I’ve been trying to think up a cheerful, positive pro-indy “journey to yes” type of essay, but it’s just not happening. At the moment I’m finding it hard to escape the “reallywhat’sthepointofBrexit????” thought train. I have my own personal Brexit alarm-o-meter. At one end of the scale I have a friend who secretly considers leaving the EU to be a jolly good idea, if we all avert our eyes for the next decade or so the whole messy business will magically resolve itself. At the other end of the spectrum I have a teenage employee who has denounced Brexit as “backwards and wrong.” Unfortunately with “precious, precious” Theresa at the helm I think “backwards and wrong” will win the day. There is of course an antidote to my Brexit fretting.
On March 13th Nicola Sturgeon plotted the course for Scotref. As night follows day this prompted an onslaught of hysteria within the mainstream media. The political division hyperventilated behind closed doors and the media wing put its foot on the Better Together gas. Every TV and radio programme I tuned into gleefully informed me that no way (because of José) could poor pathetic Scotland ever join the EU. Breathlessly they moved on to explain that an independent Scotland would face compulsory Euro membership (really strikes me as a tad unlikely that we’ll be outside the EU for all eternity, yet mysteriously using the Euro.) And for the finale – NO-ONE wants ANOTHER divisive referendum on independence! That last one is my favourite, especially when presented by the eternally be-fuddled David Mundell.
Lets just examine the recurring suggestion that Indyref1 was traumatic for all involved. The 2014 referendum has been widely praised as largely good humoured, positive and informative. My experience was that most voters cared, wanted to weigh up the arguments and make a considered choice, I found it to be an engaging and attitude changing experience. Of course there are always angry people, aggressive people, people who behave as though they’ve never been out in public before. But it was ever thus, every side of every argument has trouble makers. No national debate on anything that really matters will be one long round of skipping through fields with bunnies.
Now if you want to talk about divisive, and want to learn a few lessons in how not to conduct a thoughtful conversation….I give you the 2016 EU referendum. Wasn’t that a barrel of laughs? A week before doomsday, there was a “More or Less” programme on Radio 4, it lasted 2 hours, and covered all the EU bases, honestly, we could have washed away the preceding six months of nonsense, had a tea party, listened to “More or Less” and voted. As it was we had a “remain” side performing the old “terrify the voters” routine, and the “leave” side riding the anti immigration wave and lying about money.
In 2014 the Indy movement didn’t shrivel and die, but it did move on and Scottish life chugged on much as before. I appreciate and understand the reasons for voting “No”, there were valid, reasonable arguments on both sides of the spectrum. We all acknowledge that the case for Independence really faltered at the currency hurdle, announcing a currency union with a country which responds “oh yuck, no thanks, find your own currency” isn’t a credible move. But with Brexorama, there is no moving on. Just have a wee look “below the line” on any on-line news article discussing the EU exit, thousands of Brits are relentlessly picking over the Brexit bones. The reason for this sadistic cycle of angst? – the arguments presented for abandoning the EU are leaky as a leaky thing. Yes, yes, there are reasons a plenty for feeling uneasy about the European Union, the refugee crisis, shady trade deals, the Eurozone, but that old ref, wasn’t about any of this and it does nothing to address those concerns. It was about saving money, reducing immigration and re-claiming sovereignty. It’s clear as crystal that we won’t be saving a penny any decade soon, and migrants? Well there seems to be a very belated recognition that our beloved, struggling NHS needs staff from abroad in order to function. Ooh and sovereignty, not much of that happening up here in Scotland, love a bit of sovereignty thanks. Can we have it in the form of independence from Westminster?
This is why Brexitannia is the neverendum, is the debate that will never die, with consequences that will drag on interminably. Scotland has an opportunity to take a different path, there won’t be an immediate transition to greener pastures, we’ll have tough years, but one mega bonus – no more Brexit anxiety. Should we initially follow the EFTA, EEA route I can’t see that provoking the same level of soul searching. I think the first rule of Nationhood should be to find your own tedious source of eternal angst, England has suspicion of the EU, I’m sure there’s some niggle we could needlessly fret over for the next 50 years. And the right wing press in Scotland will need something to whine on about.
I suppose the the referendum lesson is that it’s OK to have a nifty tag line – “take back control” for example, but there needs to be some substance behind this, currency, pensions and the deficit need a thorough, intelligent examination. The Yes movement can’t shy away from admitting some aspects of this are just difficult to quantify. Honesty and debate – good, lying and Eton boys pretending to be populist heroes – backwards and wrong!
I don’t hate Brexit because of an undying love for the EU, I hate it because it’s being imposed upon us in an extreme, uncompromising form. Of course it needn’t have been like this, there is an alternate reality where one of the more sensible Tories is in charge, they tell the Brexit bananas to bog off, commit to full membership of the single market, consult and involve the devolved governments and don’t use EU nationals residing here as leverage. We’re not in that universe, we’re here in the Great Brexit Empire where diplomacy involves Boris Johnson skipping merrily around Europe waffling about prosecco, referencing the 2nd World War and David Davis thinks economics doesn’t involve writing down numbers.
So what I’d like, some-time soon is ANOTHER (hopefully not) divisive referendum! It will be a hard road, there will be debate, confrontation, argument, maybe a bit of shouting, some friendships may wither, there will no doubt be dark, abusive corners online. But we are (mostly) adults, and the alternative is accept we are mute, without influence, our assets a card to be exploited by a narrow cohort of the Tory Party. There are places on Earth where even talking politics amongst friends is a dicey business, in such places divisive referenda are what dreams are made of! We in Scotland are the lucky ones, we are going to be given a choice.
The End! I’ll try and and think of something not in the Brexit bashing arena for next time – not holding out much hope though, article 50 here we…….oh no it’s OK folks Nicola’s got a better idea!