Getting Used To It
Posted on September 19th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
There has been plenty of debate over the timing of the next IndyRef. I’ve argued for some time that it cannot be called until we know precisely what Brexit is going to mean; hence the reason for delaying any announcement until October when what is supposed to be the final negotiations take place. Of course, it now seems likely that those negotiations will result in us being no closer to any resolution, and that the UK Government will continue to muddle on, demanding the right to cherry pick aspects of EU membership and complaining about the intransigence of EU officials who insist on sticking to the rules of their association. This means that any pronouncements about IndyRef2 may indeed need to wait until after 29th March next year which will, in turn, mean that people will be forced to wake up to the reality of Brexit.
Some people argue we should not wait so long because Scots have consistently voted to remain part of the EU, and waiting would result in us being forced to leave and then reapply when Scotland does not have all the necessary financial infrastructure required by the EU. This is certainly a disturbing prospect, and one which adds complications, but I do think the EU would be only too happy to allow Scotland to retain the benefits of membership with some grace period to establish the necessary institutions and policies, including a central bank and, hopefully, our own currency.
On the other hand, some people argue that waiting will result in a most definite Yes majority because Brexit will do so much damage so quickly that people will be forced to acknowledge that independence and remaining part of the EU represents Scotland’s best chance for the future. There is something to be said for this, but this course also contains some risks.
There is always the danger that Westminster will simply abolish the Scottish Parliament, thus giving Scots no democratic avenue for arranging IndyRef2, but there is another , perhaps more insidious, way our route to normality could be blocked.
You see, the UK has always relied on its subjects (that’s their preferred term for what most nations refer to as citizens, which tells you a lot about the British mindset) becoming accustomed to whatever the state wishes them to become accustomed to. Take Austerity as the latest example of this technique. There is a whole generation of young adults who have known nothing but Austerity since they left school. In Scotland, we have been protected from the worst ravages of Toryism, but there are thousands of young people who accept it as given that jobs will be hard to come by, will be low paid or on zero-hour contracts if they do find one; that harassment of the disabled and unemployed is normal; that our armed forces fighting in Middle Eastern countries is normal; that politicians telling blatant lies is how politics works; that Council homes are hard to come by and that buying a house is a dream which will never be fulfilled. All of this and more is viewed as normal by far too many people simply because they don’t know any different.
This is not to say that the older generation lived in a golden age as many Brexiteers fondly imagine. Those of us who lived through the latter part of the twentieth century know only too well that it had many of the same problems, but it was an age when opportunity through education and hard work could actually result in a higher standard of living. Aided by a free NHS, the post-war generations took advantage of those opportunities so that many more people lived in conditions which were significantly better than those of their parents and grandparents.
Today’s younger generation, in contrast, faces the prospect of living in worse conditions because the past ten years has undone much of the good work. Scots remain protected from the worst of it, but we still feel the effects, and this is the baseline against which change is represented, usually with a threat along the lines of, “If you think things are bad now, independence will make it even worse", while all the time ignoring the potentially catastrophic changes that Brexit will bring.
But people’s propensity for getting used to whatever conditions are imposed on them without thinking that there might be an alternative means that waiting until Brexit bites could backfire on the Yes movement. Because you can be sure that Westminster and the media will hold nothing back in their attempts to convince us that whatever happens, it is a price worth paying and, anyway, we’ll soon get used to it. There will be Union flags plastered on more and more things, television programmes will reinforce the message, and people will be expected to put up with it.
The generational aspect is intriguing. The older generations have been exposed to the UK message for so long that many will accept it no matter what happens, while the younger generations have known nothing other than Austerity Britain. Will they, too, shrug their shoulders and accept what they are told? Or will their habit of using online media for information allow them to break free of the mainstream message? We often put faith in that latter hope, but we need to be aware that the UK will be doing its utmost to spread its message online as well as through the traditional channels.
So, whenever IndyRef2 does come along, our main task will be to convince people that there is a better way.