The World of 2014 changed last Thursday

playlist_best-of-tedx_650x500I write this barely 72 hours after finding out that the people of the UK had voted to leave the European Union – and in truth I’m still trying to get my head around it.

Shock was the first feeling. Sure, I knew that a leave vote was always on the cards, but somehow I never really believed it could happen. I thought in the final stages that enough had been done to save the day; that people would reject the narrow minded intolerance on which this most reactionary of campaigns was based. But it turned out that I was living in a Caledonian bubble and that England, outside of its metropolis, is indeed another country.

Shock gave way to anger. This has been the most dishonest political campaign I’ve ever seen, with mendacity and hypocrisy its hallmarks. We were expected to believe that the Hoover manufacturer James Dyson cared about EU migrants driving down wage levels. This from the man who moved production to Malaysia rather than pay the minimum wage in Britain. And we were expected to believe that former Tory cabinet ministers like John Redwood wanted to spend billions more on the NHS. This from a man who has made a career of attacking the principle of free public health care. Lies and damned lies managed to fool most of the people some of the time. Within hours of the result the Brexiteers were queuing up to renege on the promises they made.

But above all else, in the dark heart of provincial England, this was a referendum on immigration. Resentment which has been festering unchallenged for decades was allowed to blossom into the most ugly of manifestations. Prejudice fed by ignorance evolved into hatred. Take control they said. We want our country back they said. They might as well have said England for the English. Johnson and Gove went through the pretence of distancing themselves from Farage’s breaking point poster, but they knew full well it was doing their job for them without them having to get their hands dirty. It wasn’t a dog whistle but a megaphone ensuring that while not every Brexiteer was racist, every racist was a Brexiteer.

This has been the most dishonest political campaign I’ve ever seen, with mendacity and hypocrisy its hallmarks. We were expected to believe that the Hoover manufacturer James Dyson cared about EU migrants driving down wage levels. This from the man who moved production to Malaysia rather than pay the minimum wage in Britain.

There will be terrible consequences. There are now large parts of England where the majority population believe all their ills are the fault of people who have moved there in recent years, and where those incomers must be feeling unwelcome and vulnerable. And when yesterday we saw people with banners saying “repatriation now” somehow I don’t think it’s just Polish people they have in their sights. Shame on the ruling class toffs who nurtured this anger for their own political ends; who turned people with very little against others with nothing. People who pretended that the housing shortage is the fault of those arriving from abroad rather than successive UK governments which for 40 years have built fewer houses than the population needed.

People who came here to work hard and better themselves have been scapegoated and vilified. As they maintain our vital public services and pay their taxes their contribution has been belittled and ignored. That this was allowed to happen on such a mass scale is depressing. But it didn’t happen overnight. These views have been taking root for decades as the left of centre parties in Britain sounded a retreat against prejudice and intolerance and allowed UKIP and their ilk to get a grip on decent working class communities.

And this is why I was so annoyed by those on the left who argued to vote leave. Sure, they voiced many important criticisms of how the EU currently operates, but this was a reason to work with others across a continent for reform, not a reason to leave. Unwittingly they gave a veneer of political breadth to this reactionary right wing campaign. The choice was not between the EU as it stands and some international workers solidarity. It was a choice between having an imperfect association of European nations which could offer some protection for people and the planet in the face of globalisation of capital – or none at all.

And so the people of England, duped and misled, have made their choice. Thankfully the people of Scotland have chosen differently. I had feared that perhaps many Scottish voters would not turn out to vote. For many this felt like someone else’s referendum and the campaign on the ground hardly caught the imagination on either side. But vote they did and in greater numbers than in the Scottish Parliament election the month before. And Scottish voters made their view clear in every single area of the country and across every age and class group.

As Scottish politicians we have a duty to represent the views of those who elected us. That means that we need to aim to keep Scotland in the EU. People in Scotland voted two years ago to stay in the UK, and now they have voted by a bigger majority to stay in the EU. As things stand they cannot do both. So we need to find a way to make this happen. If there is the political will in London and Brussels I believe that rules can be changed and this might be possible. We are in completely uncharted territory. The UK is itself a political union between four different countries. There’s never been a case of an EU state wanting to secede, never mind a state where one of its component units so clearly wants to stay.

As Scottish politicians we have a duty to represent the views of those who elected us. That means that we need to aim to keep Scotland in the EU. People in Scotland voted two years ago to stay in the UK, and now they have voted by a bigger majority to stay in the EU. As things stand they cannot do both.

