The Pyrrhic victory

Wednesday was a very big day for the Scottish independence campaign. Scotland is imprisoned in a failed democracy that refuses to accept the outcome of Scottish elections that are not to the liking of the Anglo-British nationalist parties. We now find ourselves in a so-called voluntary union which is indeed voluntary, but it is only voluntary for England. It is certainly not voluntary for Scotland. The other nations of this so-called union effectively require the permission of England, or more precisely MPs who are predominantly elected to represent English constituencies, if they wish to ask their people about whether or not they wish to remain a part of the UK. However should England ever wish to leave the United Kingdom, it requires no one’s permission but its own. A union in which only one member has the unilateral right to leave, but can trap all the other members for as long as it sees fit is not a union at all.

The right to an independence referendum is like the right to divorce: you don’t have to want to leave your spouse to accept it as a right. In the 2021 Holyrood election The Scottish electorate voted for parties which back a referendum: denying Scotland that that right now is an attack on democracy itself. On Wednesday evening Douglas Ross and Alister Jack were falling over themselves to rewrite history and to claim that the 2021 Holyrood elections were not really about another independence referendum at all.

This is not a union. Legally in the eyes of the British state the UK is composed of England and its dependencies. We know that definitively now, and logically it follows that those parties which oppose Scottish independence are not unionist parties, they are parties which are determined to keep Scotland subjected to the decisions of the electorate in England and dependent upon the electoral choices of England in order for Scotland to be granted permission to ask itself about the nature of its relationship with the other nations of the UK. That is not unionism. It is certainly not the unionism that has always been presented to Scotland by the anti-independence parties. It is Anglo-British nationalism, pure and simple.

In some ways it’s a good thing that we now have clarity about the reality of Scotland’s position, even if that clarity is a product of an answer that was unwelcome. For the wider independence movement is is a positive development that we can now focus on the real issues of independence and on developing arguments to persuade undecided voters and soft no voters to support independence instead of devoting most of our energies to interminable and often bad tempered debates about process, debates which do little or nothing to convert those vital soft Noes and undecideds to Yes.

We have clarity now about process. There will be no more wasting time on futile attempts to beg Westminster for a Section 30 order which will never be forthcoming as long as the parties of Anglo-British nationalism fear that there is an outside chance that Scotland might vote Yes. We are now looking at the next election in Scotland becoming a de facto independence referendum. There will be a special conference of the SNP early in the New Year – just a few weeks away now – to plan for that historic election. It is early days but it is heartening that a poll for Channel Four News on Wednesday found that 50% of Scottish voters would vote SNP at the next general election if it could lead to Scotland leaving the UK and 51% if it led to negotiations on independence with Westminster.

There are challenges ahead for the Yes movement, but for those whom we must now call Anglo-British nationalists, what the Supreme Court delivered on Wednesday is a Pyrrhic victory which will prove to be their undoing. They have lost some of the key weapons in their armoury, the claim that the UK is a voluntary union of nations in free and equal partnership, and the ambiguity about the democratic route to another independence referendum. Most importantly of all they have lost the pretence that the democratic decisions of Scotland will be respected within the UK.

The anti-independence parties must now be hounded on the question of just how Scotland can obtain a legal referendum through its own internal democratic processes. They do not have an answer, but that is precisely the point. The questioning serves to illustrate their lies and deceit.

Starmer the Tory not so Lite leader of Labour also refused to spell out the democratic route to another referendum and said on Wednesday: “It is for those who want to break up the United Kingdom to set out how they propose to do so.” Well we did, Starmer, we said that we could do so by achieving a majority in the Scottish Parliament for another referendum, a route that the anti-independence parties agreed on right up until the pro-independence parties achieved it whereupon it was suddenly not good enough.

The Anglo-British nationalists have also lost devolution as a plausible alternative to independence. Devolution has now definitively failed, it cannot guarantee that the people of Scotland will get what they voted for, and it cannot protect Scotland from the unwanted decisions of Westminster governments that Scotland did not vote for. The ‘world’s most powerful devolved parliament’ is toothless and impotent in the face of Westminster intransigence. History will look back on devolution as a stop gap measure introduced by Westminster in a vain attempt to stem the tide of independence. Labour can announce whatever ‘reforms’ it likes, but it cannot prevent them being undone by a future Conservative government.

The ruling told us that the only way in which Scotland can be the equal of the other nations of this archipelago is with independence. The Anglo-British nationalists have not avoided a vote on independence, they have created a vote on independence which they must contest while trying to defend the unequal nature of this so-called union and to defend the subordinate position of Scotland within it. “Scotland we love you, you are an equal partner in a family of nations” is just risible now. the plea made in 2014, “Scotland lead us don’t leave us” is exposed now as a sick joke. Moreover the Anglo-British nationalists will be forced to defend their denial of democracy in a vote which they cannot boycott and which will be far harder for them to gerrymander, undermine, or derail.

We now not only have an independence movement which has put questions of process behind it, it is a movement which is galvanised and energised. It is a movement which counts on the support of half the population and that is just as the starting pistol is fired on the countdown to the vote. Additionally the independence movement is facing an Anglo-British nationalism whose anti-democratic deceit has been exposed and which has nothing to offer Scotland except more lies, bullying, threats, and contempt.


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