2007 - 2021

Escaping Boris’s Blowhole

“It all has the feel of the world’s most boring thriller. Though there are only just under seven weeks left until Britain’s official date of departure from the European Union, public life seems drowsy with a lethal brew of fatalism, insouciance and burrowing cowardice…If Brexit was ever a principled uprising, it now more closely resembles a form of boredom longing to be curtailed: it has more in common with a delayed Deliveroo order than a popular revolution.” (a decent proposal?)

A referendum POST Brexit, to confirm leaving the way that 1975 confirmed joining, seems sensible. It would also give Scotland the chance to make its own choice. This morning, I wouldn’t give it a snowball’s chance in a circle of hell of happening. It might, however, be the standard against which to judge which of the Nightmare Before Christmas Assortment of outcomes we’re faced with at the moment, insofar as it would offer the electorates in the UK and specifically in Scotland a chance to think again.

First, obviously, do the “British People” really want to entrust their fate to Boris Johnson Globalism, when, to judge by this morning on @BBCr4today , he, like most other Leavers is actually relying on pretty much remaining when it comes right down to it. (Just as a brief aside, it strikes me, and it must strike EU negotiators, that having kept buggering on about wanting this Brexit malarkey for year after year, British politicians seem to be constitutionally unable to treat it like it anything that is actually happening…)

A post Brexit referendum at the end of transition confirming whether the UK REALLY wants to leave, would give voters in Scotland a specific challenge: Do we REALLY want to go along with whatever England does, or do we REALLY want a Scotland specific relationship with the EU?

Reflecting on the Scotland-Specific meaning a putative “Confirmatory” EU referendum in the UK would have rather forces on me the following assertion that I want to test: the next election, no matter WHAT it is, is effectively a referendum on the constitution. Without necessarily meaning to, let alone planning it, it seems to me that we have arrived at a place historically where it is inescapably the case for what we used to call “the Yes movement”, including the SNP, that the next vote we get is a decisive one for that constitution. Any election we take part in has to be about the decision we make on the question of our relationships with Europe and with the UK. An existential crisis is going to happen next time we vote, like it or not.

I have never been a fan of a simple repeat exercise on the 2014 referendum and “getting it right this time.” I don’t think the SNP Leadership is either. This is not a source of frustration to me. A second referendum loss is far more likely than a win. But more importantly, it is a principle of history that you can NEVER stand in the same stream twice. The 2014 Indyref came out of a very special set of circimstances among the most important of which was David Cameron’s rock solid certainty, (advised by Labour) that he was going to win it. As far as Cameron was concerned, Project Fear in Scotland was a rehearsal for the really IMPORTANT referendum, which was the UK one on EU membership. Many books have already been written about both calculations and both outcomes. But we MUST remember that when it came right down to it, the 2014 referendum was a Tory scheme to DESTROY the Nats…and the fact that it didn’t work and that we’re even TALKING about a Scotland specific response to Brexit isn’t actually bad going.

More important than the simple observation that time has moved on since the first half of this decade is the equally simple observation that it has moved on a LOT, very, VERY fast…and that any prescription for what we do next predicated on a past model is likely to come unstuck.

So I return to the new premise I want to test: that the next electoral test, no matter what it is, needs to be approached by the SNP (and others of the Artists Formerly Known as the Yes Movement) as seeking a mandate for a specific Scottish relationshop with the EU. Now…this sounds terribly dry and boring and unimportant…but then, until 2016 so did the EU itself…(hence the ease of the Leave vote winning and the unreality in which Leave leaders have dwelled ever since)..and now we know it’s really important to who we – Brits and Scots- ARE in the world.

For example, the Brexit process has revealed that shared EU membership was absolutely CRUCIAL to the success of devolution in Northern Ireland…and, it will soon clearly emerge, in Scotland and Wales too. At its simplest, the “return” of trade and standards regulation from Brussels to the UK…to WESTMINSTER…is an absolute bureucratic consequence of any form of Brexit, hard or soft. Brexit will centralise power in London in a way that is unthinkable in the context of devolution. All those who created and supported the devolved settlement under which Scotland has been governed for the last twenty years will very soon find that without the roader context of EU membership (for the last forty five years) devolution simply won’t work.

