The next union campaign is not going to be pretty.
This is a battle that the Tories really do not want to fight and the tone of their campaign will be tetchy, belligerent and aggressive. There certainly will be no ‘love bombing’ and inclusive ‘vows’ next time round. There will only be threats and the starkest of warnings. Their membership and MPs grow tired of ‘pandering’ to Scotland and the next campaign will therefore be a ‘no more Mr nice guy’ full frontal type affair.
Look at their tone since the Brexit vote. Scotland simply has to fall in line with what they determine for us because that is the ‘UK position’ and that should therefore be good enough for us. For the Tories Scotland’s interests increasingly mirror the UK’s and no differentiated arrangement will be tolerated.
This no accommodation or pandering will similarly inform the next independence referendum. The Tories approach to Scotland has increasingly been more of overlord than partner and that is how they will fight the next referendum campaign. Unencumbered from Labour influence the next union campaign will feel very much like a brutal Tory election campaign. ‘Family of nations’ will be more like behave like the grateful smaller sibling, or else….
And boy, will that junior sibling be in for it if it dares think about leaving the roost! The Tories without subtlety, and in the most dramatic terms, will warn of impeding impoverishment if we become independent. The days of old fashioned 2014 scaremongering will seem like distant halcyon days of considered debate. Dispensing with reason it will just be one impending catastrophe after another.
The Tories are sincerely weary of fighting this all over again and there will be a bit of ‘scorched earth’ put in place in what will be seen as the final settling of this debate. So threats will be raised about our devolved Parliament being curtailed. For so many Tories Holyrood is the beachhead for further constitutional wrangling and is therefore ripe for diminishing. Notice the emphasis on UK institutions and a reluctance to be clear about devolving powers not listed in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act
The invention of a ‘UK single market’ is also a stark warning that somehow, whatever it is they’re taking about, it will be closed to us if we become independent. Forget about the fact that the rest of the UK, Brexitised and isolated, will be desperate for a deal with anybody who will accommodate them. Expect to hear about this ‘UK single market’ to almost ad nauseam.
Because it will be Tory led the next campaign will also be much more ‘British’ nationalist than last time. There won’t be the ambivalence and discomfort that the last Labour led campaign had about British symbols. The Tories are true believers in the myths of the UK state and those ‘virtues’ will be punted for all their worth. Brexit has necessitated a review and promotion of British values and and this will be similarly deployed in a referendum campaign.
But more than anything the union case will be economic. We are about to learn all over again just how worthless they think we are and how singularly and uniquely incapable we apparently are of running our own affairs.
Just now they are caught in the bind about whether they will grant a further referendum. All their instincts are screaming ‘give them nothing’ but they are petrified of ruling one out because of the impact that will have on independence support.
So in the background the plans are being laid to fight a further referendum because they know that they must. Approaches are being tested and outriders are being dispatched to test the mood and see how much they can get away with.
If you thought that the union case in 2014 was a brutal scaremongering fest. Just wait till you see the next one….