How this unfolds depends in large part by who runs the Brexit from now on. If the Tory right succeed in a coup, the political will to find a different solution for Scotland may well not be there. And indeed our pleas may be rejected by Brussels too. In those circumstances it will become apparent that the only way in which Scotland has the option of being a member of the European Union is to become an independent country. We need to prepare for that possibility which is why an independence referendum is very much back on the table.

Two million people voted no in 2014. Amongst them will be people who would never, under any circumstances, consider voting for an independent Scotland. They will be given their voice by the Scottish Tories – but they are a minority. For the greater number their decision was a balanced choice as they weighed up the pros and cons. And for many no voters a huge pro was keeping their European passport. The world of 2014 changed last Thursday – the UK no longer means you can bring your kids up as European citizens. And in the same way you can ask for your money back if something turns out not to work as promised, so many people may ask for their vote back as the deal has changed.

I think that many no voters will come to this realisation by themselves but we must be careful to give them the time and space to do so. This is not a time for “I told you so”. We need to nurture a new inclusive Yes campaign where old opponents will be new allies. Next time round it could be the Tories against the rest of Scotland.

If this is how it pans out then the offer will need to be revised and updated too. Given that the Brexiteers have just won a referendum without any plan at all, there will be an argument for fewer details rather than more. But we can do better than emulate the political dishonesty of others. Our independence plan will need a lot of thought and require the application of the best brains in our country – not least as we chart how our relationship with England might work if Scotland was in the EU and they were not.

I wrote three weeks ago that after an intense period of electoral activity our party should aim to take stock, build on the recent electoral success and the surge in membership and plan strategically for the future. But with a referendum campaign around the corner that might well turn out to be wishful thinking. The game has changed and we need to play the cards we’ve been dealt. There’s much to do and not a lot of time to do it. Strap yourselves in, we’re about to go up a gear.

Comments (19)

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  1. Erlend Clouston says:

    Nice one, Tommy. I’ve just come back from Vichy, a town still disfigured by the ugly shadows of rampant nationalism. How short people’s memories are! And how irresponsible of certain individuals to offer vast swathes of suffering English rust-belt the delusion that there are simple solutions to very complex problems. It is when that truth dawns that we have to beware the brown shirts in the wardrobe.

    1. florian albert says:

      Erland Clouston writes of ‘vast swathes of suffering English rust-belt’ and the ‘delusion that there are simple answers to very complex problems.’

      The problem is that the ‘rust belt’ arrived in the early 1980s; nearly 35 years ago. Since then comparatively little has been done for such areas. Simultaneously, the prosperous parts of England have gone from strength to strength. Perhaps people in the English rustbelt have got tired of waiting.

      It is a mistake to think that post-industrial Scotland lacks the same resentment on display in Sunderland.

      With regard to Vichy and brown shirts, sadly such is the level of educational attainment that most people in rustbelt Britain would not understand the allusion.

  2. Crubag says:

    I think this is the SNP thinking – no independence referendum just yet.

    I think it is probably the right one. Post-2014, there has been no thought put in to how to build the institutions needed to be a state (whether in the EU or outside). There is still a huge gap where there should be a plan (compare with how Ireland approached things pre-1922 with Dail Eireann).

    I think the SNP will take stock on how good a deal the UK gets with the EU before pushing for any referendum. The Irish experience, with a land border with the UK, will probably be a critical factor in any decision to push for independence.

  3. Crubag says:

    Though the factor that may force the SNP to jump would be a snap UK election. Would the SNP be able to stand on a “wait and see” platform (which implies that a Scotland outside the EU could be an acceptable outcome)?

  4. Blair says:

    Caught between the Nasty Tories & Toxic Tories (A New Labour Product) the Government machine that didn’t work lost power and seized up! Scotland escaped the Political Shock because its Tories had been isolated by the Scottish electorate after the Poll Tax experiment. #Brexit has taken UK off-line to get rid of Toxic Conservatism. Unfortunately this required common political power links to Europe to be suspended until a safe system is in place before reconnection. Scotland is not yet independent of by virtue of #indyref1, It is only by the grace of God that life goes on. The younger generation have much to learn about Thatcherism and everyone else who witnessed events as they hapenned will recall her giving power to the markets before she was kicked out by a breed of nasty Tories. What if she hadn’t followed bad advice and had been allowed to continue along a Natural Conservative course instead of being led to the uturn of Unatural Conservatism? Under Tony Blair who didn’t do God, New Labour spread a nasty Tory agenda through the New Labour 3rd way Education agenda toxifying society. Scots caught on and switched to SNP. Englands got a shock and now looking for a solution. The answer is Natural Conservatism. Christ in a project requires the Trinity a 3-phase system. “The Christina Project” 3-phase political power naturally aligned. Scotland has nothing to fear from the changes that are yet to come.