It should be a maxim from now on: You can have Brexit or you can have Devolution: you CANNOT have both. No Tory or Labour administration of Brexit Britain will be able to tolerate the notion that somewhere in these islands, someone can do things differently. But this, of course, is where the whole project falls apart…on what was always the Achilles heel of Empire: Ireland. That failing Ireland leaving the EU on the day the UK does, just as it joined the EEC on the same day in 1973, the entire Brexit project is incoherent. Ireland will do no such thing. And, it is my contention, that the next line of defense of ANY kind of “democratic control”, whatever we call it constitutionally, is for Scotland to insist on an independent relationship with the European Union.

We need to make decent trade deals that protect the identity of Scottish Branding. (Glass of British Glenlivet anyone?) We need to control the big stuff too, like immigration policy…and agriculture, tourism…Every defender of devolution knows that devolution itself is a defense against the excesses of a UK government which cannot arithmetically reflect our views on matters of health care, education policy and on and on and on…What is really historically significant about Brexit in the context of devoluition, is that Brexit will wipe that line of defence out. We will be helpless in whatever breezes Boris Johnson blows – and whichever orifice he blows them from. And THAT is what the next election, for Westminster or Holyrood or the EU is about.

The next election, whatever it is, is a question about who governs Scotland. And if, to draw a final seventies reference, the answer to the SNP is “Not you, mate”…then so be it. But make no mistake, if the SNP win the next election in Scotland, then everything must change.

Comments (11)

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  1. Redgauntlet says:

    Let’s get down to the grim reality of Britain today:

    1) England wanted incorporating Union with Scotland back in 1707 – that is, the complete extinction of the Scottish Parliament and even, back at the time, the very name Scotland itself – because English National Security could not tolerate the possibility that an independent Scotland might strike an alliance with countries like France, as it had done in so called “auld alliance” for 300 years back in the 14th, 15th and 16 centuries.

    2) This isn’t as fanciful as it sounds. When William of Orange sat on the British throne, married to a Stuart and officially King of Britain, he openly sided with England in its trade wars with Scotland.

    Suddenly there was the real possibility that Scotland would react by anointing a Stuart on the throne of Scotland once again and end the Union of Crowns of 1603. This England must avert at all costs, and the possibility of such an event ever happening, hence the overriding importance of the “incorporating Union of 1707” and the complete annihilation of Scotland’s capacity to govern itself or legislate or even exist. The idea, remember, was that Scotland cease to exist entirely even in name and become North Britain.

    3) England never wanted the Union with Scotland to create some bullshit “happy family of nations”. England wanted to have military control over Scotland for geo-political strategic reasons. The Highlands of Scotland today is one of the most militarized areas of Europe.

    4) When Ireland was partitioned back in 1920, one of England’s specific goals in that process was to maintain a military presence on the island of Ireland, again for geo-political reasons or in the name of National Security. If Ireland were ever reunited, England would lose a certain sense of its National Security.

    5) If Scotland were ever independent, England, whose greatest line defence has always been the sea, would in a certain sense cease to be an island in geo-political terms. Scotland would be free to strike alliances with other countries which might do a lot to reduce England’s never ending arrogant strutting on the international stage.

    6) My belief is that England will never allow Scotland to become an independent nation State, and if there was any doubt about that in my mind, the rulings of the UK Supreme Court on the Constitutional status of the Scottish Parliament have dispelled them.

    7) The Devolution Settlement wasn’t actually a devolution settlement at all, because the Scottish Parliament has no Constitutional status, except as granted it by Westminster. In effect, Holyrood exists for just as long as England wants it to exist, at its whim. So, effectively, our national parliament has no power when it comes down to it. The one thing the Brexit process has done is dispel that myth once and for all.

    All of these elements can only lead me to the conclusion that Scotland is in a colonial situation vis-a-vis England. How else could it be described?

    Scotland is the last colony of Europe.

