Irrevocably and Forever

“Irrevocably and Forever” is a curiously emphatic phrase which turns up in otherwise dry legalese. United States law not only waives “the performance and discharge of any and all obligations and restrictions” in the cases of amendments to bylaws, but does so “irrevocably and forever.” On 25th November 1802, Count Ferenc Széchényi donated his collections “for the use and benefit of my dear homeland and people, irrevocably and forever.” The phrase crops up in all sorts of discussions, from secession to forbearance agreements to international treaties.

Forever is a long time for something to be considered irrevocable, and according to the European Union Court of Justice, Article 50 is not something which can be issued “irrevocably and forever.” It is, it seems, something which can be withdrawn by the United Kingdom, should it wish to do so between now and the 29th of March next year.

So the question becomes not if the UK can do it, but if the UK will do it.

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Desperate to be Proven Wrong

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.

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The Metastasis of Debate

There are some subjects I can discuss without fear or reservation. Scottish Independence is an obvious example. Nuclear disarmament another. Pacifism – as in real pacifism, not the pathetic “passivismstrawman beloved of warmongers with vested interests in presenting their insane idealogy as the natural state of affairs. Expressing these views has lead to disagreement, ostracism, even abuse over the years. Yet it wouldn’t even occur to me to keep those views to myself. Bravery doesn’t enter into it: to be brave, you have to overcome fear. I don’t have any fear discussing these subjects, so I can’t call myself brave in doing so.

I don’t know the mind of the First Minister of Scots, but were I in her place, I would view her repudiation of Steve Bannon and everything he stands for not as bravery, but as simple common sense.

The responses to the First Minister’s decision prove it.

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Except for Voters in Scotland

Let me be clear: nobody, not me, not anyone, is expecting the SNP to give up on independence. That is what it believes in and it is a perfectly honourable position to take.
Ruth Davidson, before then demanding the SNP give up on independence

Democracy is not just about one vote once every five years or one vote once on a particular issue causing all argument on that matter to be considered legitimately shut down. That is not the way democracy works. Democracy is a dynamic concept. People who are on the losing side are not obliged to accept that their view has been lost for ever and they are perfectly entitled to continue to argue for it.
John Bercow

The people of Scotland should not have a second referendum on independence. But the people of the UK should have a second referendum on leaving the European Union. This is because we won the first referendum, and lost the second one.
– if pro-EU anti-Indy people were honest

“NOT YOU, SCOTLAND. *SKRONK*”

Since we really should be collecting all these, I thought I’d gather the ones I’ve come across.

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Who Decides?

Our membership of the European Union is a decision we take as the United Kingdom, and that’s why, in the referendum, every vote counts the same. We don’t count them in constituencies, we don’t count them in districts, every vote’s the same whether it’s in Stornoway or St. Ives. It’s a decision for all the people of the United Kingdom, and we should take it on the merits of the European Union Debate.
Liam Fox

I grappled with this question when I was Environment Secretary. I would talk to my opposite number, Richard Lochhead, and he would sometimes come to Brussels and we would discuss the matter in question beforehand. However, the position always was, and remains to this day, that it is the United Kingdom as one country that is negotiating.
Hilary Benn

We must leave the EU as one country not just because it preserves the Union but because it is the best option for jobs, businesses and trade across the UK.
Stephen Kerr

So did London vote to Remain but that is irrelevant as it was a national UK decision in which the majority voted for Brexit
Lord John Kilcoony

We voted in the referendum as one country, and we need to respect it as one country.
Dominic Raab

We entered the EU as one country and we will leave as one country, whatever the European Commission might desire.
Jacob Rees-Mogg

That is a very good point, we voted as one country.
Kwasi Kwarteng

It is important that we now move forward together as one country, very clear in what we want to see in our future relationship with the European Union, and that we go into the negotiations with that confidence.
Theresa May

“The UK voted as one county, the UK will leave as one country.”

This is a common refrain we hear – usually, but not exclusively, from those advocating to leave – when one brings up the fact that no less than two of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom voted to remain. This is simply because the huge population difference between England and the other three means that even a mere 53% vote in favour of leaving in one nation completely overruled the 55% and 62% votes in favour of remaining in the other two.

