Judging by the first 24 hours, we’re in for a two-year festival of utter horror from the UK and Scottish media. Yesterday saw a never-ending parade of metrosplaining idiots dragged willingly in front of cameras and microphones to pontificate their clueless and mind-numbingly ignorant drivel about Scotland.
It wasn’t possible to keep track of it all, because it was frequently happening on five channels at once, and it was harder still to watch it for any extended period of time without hurling a brick through the screen in frustration at the offensive stupidity of it.
Feeding into that was a stream of Scottish politicians who actually did know better, but who are too catastrophically dim to adapt to changing circumstances and had no strategy other than to endlessly repeat the same cretinous soundbites over and over.
(Adam Tomkins in particular was ubiquitous, spending what felt like several hours on various airwaves reciting the same brainless 10-second schtick forever.)
The constitutional politics of the UK and Scotland are in flux, and many aspects of the situation are complicated. But quite a lot of them aren’t, and if we’re all going to make it through the next two years without stabbing each other in the throat, it’d be a lot better if everyone accepted the things that are definite, empirical, indisputable facts.
FACT 1: THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL CONFLICT REQUIRING RESOLUTION
Scotland voted to stay in the UK in 2014, and it also voted to stay in the EU in 2016. It cannot have both of those things. They are, unavoidably, mutually exclusive.
That conflict has to be resolved, and the only remotely credible way to do it is to have another referendum in which those two options are presented clearly and honestly and the electorate choose which one they prefer.
It is clearly not acceptable to say “But Scotland voted No in 2014 so it has to do whatever the UK says now!” when that No vote was secured on an absolutely explicit promise that it meant staying in the EU, when we now know it means the opposite.
A victory won on a demonstrable fraud, as Lance Armstrong would unhappily attest, is void. You can’t say “I suckered you, but it’s done now so you have no comeback, ha ha!” and expect to be treated with any dignity and respect. (Unless you’re “Rangers”, of course, but let’s not get into THAT can of worms again right now.)
FACT 2: SCOTLAND IS DIVIDED OVER HAVING A SECOND REFERENDUM
The line repeated ad nauseum by every Unionist yesterday was “the vast majority of Scots have told us in poll after poll that they don’t want another referendum”.
This is self-evident drivel, based on selectively and semantically torturing poll data far beyond the point of endurance. It is plainly absurd to assert that roughly half of Scots want independence – which is what every poll has shown for three years – yet that they DON’T want the opportunity to vote for it.
An eight-year-old child would laugh in the face of anyone making such a proposition.
It is equally true that half of Scots don’t want a referendum. But the other half are only divided over the precise timing, ie whether they want it to happen in 18 months or a couple of years. To try to pretend with a straight face that “I want a referendum in two years” really means “I don’t want a referendum” is starkly imbecilic.
Public opinion is pretty evenly split, and only a liar would try to tell you otherwise.
FACT 3: THE ISSUE OF A MANDATE HAS BEEN SETTLED
However, as it happens the opinion of the public in this matter at this point in time is irrelevant, because the public has already made that decision, in May 2016.
So all-consuming is the panicked insanity of the Unionists that Willie Rennie and Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Liberal Democrats felt able to go on TV and radio at the weekend insisting that the SNP hadn’t won an election in which they secured a landslide bigger than any achieved by Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair.
It’s alarming that professional politicians apparently fail to understand the most basic principles of Scottish and British democracy. In both Westminster and Holyrood we have representative parliaments, not delegative ones. Any policy for which a majority of votes can be assembled is a legitimate one.
(Don’t want to take our word for that? Ask Ruth Davidson.)
Besides the practical legalities it carries additional moral weight if it was expressly detailed in the governing party’s manifesto, and that’s quite undeniably the case with a second referendum. The SNP’s 2016 manifesto spelled out in the most unambiguous terms possible what would constitute the trigger for one:
In the full advance knowledge of that policy, the electorate delivered the SNP back to power with a larger vote share than the next two parties put together, and the scenario duly unfolded. In a Parliament which was specifically designed to prevent majorities, the government will nevertheless be able to assemble enough votes to pass a second referendum bill, and the result of that vote becomes the de facto will of the people.
Democratically, that’s the end of the matter. That’s how Parliament works, that’s how things are decided. There is absolutely no requirement for one party to get 50% of the popular vote, nor for it to win a Parliamentary majority on its own. If you don’t like the rules, either start a revolution or suck it up.
FACT 4: A POST-BREXIT REFERENDUM IS THE SAME AS A BLOCKED ONE
A few of the marginally less demented Unionist pundits (such as Alex Massie and Hugo Rifkind) are beginning to coalesce hesitantly around the idea that while Theresa May cannot defensibly flat-out refuse a second referendum, she could grant one under the condition that it was delayed until after the UK had left the EU.
This, however, is like allowing a condemned man an appeal against his sentence, on the condition that it was only held after he had been executed.
Scotland being forced out of the EU against its will is the entire justification for a second referendum. The sole purpose of the referendum is to give the Scottish people the chance to escape that fate. A delayed referendum obviously fails in that purpose, and is therefore not fit for that purpose. It is a non-credible option.
It would be a better world for everyone if the debate from this point on was founded on mutual acceptance of these four unarguable facts. We’re not building our hopes up.