    Scotland’s political representatives in London should therefore adopt an anti-colonial approach to achieving independence and cease to involve themselves in any way or fashion at all in the affairs of the foreign, colonizing power called England, and all scottish MPs should return back to Scotland to prepare to fight for national liberation…

    Enough of this national humiliation which has been going on for more than 300 years

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      I remain wary of applying the term ‘colony’ to Scotland’s situation. I don’t think the English establishment is intent on colonising Scotland in the sense of displacing the existing population by an active programme of settlement. If that had been the plan , it would have been accomplished long ago. Scotland is simply seen as a ‘possession’ of the English Crown. That is how it has been regarded since the time of the Plantagenets.

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        Graeme, as I’m sure you know:

        In the 1950’s, under the campaign led by John MacCormick and the Scottish Convention, more than two million Scots signed a petition demanding a Scottish Assembly and Home Rule, and this campaign was completely ignored by England.

        Again in 1979, following decades of campaigning by Scottish civic society, a referendum on Devolution was finally granted, and although a majority of Scots voted for Home Rule, a last minute Labour Party amendment toughening the conditions meant that not by the sufficient numbers required for it to carry despite a majority voting YES. The Scots were swindled out of a National Assembly by Labour Party trickery.

        Finally, after another two decades of campaigning and activism, the Scots finally managed to force another referendum on the question of a Scottish Parliament in 1997 with almost 75% of Scots voting for a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers.

        Now we are told that the Constitutional power which is vested in the Scottish Parliament does not emanate from the Scottish voters who voted for it, but from Westminster…

        This is just more Westminster trickery…. give them time and offer no resistance, and the Scottish Parliament will be turned into luxury flats 20 years from now.

        I wouldn’t have called Scotland a colony back in 2014. After the last two years, I’m afraid I would…

        PS: The Highlands have always been a colony since 1745 more or less…

  2. Redgauntlet says:


    Times change….

    …but England never changes…

  3. Redgauntlet says:

    And by the way, all this BULLSHIT about their traditions and customs and laws standing in adequately for a written Constitution is simply another English tactic to maintain its iron grip over the sovereign nation of Scotland.

    At the heart of any modern democracy is transparency. The “British Constitution” – a movable feast of rights to be granted or withdrawn at England’s whim – is a Constitutional arrangement deliberately designed to obfuscate and confuse and keep ordinary citizens in the dark.

    I want a Scottish Constitution written in so clear a language, every single citizen of Scotland can download as a PDF file and read.

    How long are the Scots going to put up with fckn bullshit bullying arrogant and thoroughly unpleasant country called England?

    It’s fckin UNBELIEVABLE.

    And the SNP, if they hang around much longer in Westminster, are close to being collaborators….

    Enough fancy footwork, time for some serious action, folks…

    1. Willie says:

      Quite agree with your analysis Redgauntlet. It is more than clear that England will never voluntarily allow Scotland to become independent.

      England, through masked means has been for years fighting a low intensity war whilst all the time creating the illusion of democratic choice.

      Controling the media, fake news, supporting counter movements, undermining political figures or bodies, giving illusory powers that can be withdrawn, the game is to quite clear

      And if it fails, then the game moves to the next and more deadly level.

      Brigadier General Sir Frank Kitson and his ilk in the military most certainly know how to do that. Creating counter insurgency groups, armed and capable is the next stage to foment trouble and stymie the move for independence.

      From the Mau Mau campaign in Kenya to Northern Ireland where the UDA and UVF were primed and armed by specialist military units, it is wishful thinking to disregard just how dangerous England is .

      This week indeed is the 30th anniversary of the murder of NI human rights solicitor Pat Finucane repeatedly shot in the face at his home in front of his children by loyalists said to have been primed to kill him by British military intelligence.

      All this and more is how the British state works, and people need to recognise it. The recent example of a Scottish Loyalist with connections to the Orange Lodge and UKIP repeatedly appearing on question time was no accident.

      The case against Salmond was no accident. The death of Willie McCrae was no accident. The bias in the media is no accident. The breaking of the GFA agreement, the suspension of the NI Assembly, the disregard of the democratic wishes of folks in Scotland and NI to remain in the EU is no accident, the total and utter disregard for the SNP at Westminster, the gaming for martial law….it’s all there.