But who, exactly, decided that this should be the case?

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Britain Is England Plus Three

“We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like. I mean they have a lot of great product. They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names – you can say England, you can say UK, you can say United Kingdom, Great Britain. I always say, “Which one do you prefer? Great Britain?”‘
‘You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?’
‘Right, yeah. You know I know.’
– The 45th president of the United States of America in conversation with a disgraced ex-editor, in a week where people fell over themselves to correct the White House’s Twitter account

So… aye. That happened.

I didn’t attend any of the protests, because I was invited to a recording of “Any Questions” on BBCR4 (long story, more on that in a future post). I’m fiercely ambivalent on the subject of Trump protests. On the one hand, I certainly agree that humourous, peaceful, but sincere protest of the sort we saw across the nations today is good for democratic expression: it’s much better flying silly balloons, hoisting funny placards, and singing comic songs than engaging in the more unpleasant, dangerous, and counter-productive type of protest. On the other hand, I’m reminded of Cyrus Stuart Ching’s response to a particularly belligerent questioner:

A man in the audience began heckling him with a long series of nasty and irrelevant questions. For a while Ching answered patiently. Finally he held up his big paw and waggled it gently.

“My friend,” he said, “I’m not going to answer any more of your questions. I hope you won’t take this personally, but I am reminded of something my old uncle told me, long ago, back on the farm. He said. ‘What’s the sense of wrestling with a pig? You both get all over muddy… and the pig likes it.’”

The current president – or, rather, the machine which placed him there – thrives on anger and outrage and dissent. The narcissist doesn’t care what you say or think about them, only that you do talk and think about them. And the UK media are talking about them a great deal, to the point they have dominated the news for days – and believe me, the irony of me talking about them too is not lost. I’m gritting my teeth as I type this.

But here’s the thing: we aren’t being given the choice to not talk about them, because our state media won’t shut up about them. Through our state broadcaster, they are invading our people’s homes, making that connection to the disaffected, the dispossessed, the disadvantaged – and making new recruits for the supranational cause they serve. We cannot simply ignore them until they go away, because too many people are pumping the great balloon with the oxygen of publicity – supporters, neutrals, and opponents alike.

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The Opposites of Traitors

The logic of scorpions extends to many a party.

Mind how I say the Opposition Party are not traitors? Neither are the UK Government party – if anything, they’re the opposite of traitors. They may talk about how proud they are to be Scots – and they do, at length. They may claim they put their constituents’ interests first and foremost – and they do make such claims. But they are members of a party which is dedicated to the perpetuation of their chosen state. Their state is the United Kingdom. They can never work with the cause of independence, for it represents nothing short of an existential threat to them. Keep this in mind, next time you see some pundit acting surprised that a member of the UK Government’s party voted with the UK Government, even if they are Scottish. “Scottish” doesn’t enter into it. Scotland doesn’t enter into it. It never did.

I’ve had a look through the maiden speeches of all 12 new MPs who, we were told, would vote as a bloc for “Scotland’s interests.

Scottish Tories expected to vote as bloc to protect Scotland’s interests
Sources say leader Ruth Davidson will tell MPs to champion Scotland in Westminster, adding to pressure on Theresa May

…Scottish Tory sources say Davidson will use her authority by asking all 13 MPs, including the Scottish secretary, David Mundell, to “champion the Scottish national interest” both at Westminster and inside the government.

That includes fighting for greater Scottish powers and spending on fisheries and agriculture during and after the Brexit negotiations, to reinforce Holyrood’s existing powers in both areas under devolution.
She is also expected to ask the UK government to fund the Borderlands initiative, a cross-border economic and infrastructure investment coalition of English and Scottish local authorities which UK ministers had promised to support. The Scottish Tories won all three Borders seats on Thursday.

See if you can square their honeyed words with what happened last night. I would simply love to know how they think they are representing the interests of their constituents by denying their Scottish Parliament the right to even have a fair say in the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

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