Let me just get this out of the way. Brexit was probably quite feasible. It was almost certainly possible for the UK to leave the EU with minimum cost and disruption. At a guess, I’d say a successful project to effect a reasonably smooth divorce would have required two years just to prepare for a referendum, and at least five years of preparation prior to invoking Article 50. So, a decade. If a decision had been taken in 2007/8, we’d be almost there by now.
The exercise would also have demanded the commitment of some extraordinarily capable politicians and diplomats backed by a substantial network of highly qualified civil servants, specialist lawyers and trained negotiators. Simply constructing the roadmap to Brexit would need a massive effort. Developing an adequate understanding of exactly what was involved could take months of work.
All of this would depend on competent leadership. Perhaps even ‘strong and stable’ leadership. The kind of leadership that brings together all the strands of such a major undertaking – guiding, motivating and, where necessary, commanding. The kind of leadership which engages the public and earns the respect of other national leaders. The kind of leadership which wins for those who exhibit it the accolade of ‘statesman’.
It could all have been very different.
Instead of making proper preparations, the British political elite stumbled into the Brexit process with all the panache of Boris Johnson on a zip-wire. It is daily more evident that nobody in the Leave camp had a clue what was involved in taking the UK out of the EU. Nobody had thought it through. Nobody understood the implications. Nobody foresaw the problems. Nobody considered the consequences. There never was a plan. Its not even clear that anybody saw the need for a plan.
There may be some competent and capable people working behind the scenes. I have considerable, if somewhat grudging, respect for the British Civil Service. By and large, they are a very professional lot. Whether or not we approve of what they are instructed to do by their political masters, we must allow that they tend to do it with a certain quiet efficiency.
Lions they may be – at least within the context of their trade. But they are lions led by lobotomised donkeys.
The dumb, bungling, bumbling ineptitude and clumsy, cack-handed incompetence of the British political elite defies description. The best thesaurus buckles under the strain of trying to capture in words the woeful inadequacy and wretched vacuousness of them. Miserable! Deplorable! Execrable! And that’s before we get to the bumptious, self-satisfied arrogance and the barging, bullying presumption. Or the demented, deluded detachment from reality.
Never, I venture, in its entire squalid and suspiciously stained history has the Westminster system deposited on the pavement of our politics a more abominable, damnable, detestable example of its product than the current British regime.
Given the foregoing, it is gratifying to find Scottish Ministers, such as Mike Russell, taking a stand against that odious regime. They are, after all, our elected representatives. They have a mandate from the people of Scotland. They speak for Scotland. They would be derelict in their duty did they not denounce the reckless rabble in charge of the Brexit shambles.
Bear in mind that we voted against this. Enough people in Scotland were sufficiently suspicious of the Leave campaign in the EU referendum to produce a 62% Remain vote; against the 38% who didn’t pick up on the clues to impending catastrophe – like the presence of Nigel Farage. That’s the vote which matters to Scottish politicians. That is the verdict of the Scottish people. That is the choice the Scottish Government must seek to honour.
Of course, Scotland is still strapped to the millstone of the British state. Which means that the Scottish Government is obliged to accommodate the UK-wide Leave vote. And nobody can sensibly claim that they haven’t tried. But it’s all one way. Being part of the UK means that the democratic will of Scotland’s people is treated with total contempt. There is no attempt at accommodation or compromise on the part of the British government. Quite the contrary. They deal with Scotland’s difference by first disregarding it and then seeking to suppress it.
The whole Brexit fiasco nicely illustrates the way the Union works against Scotland. It is the relationship between Scotland and the British state in microcosm. Just as Scotland’s different choice regarding the EU is ignored and then condemned as a threat, so the distinctiveness of Scotland’s culture is being denied, decried and denigrated. Just as with the difference in regard to the EU, the next stage in the process is an attempt to eliminate the distinctiveness.
We’ve heard David Mundell speak ominously of “UK-wide common frameworks”. We’ve heard David Lidington state threateningly that “discrepancies” cannot be allowed. The message could not be clearer. Difference will not be tolerated by the British state. A common framework will be imposed regardless of the wishes of Scotland’s people. Scotland’s distinctive political culture will be eradicated in favour of a homogenised ‘One Nation’ British state.
The hope of a better, fairer more prosperous society shaped by the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people is to be extinguished.
This is what Mike Russell is standing against. It is not just a fight to protect Scotland from the most dire consequences of the Brexit debacle. It is a fight to protect Scotland’s vital public services from the worst excesses of a British ruling elite wedded to neo-liberal orthodoxy and consumed by austerity fetishism.
It is a fight to defend Scotland’s democratic institutions and processes against the dread onslaught of a vile British Nationalist ideology.
All who wish Scotland well should stand with Mike Russell and his colleagues. It’s our Government, our Parliament, our democracy. We must defend all of it.
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.