Posted on July 19th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
With the UK steadily bungling its way towards a hard Brexit, calls for a second IndyRef are mounting among Yes activists, and there is growing impatience among many that time is running out. Yet Nicola Sturgeon remains silent on the matter while the SNP MPs in Westminster continue to battle against the odds to preserve some semblance of sanity in the march towards the cliff edge.
I have mentioned before that the SNP have little alternative other than to play a waiting game. If Brexit were to be called off, then the main reason for IndyRef2 would disappear. This does not mean that the case for Scottish independence goes away, but many people would breathe a sigh of relief and it might be difficult to persuade them that Scotland needs to escape the madness.
As every day passes, however, the chances of Brexit being called off diminish. It now seems almost certain that the Brexiteers will get their way and a hard Brexit will ensue. However, there is still a small chance that something dramatic will happen to call the whole thing off.
It must be admitted that this seems unlikely. If Theresa May were looking for an excuse to call a halt, the revelations about the illegality behind the Leave campaign provide her with the perfect excuse to call for a second referendum. So far, she shows no signs of wanting to do this. Indeed, we are now hearing that the UK Government intends to issue advice notices on what to expect in the event of a hard Brexit which is what those controlling May have been after all along. So don’t count on a second referendum being called just because the first one was won by cheating.
What else might halt the drive to a hard Brexit? Some people still talk of an early General Election sparked by Theresa May’s downfall. But May is still clinging on, trying to keep everyone happy in a binary situation which is bound to disappoint around half of the voting population of the UK. Her intent at the moment seems to be to appease the hard-line Brexiteers because to defy them would split the Tory Party. The so-called Tory rebels have caved in at every opportunity, and the majority of Tory MPs are happy to be lobby fodder supporting the Government against the wishes of the electorate who, if polls are to be believed, have changed their mind about Brexit.
Even if she does find herself ousted, it seems unlikely anything would change as regards Brexit. Her replacement is likely to be one of the arch-Brexiteers – a horrifying thought considering how they have blundered and blustered their way through the past 18 months of “negotiations".
And if England decides to back Jeremy Corbyn, that still won’t change things. He is very pro-Brexit and will no doubt continue down the road the Tories have established. His election might result in a delay, but it is unlikely to halt the process entirely.
No, all a snap General Election will do is create a hiatus during which the paucity of actual political solutions will be evident to anyone who cares to look, and very probably a hung Parliament which will nevertheless comprise a majority of pro-Brexit MPs or, at the very least, enough Abstainers to ensure Brexit is not halted.
So what else could stop this insane march to economic and social disaster?
Well, the Brexit negotiations are due to be finalised in October. Things like the Irish and Gibraltar border questions still need to be resolved. As many commentators have pointed out, they cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, so this may result in some crunch talks in October.
While the situation is so fluid that anything could happen, I suspect Nicola Sturgeon is waiting to see what happens in October.
There are a couple of possible scenarios here. The first is that a hard Brexit is confirmed as the talks collapse. If that happens, IndyRef2 is very much back on the agenda. This time around, the undoubted uncertainties surrounding the establishment of Scotland as a normal country can be contrasted with the absolute certainty of the consequences of Brexit. When the Unionists make their usual calls to cling to historical links, when they make daft claims about the so-called “UK Single Market", when they ask what currency we will use, we will be able to point back and ask how they will cope with the loss of all international air flights, with food supplies failing, with medicines running out, and with most international companies having moved their business elsewhere.
In the second scenario, we could see Brexit halted because the questions over the Irish and Gibraltar borders prove insurmountable. In that case, then another General Election is inevitable as the Tory Brexiteers engineer a vote of NO Confidence in Theresa May.
This is a different proposition to the early General Election some believed would happen. If there is a General Election because Brexit has been called off, the SNP should stand on a manifesto of declaring independence if they gain a majority of Scottish seats. Turning the General Election into a de facto referendum on independence means voters will not need to go to the polls twice.
Of course, UK politics are so volatile that something else might happen which nobody has foreseen, but we must be ready for an independence campaign later this year. And, while we do want to paint a positive picture of what an independent Scotland could look like, we know that fear of change motivates many voters. Becoming a normal country after more than three centuries of the Union will undoubtedly present challenges, but they are nothing compared to the challenges we will face if we stick with a post-Brexit UK.