It’s time for Scotland to define itself

Here we go again. The Scottish Government has confirmed that the Conservative Government at Westminster has not shared any of its controversial plans to introduce union busting strike breaking legislation with Holyrood. Not that anyone should be at all surprised by this, as the Tories never shared any of their Brexit plans with Holyrood either, and neither did they keep Holyrood informed about legislation with the potential to have a direct impact on the devolution settlement. So it’s not like they were about to break the habit of a lifetime and all of a sudden dig up David Cameron’s respect agenda from the deep dark pit in which it was buried immediately after the votes of the last independence referendum were counted.

It was always obvious that the Conservatives were going to go after the Trades Unions, despite the fact that after decades of Tory restrictions on the unions they are but a shadow of their former selves, the unions still represent one of the last institutions in the UK which the Conservatives do not influence or control and which is fundamentally opposed to the robber baron philosophy of the Westminster government.

The Conservatives have systematically undermined and attacked every institution in the UK which has an alternative legitimacy to Westminster or which is capable of holding the Conservative British Government to account. They engineered Brexit in order to ensure that the exercise of their power at Westminster would not be restricted in any way by the UK’s obligations as a member of the EU. And then once they had achieved a Leave vote in the EU referendum on the basis of outright lies and deceit, they trashed all the promises and reassurances that they had given prior to and during that referendum campaign and took the UK out of the Single Market and the Customs Union despite denouncing as “scaremongering” the warnings of remain campaigners that they were going to do so.

The new proposals to eviscerate the unions will make it legal for employers to hire untrained agency staff to cover for striking workers. The legislation will also penalise workers who have gone on strike by prohibiting them from working overtime in order to make up back pay which was lost during the industrial action.

Meanwhile, having taken yet another step towards neutering domestic opposition to Conservative rule, the UK continues its descent into rogue state territory as the British Government continues with its plans to deport asylum seekers on a one way ticket to Rwanda, a policy which has been denounced as illegal. In a recent court case which tried – and failed – to halt the deportations it was revealed that the UN’s refugee agency had twice warned the Home Office that the policy was unlawful. Gillian Triggs, assistant secretary-general at the United Nations refugee agency, and former dean of the Sydney Law School, Australia’s most prestigious law school, described the scheme as an “egregious breach of international and refugee law.”

Asked about comparisons between the Home Office’s Rwanda plan and Australia’s controversial policy of “off-shoring” asylum applications, Ms Triggs told the BBC : “Just as the Australian policy is an egregious breach of international law and refugee law and human rights law, so too is this proposal by the United Kingdom government.”

The Australian policy which saw asylum seekers and refugees arriving by boat sent to detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru was widely condemned for its cruelty and inhumanity. Refugees were housed in substandard conditions in internment camps where there were widespread reports of abusive behaviour while their asylum claims were processed. However the UK policy is far far worse. At least the Australians permitted asylum seekers entry to Australia once their claims were judged to be genuine. However the British scheme will see successful asylum seekers being given asylum in Rwanda, a repressive dictatorship where corruption is rife and which not so long ago experience a horrific genocide. The Conservatives want the UK to wash its hands of all responsibility for desperate refugees who are seeking asylum in the UK. Even Prince Charles has denounced the policy as “appalling” and you know that something must be pretty bad indeed when you find yourself agreeing with Prince Charles.

As if that wasn’t enough to trash what was left of the UK’s tattered international reputation, on Monday the Johnson regime published plans to unilaterally change the Northern Irish protocol which underpinned the “oven ready” Brexit deal which Johnson negotiated with the EU. Johnson has claimed that the changes he wants to make are “a trivial set of adjustments” and told LBC radio that they are “not a big deal” despite the fact that it’s a clear breach of international law. Well he would say that wouldn’t he. He doesn’t think breaking domestic law is such a big deal either.

Breaking international law “isn’t a big deal” says Johnson, that’s the sort of sentiment that Vladimir Putin could enthusiastically get behind. Unsurprisingly this is not the opinion of the Irish Government. The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said today, “Announcing the unilateral breach of an international agreement is pretty serious stuff.”

Indeed. After all, if the changes Johnson is making are really trivial adjustments and not a big deal, then why is he making them in the first place? If they are not significant the UK could just suck them up instead of alienating the Irish Government, angering Brussels and risking a trade war with the EU in the middle of a cost of living crisis and when the UK is already forecast to have the lowest economic growth of any G20 country except Russia, whose economy has been battered by the international sanctions imposed upon the Putin regime following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The fact that Johnson is now ripping up a key part of the Brexit deal that he himself negotiated and signed exposes the lies that he told in order to secure his victory in the December 2019 General Election. The rabble-rousing over Brexit is a lurch to the right designed to shore up support for a weakened prime minister. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit and has not voted for the Tories since the 1950s but Scotland must endure the full effects of Johnson’s lies and deceit and the authoritarian British nationalism of the modern Conservative party.  Scotland does not consent to the arrogant British nationalist exceptionalist politics of the Tories, and is only informed after the event, but in the eyes of the international community as a part of the UK, Scotland is also a party to Johnson’s law breaking and contempt.

This is a nasty red white and blue brush that Scotland too is tarred with. As long as we remain a part of this so-called union, Scotland’s international standing and reputation is being rubbished too. It doesn’t have to be like this, but if Scotland doesn’t choose independence in order to define itself and what it stands for, Boris Johnson will define Scotland to the world for us. The First Minister’s announcement on Monday that the second independence referendum campaign launches tomorrow with the publication of the first in a series of papers setting out a new prospectus for independence could not be more timely. It’s time for Scotland to define itself.

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