Since it’s pretty clear the UK Government still has no idea what it’s doing three months after the European Referendum, the MP for Gordon decided to toss a metaphorical firecracker into the public domain:
I would expect Nicola Sturgeon to fulfil her mandate to keep Scotland within the single market place, I would expect her to give Theresa May the opportunity to embed Scotland within the negotiations to enable that to happen.
And I fully expect, my reading of the situation is, the UK will not be flexible or wise enough to do that and therefore I expect there’ll be a Scottish referendum in roughly two years’ time.
You’ll notice that neither the words “pledge” nor “vow” – nor any synonyms thereof – appear in the interview with Russia Today, which the above newspaper quotes itself in the article. All it says is that Mr Salmond expects. It’s a prediction, not a promise. It’s not the first time British Nationalists have read into things that weren’t there.
But curiously absent from most of the papers is Mr Salmond’s reasoning as to why he came to this conclusion.
Mr Salmond has already explained the exact circumstances which led him to believe a second referendum could come so quickly on his LBC show:
George: How soon after Article 50’s posted will Nicola Sturgeon call for a second referendum?
AS: Well, Nicola’s target, the mandate that she’s been given, is to secure Scotland’s position within Europe. And she’ll exhaust every possibility – and to be fair to Theresa May, she’s said she’ll listen to every possibility – but let’s just say, for example, that the only way you can do that, is by Scotland becoming an independent country. Then I think by logic, if that is the situation, then the referendum would have to be held within the period of negotiation. And as you know, we’ve got two years after the trigger of Article 50 to complete the negotiations. And that means the referendum would have to be held within that two year period after Article 50 was invoked.
So, let’s have a look at the possible scenarios that could emerge once the UK Government finally gets its act together:
FM: Can we stay in the EU while being part of the UK?
PM: Of course, we’ll do everything we can to ensure Scotland’s clear mandate while still keeping the UK together.
Result: Scots (possibly NI & Gibraltar) retain EU status, England & Wales leave EU, UK still intact in some form.
FM: Can we stay in the EU while being part of the UK?
PM: I’m afraid not. After all, you voted as part of the UK, remember? Brexit means Brexit, and that means you come with us.
FM: Does it, aye?
One thing the “Scotland didn’t vote to Remain, the UK voted to Leave” crowd tend to forget is this: while Scotland may not be a member state of the EU, the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU. That is what Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government are seeking to preserve. It isn’t about Scotland retaining a membership it never had – it’s about the people of Scotland not wanting to give up what they just voted to retain. (I can already hear the cries of “but they didn’t say anything about European Citizenship on the ballot paper”…)
There are two routes forward, then: either it is possible for Scots to retain their collective EU membership as part of the UK – this could mean the famous Reverse Greenland, the Hong Kong solution, or some as-yet-unexplored avenue which would allow Scotland the status of EU Member State and Constituent Nation of the UK – or it is not. It is obvious that Scots cannot remain EU members within the UK as the UK is now: an extensive, unprecedented restructuring of the UK would be necessary to satisfy all the myriad issues. This would almost certainly include significant new powers being devolved to Scotland far beyond those even promised by the Vow, let alone the pittance delivered. It’s entirely within the realms of possibility on a purely theoretical level – but for this UK Government, or any feasible one?
Do you seriously expect the UK Government to have the ability to organise a satisfactory deal for Scotland when everything they’ve done has only increased support for independence? Do you think they even have the inclination to do so when they attempted to raid our budget for billions, constantly undermine our democracy, and have voted down every single amendment to the new Scotland Bill? The UK Government are, at heart, the very same machine which covered up Scotland’s oil wealth, who decided to stop recording imperial expenditure when Scotland’s contributions became embarrassing; who decided the best way to deal with Glasgow strikes was to roll in the tanks. If they were humble, they wouldn’t overturn Scotland’s mandate; if they were considerate, they would recognise and work to address the democratic deficit; if they were smart, they would acknowledge that independence is not going to go away just because they say it is.
This is why Alex Salmond predicts indyref2 within a much shorter timeframe than I think even he imagined: because the current UK Government is the most inept, corrupt, mendacious, callous, and ineffectual government in decades – and that’s saying something. The UK’s Prime Minister won a leadership contest against a cowardly joke who didn’t even have the gumption to stand, an unmitigated disgrace, a raging hypocrite, a backstabbing schemer, and a compulsive liar – and could prove to be worse than every one of them. Britain’s already shaky international standing has plummeted – not for the Leave vote itself, but for the sheer incompetence of the entire UK establishment in completely failing to prepare for it. The exultant victors and mortified losers each blame the other for the chaos surrounding us, while those most responsible for the vote have scurried away. All the while, the UK’s debt is threatening to block out the sun, the government is studiously ignoring major environmental dangers, and they’re still making a hash of the economy.
In the event Article 50 is invoked without assuring that Scots can retain their EU membership, then the game’s up for the UK. The SNP have been quite clear about this, and they were elected with a mandate greater than any other government in Western Europe. Right now, the FM and the PM are playing a grand game of chicken: will the FM announce indyref2 before Article 50, or will the PM announce Article 50 before indyref2? It’s a game only the FM can win – because while the press are stupidly trying to delay independence even when demographics are against the UK, the PM cannot delay Article 50 indefinitely. The EU’s appointed chief of negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal, Guy Verhofstadt, wants negotiations to be finished before 2019. That means Article 50 cannot be kicked into the long grass, as some suspect – and it means the UK could well be out of the EU before the next UK elections.
Remember that scene in Braveheart? It’s based on the Battle of Stirling Bridge (obviously without the, erm, bridge), which happened 719 years ago last Sunday. It’s a largely fictionalised account of the battle, but there’s one aspect that is quite true to the spirit of the original confrontation – “hold.” In both fictional and historical battles, Surrey’s army made the first move to position themselves ideally, and presumed the Scots would just stand there and let them. Wallace (& Murray) did not yet act: they waited for the enemy to walk into the trap they laid for them. A significant number of the enemy force moved forward: the Scots were eating their hearts out to attack, but Wallace kept them back. It was not until the entire vanguard had crossed the bridge/lowered their lances that Wallace called for the attack. The result: the Scots won that engagement, and with it, the battle. There’s a lesson for modern, bloodless political battlefields there – especially since the UK Government have already begun their canter.
If indyref2 happens in 2018, it will be because the UK Government are too arrogant, too selfish, and too stupid to leave us any other choice. If they weren’t, would we even be talking about indyref2 less than two years after the first? I don’t want to put a date on it. 2020, 2018, next year – whenever it comes, it comes. We’ll be ready.