Rising to the Unionist Challenge

The last few days have been a remarkable display of kack-handedness, arrogance and sheer stupidity on the part of Unionist politicians.  Attempting to seize the initiative on the Scottish Independence Referendum, Cameron set out a range of parameters under which he was prepared to consider allowing the kind of question that he liked, at a time of his choosing, considering that we should be grateful for his benevolence of considering us worthy to be asked such a stupid question.

“It’s very unfair on the Scottish people themselves, who don’t really know when this question is going to be asked, what the question is going to be, who’s responsible for asking it. We owe the Scottish people something that is fair, legal and decisive. So in the coming days we’ll be setting out clearly what the legal situation is…”

The sound of jocular laughter could be heard all the way from Dumfries to Orkney.  It is clear that the Tories haven’t noticed but with the Scottish Parliament and an alternative authority in Scotland we can no longer be treated as a colonial outpost, its governance to be tagged on as an afterthought at the end of a sporting arena walkabout in the Imperial Capital.  What Cameron really owes us is reparations for the oil money that has been snaffled through the past 30 years, the return of the coastline which was stolen from us in 1999 and a full independent investigation into the death of Willie McRae.

They then wheeled out Michael Forsyth to lead the campaign.  A man who presided over Scotland with the contemptuous air of a colonial governor and used the Scots as lab-rats for the Poll Tax – introduced in Scotland a year earlier than England.  A more insensitive choice of spokesperson could barely be found – a tangible example of how the Tories fundamentally don’t understand Scotland and should be let know where near the place.  I mean what next?  Iain Paisley drafted in to thump the table and announce “Scotland says NO“?  Norman Tebbit announcing independence will lead to border guards on the cycling lanes?  A wild-eyed madwoman dragged out to announce that she is not negotiating the sovereignty of Scotland with anyone?

This whole thing has been so badly handled its as if the Unionists know something we don’t.  Have they secretly been burying nuclear waste the length and breadth of  Scotland in anticipation of the schism and are planning to build a lead version of Hadrian’s wall just as soon as they get rid of us?

Eventually a modicum of  coherence was injected into the unionist agenda by Michael Moore, who actually came across as if he knew what he was talking about.  Unfortunately for him, Alex Salmond – a master of the art of statecraft – was busy announcing the timing of the referendum to an assembled awestruck press-pack.

Part of the challenge thrown down by the UK Government was a two option referendum.  Independence or nothing.  Here, for possibly the first time ever, I am entirely in agreement with the Unionists.  Devolution-max  – or unionism-lite – gives us no control over the position of Scotland in relation to the world, and one of the strongest reasons for the breakup of the UK is that internationally the UK is a rogue state.  No matter how devolved, a Scotland which is still part of the Union will always be at the beck and call of Westminster and will lend legitimacy to its international bullying.

It is for the forces for Independence to rise to the challenge, we owe it to ourselves to have confidence in our ability to govern, to hold our place in the world and to build fraternal relations with the post-UK on an equal basis.   A three option referendum leads to all kinds of difficulties – some will vote for unionism-lite on the basis that it is the best we are going to get; some as a compromise position through self-doubt and lack of confidence; some through a desire to hold onto the union in the face of the independence movement’s rapidly gaining pace.

The campaign for independence then becomes fractured, with a pragmatic position being taken by some independence supporters, allowing the unionists to paint the desire for independence as ridiculous extremism and making a fall back position available for the unionists, giving them an opportunity to split the independence movement.    The threat to use the courts to undermine Salmond’s referendum call, may well be a portend of things to come, with UK law used to undermine self-determination in the event that we still find ourselves hitched.

Should we end up with unionism-lite, we may find ourselves tied into the union for generations.   Twice Scotland has been offered Independence, and twice they have rejected it will run the narrative – no need to ask again.   The independence movement must have confidence in itself and in the Scottish people.   A clear choice is required: Scottish Independence or the Union.

First posted on Bella Caledonia on 13th January 2012

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