Ever since the wee hours of the 19th of September 2014, I’ve been desperate to be proven wrong on some things.
After a few weeks of recovery, I attended The Big Debate at the Beacon in Greenock in the later months of 2014. Stuart McMillan, then-MP Iain McKenzie, and Mona Siddiqui were present. When discussion of the Smith Commission came up, Ms Siddiqui warned us that we shouldn’t “go into something expecting to be betrayed,” that we should have good faith that the parties of Westminster would listen to Scotland. I knew then that we shouldn’t, because how many times has Lucy snatched away Charlie Brown’s football before now?
All through the referendum campaign, I didn’t think about what would happen with a No vote. Then I had to deal with what happened, and all the things that were lurking the back of my mind came flooding out. And in every single case, I was desperate to be wrong.
I feared that Scotland’s MPs would be marginalised & sidelined in an emboldened new Westminster: one of the first acts of the 2015 UK Government was to enact English Votes for English laws, turning Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish MPs into second-class Parliamentarians in what’s supposed to be the whole UK’s Parliament. I feared that the “faster, better change” that was promised would be discarded as soon as the UK’s victory was assured: the 2015 UK Government (and in many situations, the other two major UK parties) voted down every single amendment to the Scotland Bill proposed by the largest party of Scotland. I feared that we would see not an expansion, but a curbing of Scotland’s voice at Westminster: the proposed alterations to constituency guidelines will further reduce the number of Scottish MPs.
I feared that the Barnett Formula, the compensation Scotland receives for giving all its money to the UK Treasury, would be in jeopardy. I feared that Scotland’s membership of the European Union would be at stake for the simple reason that English votes would outweigh Scottish votes, and that the “Family of Nations” and “Union of Equals” cant extolled in 2014 would be jettisoned, showing the Phoney Union for what it is. I feared that, in the event of an EU exit, Scotland’s voice would be utterly silenced.
People might think I wanted to be proven right. You think I want to see Scotland’s democratically elected members of Parliament scolded, browbeaten, laughed at, ridiculed, disrespected, and ejected – regardless of their party? You think I’m happy the will of the people of Scotland ignored, rejected, denied? You think I enjoy seeing vote after vote after vote against the promises made to us after everything that’s happened? Unlike the voting population of England, I’m not a masochist. I don’t enjoy seeing my dreams trampled. I don’t vote for parties who want to steal our wealth, our resources, our people’s futures, for a few baubles to keep us superficially contented. Yet here we are. Being proven wrong would mean that Scotland’s voice is respected, that Scotland’s people do get at least a portion of what they vote for, that’s Scotland’s interests are considered – and who in Scotland doesn’t want that?
I even want to be proven wrong on the one thing that might save the UK – a People’s Vote. Let’s imagine, against all likelihood, that a second EU Referendum comes to pass. I want it to redress the wrongs of the first referendum: a franchise that includes those who will be most affected by the decision; a bill which acknowledges the nationhood of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and of Gibraltar; a process which confronts the sickness at the heart of our democratic institutions; a campaign which rejects the hatred and cruelty of the 2016 campaign in favour of one widely recognised as the “gold standard”; finally, a result which would acknowledge the wishes of the minority and attempt, at the very least, to find common ground, rather than impose the majority’s extreme fringe. I want that – I just know, after everything that’s happened, it’s not what we’re going to get. Too much ground has been lost to the Dark Forces which brought us here, and a People’s Vote – even if it results in Remain – will still be tainted by those forces’ inequity, because it’s clear that the forces driving a People’s Vote aren’t interested in all that.
The anti-EU party got what they wanted, and they barely had to fight for it. So, what’s left?
Oh, right. The little matter of the Scottish Parliament.
No matter how loudly you proclaim that the anti-EU party are “finished,” that election failure after election failure has rendered them irrelevant, you cannot escape the reality that they are winning. They won the opportunity for a referendum despite only winning a single seat in the UK Parliament. They won that referendum despite the vast majority of Parliamentarians being against them. And they’re winning the type of conditions for leaving the EU that they’d only dreamed of despite only winning 52% of a gerrymandered, fraudulent, possibly even illegal plebiscite. The UK Government has eagerly indulged them on everything. The UK Opposition Party has, to its irrevocable shame, been no slower to chase their votes. What does it matter that they have a handful of MPs, AMs, and zero MSPs, when they can so easily alter the course of the future through the bigger parties?
It isn’t difficult to see the direction of travel.
In Scotland, we have two Governments, sadly, and the contrast could not be starker.
– Andrew Bowie MP
I want to be proven wrong, because I don’t want to see the things I feared would happen come to fruition.
But there’s one thing I want to be proven right on. I am confident that there will be a Referendum on Scottish Independence within this Scottish Parliament’s lifetime, because everything I’ve seen and experienced tells me so. I think this because of everything else that I wanted to be proven wrong about – about the Smith Commission, about the aftermath of the 2015 General Election, about the EU Referendum itself – and had to bite my tongue every time tried to allay my fears.
“Of course the UK Parties will deliver on their promises to deliver Devomax/Near-Federalism/Home Rule for Scotland.”
“Of course David Cameron won’t be the Prime Minister after 2015.”
“Of course the UK won’t vote to leave the EU.”
“Of course leaving the EU doesn’t mean leaving the Single Market.”
“Of course the Scottish MPs of UK parties will stand up for Scotland.”
“Of course the UK won’t leave the EU without a deal.”
“Of course the UK won’t make moves to steal Scotland’s powers, much less roll back devolution, and certainly not abolish the Scottish Parliament.”
Every time I heard that. But I have hope – because the only think more foolish to me than believing any of those things, is believing that the Scottish Government will just let this happen without a fight.
Cast your mind back to the morning of the 25th June 2016. The day when everyone was running around like headless chickens. Winners and losers alike were completely flummoxed. Nobody knew what was happening. All the leaders of the UK were panicking, bewildered, helpless to act.
This comes from a Conservative leave MP who I think will be backing Boris Johnson in the leadership contest. He told me this. I said to him “so where’s the plan, can we see the Brexit plan now?”
“There is no plan. The Leave campaign don’t have a post-Brexit plan.” And he was pointing over there to where the Vote Leave HQ was, and then he pointed over there and he said “No. 10 should have had a plan.”
Now, it sounds like I’m making that up. That literally happened two hours ago.
– Faisal Islam, 25th June 2016
All except one.
So – and I’ve said this before – the person with the most thought through plan as evidenced by the last 48 hours is, astonishingly, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland.
– Faisal Islam, 25th June 2016
The First Minister of Scots knew exactly what to do at a time when every other UK leader utterly abdicated any sense of responsibility, control, or leadership. When the atmosphere of chaos and confusion rises again – to a far greater and more terrible degree – we’ve seen how the UK leaders react, and how the First Minister of Scots reacts. As planes are grounded, trade collapses, medicine runs short, power fails, anarchy spreads, violence erupts, fascism looms, and other terrible things which were predicted long ago come to pass, can we expect the UK’s “leaders” in Westminster to grasp the thistle and prove themselves worthy of the UK’s trust? Or do we finally see that, after everything that’s happened, there’s only one way for the people of Scotland to have any control over what happens?
I’d love to be proven wrong on the UK leaving the EU. But I don’t think I will be, as evidenced by not only the last two years, but the decades of living as part of the United Kingdom. And if that’s the case, I do hope I’m right about the First Minister, the Scottish Government, and – most of all – the people of Scotland.