  5. Mr T says:

    To be fair, James Dyson moved production to Malaysia after Wiltshire Council refused planning permission to build the new factory next to the HQ in Malmesbury. He continues to employ thousands of highly paid staff in the UK – and a quick look at the Dyson Careers website shows they are looking for 113 Engineering roles and 87 Commercial ones in the UK, and Graduate roles on top.

    His beef with the EU is much more about the testing regimes for appliances.

  6. AKR says:

    “It was a choice between having an imperfect association of European nations which could offer some protection for people and the planet in the face of globalisation of capital – or none at all.”

    Seems to me the EU is driving globalisation of capital rather than protecting us from it. It’s certainly not protecting local or national business or economies, or protecting us from virulent privatisation of public services.

    And is everyone forgetting TTIP?

    1. Moray Man says:

      I think Tommy is mistaken here. I agree with you that the EU does not protect against globalisation.
      And so does Larry Elliot in The Guardian

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/26/brexit-is-the-rejection-of-globalisation

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Brexit was not about ‘globalisation’ – Brexit is the rejection of the PC neoliberal middle classes (i.e. comprising most of the Establishment, msm, including the SNP and other mainstream political parties) reflecting disquiet of the Great Unwashed Masses with their neoliberal agendas and strategies for ongoing societal re-engineering.

  7. Douglas says:

    Excellent, Tommy, captures my own mood entirely.

    And to our misguided friends who vote NO in September 2014, please remember that it was Gordon Brown who went on about “British jobs for British workers” and it was David Cameron who talked about “hoards of immigrants”….

    I point the finger directly at the last two British Prime Ministers for being directly culpable in bringing about the greatest act of folly which the UK has seen since the Charge of the Light Brigade….which is what this is…

  8. Monty says:

    The answer to the chaos generated by a referendum is another referendum. Suspect many might think otherwise.

    1. John Mooney says:

      Are you Ruthie the tank commander in disguise?At least their are coherent ideas being discussed by all sides apart from the Tories at Holyrood while down South there is nothing but an inchoate shambles,anent the above point I see Ruthie and her merry band in line with her bosses at Wasteminster who have abrogated any attempt at governing, abstained from from to-days Holyrood vote,so much for the tank commander being her own person and not ruled by her superiors at the “Other Place”

  9. bringiton says:

    The Tories think they can dictate the timetable and terms of their exit from the EU.
    What is going to happen in reality is that they will be outside in the corridor (again but this time for good) when the EU makes decisions about it’s future.
    They are now pretty irrelevant to Europe’s decision making.
    Well done Cameron,you have played a blinder.
    Thanks Tommy.

  10. Crubag says:

    “And Scottish voters made their view clear in every single area of the country and across every age and class group.”

    The Ashcroft poll results are interesting. 2015 SNP voters are moderately eurosceptic at 36% Leave – compared to: UKIP 96%, Conservative 58%, Labour 37%, Lib Dem 30%, and Green 25%.

    And on identity – it was those who considered themselves British (wholly or mostly) who majority voted Remain. It was those identifying as English who majority voted Leave. One of the consequences of a diminishing sense of Britishness is the rise of an English identity. And it is different to the remaining British one.

  11. old battle says:

    Mid-summer madness

    Mid- summer and a media madness
    Burns with too much Sun
    And Mail angst, Expressed by state funded hate.

    The Times don’t change and the bush-Telegraph beats
    Drums for intimidation and immigration and disintegration &
    Nuff white frustration drummed-up within the English nation

    Hate, Trumpeted behind a wall,
    built with bricks of Borishit and sticks,
    with kicks from the Tory-brainsick
    Imitating (f) ukip
    from the very old-wrong, new -right,
    a rite of passage from the bum
    for the dumb.

    Once, mid-summer’s madness was
    Jews, reds and queers under beds
    Now these ‘stinkers’- the boat sinkers
    The many survivors become “migrant –guisers”
    Mail-posted as looking for hand –outs, hand –downs
    From the Crown: the media put down
    the agony of the poor that drown;
    the black and the brown
    trying for an EU shanty-town

    Mid-summer and there is a frenetic rhythm
    of madness: a beat in a party schism
    dumb, dumb, dumb
    beats the Referen-drum
    “vote hate, vote hate
    keep (f) UK great
    Keep out the stranger
    Foreign is danger
    Build the wall
    Heed the call
    Vote Ferangism
    Vote Feracism
    Vote Forfascism”
    The hate-beat drums
    “ we won, we won!”

