BY JAMIE FOSTER
As ever huffing and puffing to no avail, Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster, opened the SNP conference with a claim that Brexit is a democratic outrage that crystallises the case for independence in Scotland. His claim is based on the fact that Scotland backed Remain in the referendum by a margin of 62 to 38%. He said that the SNP tries to ensure that the Scottish remain vote is respected in negotiations but the Conservative government is in thrall to hardline Brexiteers and doesn’t care about job prospects and living standards in Scotland.
Of course, the SNP’s claim for independence is just a misdirection play these days for their failures in government. We’re all tired of it and them. So are most Scots. If only the Scots had a competent government to replace these one-trick ponies.
The SNP are backing a second ‘people’s’ referendum on EU membership. Mr Blackford thinks an independent Scotland could better manage the resources of Scotland to create a fairer society. It is ironic that a party whose raison d’être is so bound up with referenda dislikes the outcome of the last two major referenda they have participated in and wants to change the outcome. The fact is that Scotland voted on its future and voted convincingly to stay part of the United Kingdom. As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland participated in a referendum on EU membership the result of which was a vote to leave the EU.
It doesn’t matter that there was a majority to remain in Scotland, Scotland wasn’t voting on its own. This is just an excuse for the SNP to return to their theme of independence. Ironically the driver for this talk of independence is a desire not to be independent of the EU. As an independent country Scotland would be a minor state wishing to join the EU. It would have to join the Euro, which would be economically disastrous for it. It would have the standing of a smaller EU member state like Greece, in thrall to Germany and France when it came to real decision making. Scotland is far better off remaining part of the United Kingdom and receiving the benefit of the prosperous future that the UK can have outside of the EU.
The SNP is trying to find a way to remain relevant to the people of Scotland. They are going to try to steer clear of talking about their own achievements in government due to the fact they are few and far between. They will obfuscate this reality by talking about large constitutional issues which they can claim to be the victims of. The real democratic outrage is that a party like the SNP can’t respect the result of either of the two referenda that determined its constitutional position.
As for a second referendum on EU membership the reality is that ship has sailed. A vote was cast and it was cast to leave the EU. There is no democratic integrity in seeking further votes to try to change that position. As Theresa May says the people had a vote and they voted to leave. It seems a little odd that the SNP would really want a second referendum on EU membership. At the moment they can claim to be overlooked by Westminster in all things Brexit. They can say, as they do, that they should be independent so they can make their own mind up on EU membership. If there was a second referendum in which the UK voted to remain in the EU they wouldn’t be able to say any of those things anymore, and their main case for independence would collapse. Surely they are better off demanding a second referendum on Scottish independence as a country that doesn’t want to leave the EU. Herein lies the rub. They wont start calling for a second Scottish Indy ref because they don’t think they can win one. That is why they are calling for a second EU referendum, because they think it could be won.
Behind the shouts that an independent Scotland would be a heaven on earth lies the reality that the SNP know independence is no closer now than it has ever been. This is why they want a situation where neither Scotland nor the UK are independent. As members of the EU they feel there are other forces that can shape their future outside of Westminster. The SNP are happy with a situation where the UK gives away its sovereignty to Brussels because the SNP doesn’t want UK sovereignty anyway.
There will be a number of voices repeating this theme during the SNP conference. Blaming Brexit for the woes in Scotland is just a way of avoiding blame for what has happened during their period in charge. That is why we will hear so much of it should we be bothered to listen.