Yesterday was a desperate day for the Scottish Unionist bloc. Cornered, frightened and facing obvious defeat, the Conservatives, Liberals and Labour united to try and set the terms of any future referendum to exclude young people and EU nationals from participating. Thankfully this disgraceful form of gerrymandering was over-ruled. Whilst the Section 30 vote was voted for by the Scottish Parliament – and then immediately overruled by David Mundell and his democracy of one, a UK government spokeswoman said: “We have been joined together as one country for more than 300 years. We’ve worked together, we’ve prospered together, we’ve fought wars together, and we have a bright future.”
But aside from opposing the democratic vote of the Scottish Parliament, which takes us into dangerous new constitutional territory, the day showed a Conservative Party culturally and politically detached from the country it rules over. The open contempt which key Conservative MSPs – including their leader – show for Scotland is truly remarkable. Ruth Davidson – much-lauded by the media and feted by her own party down south, was left snarling in fury as the gap between her media profile and her political reality was exposed.
The truth is that the Conservatives seem to be operating in a sort of political limbo, in which they talk of ‘freedom’ ‘sovereignty’ and ‘taking back control’ whilst openly rejecting the sovereignty of a parliament to which they were elected. Here’s Annie Wells MSP:
— Gareth Quinn (@GarethBQuinn) March 28, 2017
The political opposition to Holyrood was, it was thought, a historical issue that the Conservatives had overcome. Like so much of today’s political culture however, it seems we are hurtling backwards. Simple political gains have to be re-made, once solid liberties have to be re-fought for. But the Conservatives are now operating in open contempt both politically and culturally. This is dangerous new ground for them.
On the day when Theresa May triggers Article 50, a process that Michael Heseltine has said represents “the worst peacetime decision by any modern postwar government” relations between the devolved nations and Westminster are a shambles. There is an emerging relationship between English ‘independence’ and Scottish self-rule. The more the former is asserted the latter has to be suppressed. This is a dangerous new dynamic being handled badly by an elite high on their own rhetoric and whose judgement is completely distorted by their own myth-making. As Kenny Farquharson – hardly a diehard nationalist – has said:
“Now Holyrood has requested a Section 30 order, it’s unacceptable for Theresa May to deny ScotGov a ref in this five-year parliamentary term. Those who say FM has no mandate for indyref2 are wrong. There was clear manifesto commitment that now enjoys majority backing at Holyrood. For May now to deny opportunity for manifesto commitment to be honoured would show contempt for Holyrood and right of self-determination.”
At the outbreak of the First World war James Connelly famously argued that ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. Today England’s moment of grand self-delusion – driven by a fantasy of grievance culture – is Scotland’s opportunity. The Telegraph’s campaign against “EU Red tape” included the opportunity to right the wrongs of ‘bendy bananas” (right). What a pitiful farce. An economy ruined and union of international solidarity shattered on the back of this level of pettiness and a racism, which has been cultivated and nurtured by an English ruling class is a tragedy. Today among a fanfare of frantic British nationalism and panting cries of ‘Freedom’ that would have wode-smeared cybernats blushing, the functions of democracy are being treated with contempt, belittled by a media narrative and a Tory government that is unaware of the self-damage it is doing to its own credibility and its ‘precious union’. This is a sad day. But it’s a day when the reality of this political fiasco is laid open, for people across Scotland and across Europe to see what has been created.