some sort of conversation. Neither one really want to see a Hard Brexit. Neither really want, I don’t think, (he said, reaching for the tin helmet again) a second referendum whose result is uncertain in a context that is already scarier and less predictable than anything I can remember. So neither would really lose from a time limited Brexit truce which would necessarily park Indyref 2 until the next electoral tests.
And what both need to bear in mind is that the others haven’t gone away. They’re not going to go away. Magical thought will not eliminate either one of them. Not until the next elections in Scotland and Westminster in 2020 and 2021.
It is just until then that I’m suggesting a truce. After all, it was Churchill who said of Stalin that he would give Satan a favourable reference in the House of Commons if it would help to beat Hitler. And it was the third question in 2014, the one that the Tories made sure would never get asked, the Federal question, that still commands support across the board, across the tribes.
When article 50 is invoked in a few month, the phony war is over. Brexit happens. Hard Brexit. All across the UK without any distinction. And we ALL lose. And by ALL, I don’t just mean the respective activists for Yes and No in 2014. I mean everyone who lives here.
Labour need to accept that there MUST be a Scottish solution…and the SNP need to accept that this MUST be Federal. That’s it. That’s the ball game.
So we need a truce to fight the greater enemy. It doesn’t have to last forever. In 2020 and 2021, we can get back in the groove of mutual contempt. I am suggesting in the meantime we get serious about at least TRYING to come up with a United Front that will push the UK parliament into taking account of our position, and that will convince the EU negotiators that we are worth talking to about a Federal Brexit where Scottish Trade and Immigration policies, for example, are not trapped by Tory infighting into the heavily pensioned wet dreams of Nigel Farage.
It’s still, only just, worth one more push. But both the SNP and Labour will, if they’re serious, need to take some sacred Highland cows out the back and shoot them.
Finally, remember that episode of the West Wing where Toby managed to put together an in camera bi-partisan committee to save Social Security…but had to maneuver both sides into doing it by the back door? I know that’s fiction…but give that episode a watch.
It can be done, I think. And if it can’t, maybe “we” – the chattering classes of Scotland – deserve whatever shit is about to pour on our heads.