Here is my reply to my SNP MSP email to me, in the previous blog. Lines from his are in italics.
…you’ve passionately put forward your point of view…
Well, passion may be part of his repertoire, but I prefer stone-cold sober analysis and assessment. The matter in hand here is the use of a referendum; I say it is an ad hoc device of questionable status that undermines our long-established representative democracy. I say a referendum is a throw of the dice which, if you only accept the result you want, is a gamble you can’t lose. My MSP offers nothing to contradict me.
…the SNP campaigns for an independent Scotland…
We should get rid of this word “independent” for use in this context. We all form alliances, come to arrangements, do deals, sign treaties, all that, in our personal and political lives. There’s no such thing as “independence”. The question is which alliances, arrangements, deals and treaties we want to make. The mature thing is to form such alliances… etc that get the best out of ourselves and our neighbours and partners. It is impossible to imagine that Scotland could have a better relationship than we have with our immediate neighbours on this crowded archipelago of islands. We have completely frictionless trade and one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. The SNP has to persuade us that if we departed from the UK we would be better off. They don’t even try. It’s all down to rhetoric and bombast for them.
Let’s call this what it is: it is a separatist agenda. Or, to give it a more immediate and recognisable context, let’s call it “Scexit”. If they deplore the conduct of the Brexit referendum and the inevitable chaos of trying to make good on unachievable promises, the SNP has to explain how a Scexit referendum would be different. They pretend it wouldn’t be like that. But referendums are always like that.
…People in Scotland were erroneously told by Better Together in 2014 that independence would result in Scotland being taken out of the EU…
Oh dear, I really thought we had got past that. But, for my MSP’s benefit, let’s go over it again. Political developments didn’t stop on the day of the referendum. What he’ll find as life goes on is that things keep changing.
The price of oil, on which so much of the separatist “White Paper” (it was a wish-list) was predicated, crashed before the Brexit ref. If they were being honest, they would have to concede that it was a material change of circumstances, a significantly different state of affairs from the one they were imagining and promoting during the campaign, such that another referendum would be justified. But they’re not being honest.
They cannot say what would be the nature of the border with the rest of the UK (rUK), just as the Brexiteers cannot resolve their promises both to come out of all things European yet have a soft border in Ireland. They can’t have both, and the Scexiteers would have the same problem. How would it be possible to have different immigration policies, for example, yet keep an invisible border?
There is no guarantee that a separated Scotland would be permitted to join the EU, and a condition of membership may well be adoption of the €. These are very serious matters. Since it is impossible to know before separation negotiations are concluded, there is no clear prospectus on which a sensible decision can be made in a referendum. Just like Brexit, we would be voting for a pig in a poke with no chance of changing our minds if we don’t like the pig.
I will vie with no-one about how appalling the present UK government is, indeed, that we have a dysfunctional parliament at Westminster. Major electoral and constitutional reforms are desperately urgent. Similarly, I am under no illusion about the EU. I voted REMAIN and REFORM. Sadly, the last element wasn’t on the ballot paper. The basic question is: do we walk away from a union, forged by geography, history and economic realities, or do we stay and fix the problems? The geography, history and economic realities won’t change. Trade unions were formed to protect individuals and communities from the worst effects of capitalism. Capitalism has morphed into corporatism, and unionism has to keep pace. There is safety and strength in union; danger and weakness in isolation.
At Holyrood SNP social and economic policies are chaotic, with a strong and highly unfortunate centralising tendency, though I don’t say they get everything wrong. And at local level, they have nothing to say. This is because the SNP in office has no principle for government other than to manipulate things towards their sole aim. The Labour party’s principle is collectivism; the LibDems’ is human rights; the Conservatives’, at their best, is responsible free enterprise; the Greens’ is for ecological living; all honourable positions which can be applied to any aspect of government at any level. The SNP’s dismally small-minded, mean-spirited ambition is to separate Scotland from rUK. For the greater glory of… what, exactly? The SNP is basically an opportunist single-issue party. We deserve better.
On the face of it, we need fear the SNP no more: it seems highly unlikely that the 2005 and 2011 elections, which gave them an absolute majority at Holyrood, will ever be repeated. The electoral arrangements are designed to produce coalitions and minority governments. They didn’t have the cojones to make a unilateral declaration of independence when they could – they threw everything into a referendum and they lost.
However, we shouldn’t be complacent. The SNP is not Hungary’s Jobbik, nor Germany’s AfD, and Nicola Sturgeon is not Marine le Pen. But it wouldn’t take much for the ideologues to tip it into something not so far from the above-mentioned. It trades in identity politics, which always needs a bogey-man, and we know where that can go.