Last spring I wanted the SNP to agitate for another independence referendum then and there. It would’ve been as catastrophically ill-judged as Brexit’s turning out to be. Can you keep the heid while your opponent loses theirs and parse things sans emotion doesn’t roll off the tongue, but that’s what the SNP have done and are doing. They looked at Westminster’s ineptitude and deduced that the calamitous decisions made between September 2014 and June 2016 would likely continue and result in even more calamity.
Even so, it’s hard to imagine a sequence of events that would’ve enhanced the prospect of Scottish Independence more since June 2016. In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum result did anybody predict this withdrawal agreement deadlock omnishambles? Who predicted we’d be facing a likely No Deal exit on the twenty-ninth of March?
Pinpointing the people and events most responsible for all this is tricky, as there’s been so many. But the disaster that is Jeremy Corbyn lists high, not only becoming Labour leader, but surviving this long in situ with negligible improvement in Labour’s polling (despite facing the most feckless Tory government ever), whilst alienating the PLP and significant swathes of the Labour membership. His poorly concealed Euroscepticism explains his inertia over supporting a People’s Vote, and his commitment to seeing Brexit through is helping to propel the UK towards No Deal.
Or how about Theresa May calling a completely unnecessary snap General Election based on the ‘holiday feels’, losing a majority (partly in reaction to a Leave vote) and only remaining in power by cosying up to some absolute fucking loons who really hate how old rock formations are, abortions, Taigs and the Gays.
The EU referendum was blithely inserted as a Tory election pledge in 2015. This arrogant complacency about the state of decay wasn’t confined to Westminster. From our cubicles built on confirmation bias(es) very few of the liberal, bleeding-heart, commie, right-oners contemplated the insanity of a Leave vote succeeding. Even fewer bothered to understand the complexities and obstacles required in Brexit’s application, and the multitude of forms it could take. Including, unforgivably, many politicians, and quite a number of political commentators. Brexiteer ignorance and Remainer arrogance allowed the lunatic fringe to hijack the referendum on EU membership, making it about something else entirely – for its ghastly figureheads it was about self-promotion and opportunism, and they succeeded in framing the argument’s subtext – Brexit was a means of preserving the outdated British psyche and arresting the UK’s decline as a global power.
The clip above is from an episode of Rab C Nesbitt where he starts conversing with a pink elephant. It might seem strange to use it analogously, but here Rab encompasses the UK’s insecurities; faded lustre, content, declining, willingly wallowing in ignorance. The eloquent pink elephant embodies his subconscious despair, teasing and goading Rab of his failings.
Contextually the concept of Leave became a way of vanquishing that pink elephant. Telling folks to have pride in themselves is an enticing message. Hitler did it loads in the thirties. Voting Leave meant not having to apologise about the way you felt or thought about otherness or change, or that you should consider changing. Allowing a jaded mind to turn to faith negates the need to accept uncomfortable truths. How Brexit would work wasn’t fucking important, autonomy from Johnny Foreigner EU would allow us to dictate terms to them, prevent ‘em arriving and eroding our culture. The success of the Empire was built on doing what we wanted, and to some Leave’s lies felt like that. But that was then, and this is now. We live in different times. Trying to reverse decades of economic globalisation and inoculate Britishness from external influence with Brexit is fucking comical.
It didn’t need to end this way. The UK’s break-up could’ve been done with grace and humility, not humiliation. The UK’s establishment have blown it. Brexit (whatever form it takes) has fatally encumbered the successful, albeit tenuous, Unionist argument of five years ago. No Deal strengthens the economic case for an independent Scotland in the EU (and voting for independence is the only guaranteed way to remain in the EU), but even more damaging to any future Unionist campaign is being tethered to the shoddy optics of Westminster’s selfish Brexit manoeuvrings. The latest hare-brained idea May’s come up with to save herself and the Tory party; re-writing the Good Friday Agreement (cause peace is overrated, luvvies) to get round enforcing a hard Irish border. It shows the level of contempt (and value) with which Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are held.
Caveat time – predicting anything is foolish. Maybe something miraculous will save the Union from itself. Perhaps the unlikely event of a People’s Vote (providing Remain win) will quash the drive for another independence vote? Are the general public in Scotland desperate to endure more of the UK’s self-serving political chaos as the pyrrhic way of sticking it to the elites, the immigrants, the politicians, to someone, anyone? Will the allegations and charges against Alex Salmond besmirch and derail the Independence movement? Perhaps the prospect of another referendum, no matter how much clearer the question is and consequences are, will be seen as a turnoff after Brexit.
Polling suggests not. So today my message is different – keep calm, keep waiting and let the nutters do their worst and trust that the SNP will wait for the optimal time to put it to the test. Because this time we can’t afford to lose.