      But independence can be won and it can be won peacably, and a start would be to remove our majority of SNP MPs from Westminster.

      As someone once said losing a surly lodger and gaining a good neighbour is in everyone’s interest.

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        I completely agree, Willie.

        We can be sure that MI5 have spies all throughout Scottish society: In Holyrood, in Bute House, in the Universities and of course at the BBC.

        I remember being up at SMO in Skye doing a Gaelic course, and there was what I suspected was a British spy on the course. This was a person who spoke 12 languages or something like that, linguists always made good spies, and this was an English person who seemed to me to have other motives for being on the course, there was something a bit shady there, always writing things down and taking notes and photos… I can’t be sure of course.

        The BBC Orange UKIP case is absolutely shocking and shows just what a farce their much vaunted “neutrality” and “impartiality” amounts to. These are the pompous fools who lecture us all about the Russian media and how biased it is. The BBC are every bit as bad as RT, the Russian television channel. Both are totally biased, of course they are.

        To be honest, the BBC, in the past, used to be more subtle. They always manipulated the news, of course, but they would do it in a subtle way: the importance of the stories, the order they were selected in – for example, a story about the miners strike followed by a story about the Soviet Union – the way they used montage and voice over, omission and headlines…

        But the Orange Order UKIP guy is just blatant. Has anybody resigned? Have they hell… they probably got promoted in fact.

        I have long called for a boycott of the BBC license fee: it’s a British State propaganda tax.

        For me the most decisive thing of all over the last few months, is the legal finding by the UK Supreme Court which starkly illustrates our reality that the Scottish Parliament has no Constitutional Status. It could be abolished tomorrow if London desires it to be so.

        The Constitutional powers vested in the Scottish Parliament must emanate from the people of Scotland and their democratic will, not from the parliament of a foreign country colonial power such as England is… there are dozens of autonomous Parliaments throughout Europe which are founded on a rock solid Constitutional status. Only the Scots are not granted that democratic right.

        For the SNP to have more or less accepted this finding is beyond my comprehension.

        And yes, I agree, I think the SNP should take a stand and be prepared to withdraw MPs from Westminster. They cannot simply carry on with the charade…

        2014 was just a tea party compared to the fight which is coming now… which will be conducted over the internet above all I am sure.

        1. Willie says:

          I think Red Gauntlet when a movement gets near success, and the Indy ref was a close run thing, then the way the state resists becomes more overt.

          With the state that the UK is in just now the chances of success, despite what the naysayers would have you believe, is better now than it was in 2014.

          Persuaded to stay in the UK on the pretext of it being a requirement to stay in the EU, and now being dragged out in one of the most chaotic ways possible is a real source of greivance. It is something that can and is changing minds.

          So yes, the state resistance now becomes more overt as the risk of Indy success becomes a reality.

          They fooled us in 2014 but would they fooled us in the same way again. Don’t think so and they know it.

          Time to bring our MPs home and start to run the country as an ipso facto independent nation.

  4. Tom Hubbard says:

    Johnson needs a Backstop up his Blowhole. If we must have Boris let it be Godunov; at least he came to realise his crimes, and was a better singer too. All the Johnson one wants is his own Coronation Scene.

  5. Wul says:

    Interesting programme on RTE about the Irish independence movement. Striking how they placed importance on cultural learning and celebration and what a key factor it was in their achieving self determination. ( Episode 2 tonight I think)


    (Also interesting to see a documentary programme on RTE about Robert Burns. Our home grown, BBC offering of a musical evening was funded by the Ulster-Scots-Broadcast Fund and made in collaboration with BBC Ulster. Seems the Irish have more invested in our National Bard than we do…)

    1. Craig P says:

      We need an RTE Britain channel. The Irish government can set up a broadcast office in London to pump EU-funded pro-Europe propaganda at us using the voice of the EU’s main remaining English-speaking country. Why not? It is what Russia Today, CNN, Al-Jazeera, and the BBC all do from their respective perspectives. Perhaps had the gammons been able to watch Europe-friendly news over the last ten years we might not be about to crash out of the EU.

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