    Mid-summer & the madness
    Turns to a silent sadness,
    “Hope” says the poet
    “Over-come” says some
    But the drum, the drum
    The Mid-summer madness, is it done?
    Mid-summer madness

    Mid- summer and a media madness
    Burns with too much Sun
    And Mail angst, Expressed by state funded hate.

    The Times don’t change and the bush-Telegraph beats
    Drums for intimidation and immigration and disintegration &
    Nuff white frustration drummed-up within the English nation

    Hate, Trumpeted behind a wall,
    built with bricks of Borishit and sticks,
    with kicks from the Tory-brainsick
    Imitating (f) ukip
    from the very old-wrong, new -right,
    a rite of passage from the bum
    for the dumb.

    Once, mid-summer’s madness was
    Jews, reds and queers under beds
    Now these ‘stinkers’- the boat sinkers
    The many survivors become “migrant –guisers”
    Mail-posted as looking for hand –outs, hand –downs
    From the Crown: the media put down
    the agony of the poor that drown;
    the black and the brown
    trying for an EU shanty-town

    Mid-summer and there is a frenetic rhythm
    of madness: a beat in a party schism
    dumb, dumb, dumb
    beats the Referen-drum
    “vote hate, vote hate
    keep (f) UK great
    Keep out the stranger
    Foreign is danger
    Build the wall
    Heed the call
    Vote Ferangism
    Vote Feracism
    Vote Forfascism”
    The hate-beat drums
    “ we won, we won!”

    Mid-summer & the madness
    Turns to a silent sadness,
    “Hope” says the poet
    “Over-come” says some
    But the drum, the drum
    The Mid-summer madness, is it done?

  12. Alf Baird says:

    Independence does not “need a lot of thought” or “require the application of the best brains”. All it requires is for Tommy and the other SNP MP’s to depart the Westminster farce; oh, and a wee bit courage anaw.

  13. David Allan says:

    “And this is why I was so annoyed by those on the left who argued to vote leave. Sure, they voiced many important criticisms of how the EU currently operates, but this was a reason to work with others across a continent for reform, not a reason to leave.”

    I’d like to hear what the SNP if given the opportunity would like to change about the EU as it exists at present what imperfections would the SNP endeavour to change and how and what “others” would assist achieve those aims. How likely a favourable alteration to the EU trajectory?

    I didn’t hear anyone in SNP ranks suggest that there were any criticisms of EU. It’s broadly accepted Scot’s were not influenced by the immigration factor so how do you explain the million votes for Leave? Many being SNP supporters. Are these votes to be ignored?

  14. handofkwll says:

    I think that my MP is right to say that concerns on immigration were behind many English leave votes though I’m dismayed at his reference to the ‘dark heart of provincial England’. Has Robin Hood been replaced by Colonel Kurtz?

    This is yet another article that writes off people with concerns about immigration as racist. No doubt some are, but I don’t think it helps to say to people in general, ‘we’re justified in ignoring your concerns because they are racist and wrong’.
    Concerns about immigration and, more importantly in my view, anger at being insulted and ignored by all the main parties has been a growing sore in the UK’s politics for a long time and the dismal success of the Leave campaign is a result.

    Rather than dismissing people out of hand it would surely be better to engage with them and try to understand what is upsetting them. If racism is behind their anger then fine, ignore them. But if not then our government should help where it can.

    For example, I saw a builder on the telly last week saying that the trade, in his bit of England at least, doesn’t bother training apprentices anymore because vacancies can be filled straight away by experienced people arriving from the EU. Nothing wrong with the immigrants but if people see their children losing opportunities in this way then they’re going to be annoyed. If our government funded apprenticeships in areas of need then it might help to level the playing field and suck some of the poison out of the debate.

  15. Optimistic Scott says:

    Like it or not the game has begun with the odds heavily in favour of the EU and why not, they wrote the rules. A vote for Remain was a vote for “Better the Devil you know” with an outside chance of influencing future developments. While a vote to Leave was a leap into the unknown and a blind belief that prosperity in the UK will improve.
    For those who think that negotiations to leave the EU will be anything other than one sided will be sadly disappointed. Also, in an effort to discourage any other members from calling a referendum on membership, the EU will have to punish the UK for causing untold disruption within the club. Under these circumstance the SNP had no choice but to go to Brussels and assure the other EU members that Scotland voted to remain. Regardless of where the negotiations lead, we will need friends who may influence the options available to the UK, in Scotland’s favour. At least it looks like a plan, which is more that can be said for the “hot air” emanating from the Tories and Labour.

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