I seem to be developing a habit of not being in Scotland on the indyref anniversary – I’ve been in Denmark for the last two years, the year before that I was in Ireland, and in 2017 I was in the Netherlands.
It’s not fully deliberate, but on the other hand it’s emotionally draining to be in Scotland on 18th September – it could have been the best day ever, but instead it’s now associated with a majority of Scots being so feart that they handed back their sovereignty to Westminster after the first day in over 300 years when they were in charge of their own future.
I’ve seen quite a few comments on social media today saying something along the lines of “2014 was a dry run – next time it’s for real, and the wait is nearly over”. If Scotland had something like the Good Friday Agreement, specifying the conditions for holding a reunification referendum, and explicit stating that these can be as little as seven years apart, I would wholeheartedly agree. (Apart from the risk that the Tories get so fond of breaking international treaties that they rip up the GFA, too, of course.) It’s completely clear that too many Scots had never seriously contemplated independence till the last couple of months before the referendum, and that was too little time to make enough people change their minds.
As readers of this blog will be aware, I’m extremely anxious that there’ll never be another 2014 – that they’ll never offer us an agreed, undisputed and fair referendum again, so that we’ll have to either go for a solution that doesn’t come with Westminster’s blessing, or accept they’re attaching some dodgy strings to their Section 30 Order, such as changing the electorate or requiring a two-thirds majority.
I hope I’m wrong. Nobody will be happier than me if it turns out that Nicola Sturgeon was right all along, and the Tories either give in or get swept away by a referendum-supporting Labour party in 2026.
Time is of the essence, though – a law-breaking, deregulating Tory party that is keen on rolling back devolution can do an enormous amount of harm, even if they only stay in power till 2026. (And if I’m right that the UK Internal Market Bill can be used as an Enabling Act, I fear there won’t be a fair election that year.) So we shouldn’t just stare them out – we have to put an enormous amount of pressure on them to make them give in.
Perhaps complacency is our greatest enemy – believing that the UK is fundamentally a fair place that will not rule Scotland against the wishes of a clear majority of Scots for very long. What if fair play has been abolished?