Lesser Of Two Evils
Posted on February 26th, 2019
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
I have always supported Nicola Sturgeon’s apparent prevarication over calling IndyRef2 on the basis that to call for this before the outcome of Brexit is known would be to undermine the campaign. Asking voters to decide on such an important constitutional matter when the consequences of one side of the equation are not known would mean that many wavering voters might yet be convinced to stick with the devil they know. Much as ardent Yes supporters might shake their heads in bewilderment that so many of our fellow Scots could believe staying as part of the UK is as good as it gets, we need to recognise that many of them are subjected to the mainstream media version of events and can therefore be susceptible to arguments which could persuade them to vote against becoming citizens of a normal country.
The problem now, of course, is that Westminster has dithered and blundered for so long that it is almost certainly too late for IndyRef2 to save us from Brexit. Both the Tories and Corbyn’s Labour seem determined to leave the EU no matter what, and once we are out of the EU, our position becomes potentially very difficult to remedy. In my gloomier thoughts, I see Holyrood being dissolved as soon as Brexit has taken effect, and all chances of independence being crushed. It is not an appealing prospect at all, and I sincerely hope Nicola Sturgeon has planned for all eventualities.
Yet her decision to delay calling for IndyRef2 still has some merit because, against all expectation, there are now rumours that Labour will support a second referendum on EU membership. Quite what the terms of that referendum will be remains to be seen and, quite honestly, I am not convinced it will actually happen anyway. If it does, though, the campaign will be very interesting.
For example, how will people like Ruth Davidson and David Mundell line up? They were in favour of remaining part of the EU until ordered to change their minds once Theresa May had decided to go all out for Brexit. Can they flip flop once again? Well, they are Tories, so maintaining a consistent position isn’t exactly their strong point, but even the dimmest voter would surely realise how flawed their position would be if they took the Remain side once again. More likely is that they would support Theresa May’s fudge of a deal in order to preserve their positions within the Tory hierarchy, but again that leaves them open to questions about why they no longer support remaining in the EU. Not that many journalists are likely to ask them tough questions, of course, but it would provide ammunition for those of us who want to remain in the EU.
As for Scottish Labour, would they support voting to remain if it meant siding with the SNP? Would we see an exception to the Bain doctrine? That would set a nice precedent.
As for the SNP, they would need to tread a careful line. There is no doubt that a hard Brexit greatly enhances the cause of Scottish independence, but it would cause significant harm to our country and our people in the short term. Refusing to take part in a second EU referendum would also leave them open to accusations of putting Indy above all else. And, quite frankly, Brexit is the immediate danger, so I think they would need to support the EU referendum with a very strong caveat that a similar result to last time would result in IndyRef2.
Then there is the question of whether Scots would turn out to vote in a re-run of the EU referendum. If remaining in the EU is an option on the ballot paper – and that’s by no means certain – then I think we have no choice. We would need to send a very strong signal to Westminster that Scotland wants to remain in the EU. If we boycott the vote and the result goes against us, the Tories will gleefully proclaim that Scotland doesn’t care about the EU and wants to stick with the UK no matter what. We must avoid that scenario at all costs, which is why I believe it is important that the SNP make it clear that a strong Remain vote in Scotland would provide yet another mandate for IndyRef2 if England still votes to drag us out of the EU against our will.
But, hypothetically, what happens if there is a second EU referendum and England votes to remain? The immediate threat of Brexit will hopefully be removed, which will be a great relief to many people. It does not, however, mean that IndyRef2 needs to be shelved. There is more than enough evidence from the past couple of years to demonstrate that Westminster does not have Scotland’s best interests at heart. Whether it be the derisory treatment of the Sewell Convention, the string of broken promises, the Windrush scandal, the Hostile Environment, the deportation of foreign nationals, the economic slump, or the scorn dished out to SNP MPs in the House of Commons, surely the Yes campaign would be able to demonstrate why Scotland needs to become a normal country. Let’s just hope we get the chance to wage that campaign. If there is no second EU referendum and Brexit goes ahead, it may actually delay the chances of independence if the Tories get their act together quickly enough to seize full control of Scotland.
There doesn’t seem to be a good scenario here at all, but scrapping Brexit and then relaunching a Yes campaign seems the lesser of two evils. Unless Nicola Sturgeon has a cunning plan.