As Brexit approaches its inevitable disastrous endgame the calls for a People’s Vote grows more strident. Reinforced by 700,000 people marching through the streets of London, the SNP will apparently support any second vote in the House of Commons It now seems there is an irresistible momentum towards a second EU referendum and together we will halt their Brexit.
Only I have big concerns about supporting a second Brexit vote and I am particularly anxious about supporting such a vote without any guarantees that our choice in Scotland will be respected next time round. In the last vote Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU only to be totally ignored, with our national view contemptuously dismissed. Every attempt to broker an outcome acknowledging how Scotland voted was rejected and any position to try and minimise the impact of Brexit in Remain-supporting Scotland binned before the ink was even dry. Now we are to offer unconditional support for another referendum which could produce the same result and conditions throughout the UK once again.
No-one from the People’s Vote campaign has attempted to answer the question, which is: What if Scotland votes to remain (which it will) and the UK as a whole votes to leave again (which it might)? They won’t answer because, for them, it is a UK vote and the outcome in Scotland is irrelevant and just the same as the outcome in any other part of the UK. They simply do not acknowledge that we as a nation have our own national view and national interest.
To say that we will sign up to a referendum without any guarantee that our Scottish national voice will be at least acknowledged is little more than an open invitation to have our national view ignored and disrespected all over again. We are simply inviting all the indignities we are currently enduring to be replicated and refreshed.
Then there is precedent. There is now a view amongst the politicians leading the People’s Vote campaign that all big constitutional referendums should now have a “confirmatory” second vote. The politician with perhaps the highest profile in the People’s Vote campaign, Vince Cable, has explicitly said that a confirmatory vote would be required on a successful independence referendum. By enthusiastically buying into this confirmatory vote for an EU referendum, we weaken our hand in resisting Unionist calls for a second vote on a successful indyref. You can just imagine the Unionist chorus: “You were all for a second confirmatory vote on the EU but not one for independence.”
And if they were successful in using this precedent against us, unreconciled Unionists would be working non-stop from the day after the referendum to ensure that a successful outcome would be overturned. Every apparatus of state would be deployed and they would ensure that the worst possible “deal” would be offered to the Scottish people in the hope that their Union could be rescued.
But in saying all this Scotland would want the UK in the EU. The most seamless transition to independence would be with a common customs union whilst being part of the EU single market with the rest of the UK. With the UK out of the EU, borders will become the totemic scaremongering feature of a future referendum campaign. One can only imagine the relish a Unionist campaign will have in insisting the Scottish people will have a hard border and no common travel area with the rest of the UK. Having the UK in the EU is in the interests of Scottish independence.
We want Brexit reversed and I hope that somehow it can still be stopped. But the second vote advocates have to come a couple of steps towards us and at least acknowledge that the UK is a Union of nations each with its own national view on the EU. But they won’t. Beyond the Unionist politicians who lead the campaign there are the celebrities like Bob Geldof and Dan Snow, people who couldn’t be more strident in their opposition to independence. To throw our weight behind their People’s Vote without any guarantees or recognition of our national position is like throwing the dice on someone else’s roulette wheel.
Realistically, though, It is very unlikely to be realised. We will be out of the EU in less than six months and there is just not the political capacity to win a second vote. The few Tories likely to vote in favour will be swamped by the number of Labour MPs who believe that the “result must be respected” even if the Labour front bench could be tempted to support it. We could be presenting all sorts of risks to a future independence referendum for nothing.
The only thing likely to stop Brexit is the contradictions of its own incompetent impracticality and we should never stop pointing out the disaster that is coming our way in the vain hope that it can be stopped. There is a sense that the campaign for a second vote is over before it has really begun. The key choice that is facing Scotland is do we want to be part of a UK out of the EU with all the disastrous consequences or do we want to determine our own relationship with the EU as an independent nation?