By Alec Ross
A wee note, promoted by a pal giving Ian Blackford laldy earlier. “Ian Blackford doesn’t speak for Scotland”, he said.
So I wrote this. “You’ve got me thinking. Not that I had ever stopped.
If he doesn’t, then who does? Scotland voted to remain – by a higher margin than any other country in the UK. As the leader of Scotland’s largest party (and the third largest in WM) his instructions from the people of Scotland are to keep us in (or in the ESM & CU at the very least, which the Scottish government proposed nearly three years ago). If he didn’t forcefully make the case to remain then he wouldn’t be doing his job.
A thing that caught my eye, though. Ten conservatives voted for the Joanna Cherry amendment last night that would have seen revoke become the default option in the (increasingly likely) event of a no-deal. Not a single one of those Tory votes came from the group in Scotland (and I chose the words deliberately – “Scottish Tory” is a tragic oxymoron – despite all of their constituencies voting to remain.
What goes through my mind however is this. Ian Blackford and others have been beacons of sanity and collegiate compromise during this whole fiasco but it’s way past the point now where Scotland should be sacrificing itself to help England save itself from itself. They don’t want it and even if they did we can’t help them because we don’t have the numbers (because we aren’t and have never been an equal union, unlike the EU. All are welcome to disagree).
Self-determination works both ways. It isn’t a one-way street. There was a Canadian speaker at the Nuffield Conference last year whose Brexit jokes got a laugh from the Scottish attendees but stony silence from those fae the sooth of Gretna. It was the moment when I wondered if maybe Brexit was an article of faith for England, and maybe if I didn’t want their input into my country’s journey to independence then it maybe wasn’t my place to deny them theirs. And while there’s a conflation of England and Britain (in my experience it’s often seen as the same thing) there are also polls that suggest England would happily see Scotland sail into the sunset if they could be free of the (perceived) Brussels yoke.
There’s a part of me that kind of respects that. England always stands up for itself and I can’t help but make the comparison. I mean, the whole idea that England was ruled by Brussels was always ridiculous. Ludicrous. And yet they thought they were and did something about it. Faced with a much clearer and obvious democratic deficit in 2014, we handed back power to people who clearly despise us (who ever got respect by not standing up for themselves?) So we get Brexit, EVEL, power grab. We get Gove. We boasted then we cowered. What did we think was going to happen? Does anyone seriously thing a post-Brexit, Empire 2.0, Holyrood-lite, Boris Johnson led directly controlled government would pay more heed to us than an independent Scottish government of whatever colour or hue that we can vote out at our leisure? It’s quite possible – even desirable – that there wouldn’t be an SNP government post independence. There may not even be a Scottish National Party, its raison d’etre being gone. That may well be the headline in the Scotsman the day after the vote: “blow for Sturgeon as SNP loses raison d’etre”.
Scottish Independence sorts Brexit. I remember saying in 2014 that if it all went a bit Alfredo Morellos post Indy then I’d hold my hands up. Take the four match ban. Take ownership for my fecklessness. But it has to work both ways and the truth is that if we hadn’t been so feart five years ago we would be currently nothing to do with a bouroch that is essentially an English existential crisis which, while being fascinating to look at, is in a way nothing to do with us. Only it is because we’re forever dragged into the death spiral of a political system that is designed to belittle us. They take the wings off us and then mock us for being unable to fly.
But we are where we are.
My view is that Ian Blackford does speak for Scotland but he – all of us – are doing so in the wrong place.
It’s later than we think. High time we brought our democracy home.