Everybody seems to be delighted by the Scottish Government’s legislative programme, which Nicola Sturgeon announced today. I’m not happy, though.
It’s not that I’m against much in the programme itself. It’s actually full of great ideas, such as setting up a Scottish investment bank and conducting basic income trials.
My problem is that it seem to be either either ignoring or accepting Brexit, and that’s not going to end well. It seems to be ignoring Brexit in the sense that many of the proposals are going to cost money, and if the economy collapses, that’s simply not going to be possible. And it seems to be accepting Brexit because it talks about repatriating powers coming back from Brussels, and that clearly doesn’t make any sense if Scotland isn’t leaving.
Cato the Elder, the Roman statesman, kept insisting that Carthage was still a danger to the Republic after two wars and needed to be destroyed in a third one. Most famously, he was known to add as a closing remark to any speech he made, whatever the topic, “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (i.e., “furthermore, I am of the opinion that Carthage should be destroyed”).
Scottish independence is more important than ever, given the epic disaster that Brexit is shaping up to become, and yet it feels like the SNP has almost stopped talking about it in public, probably because they felt they got their fingers burnt in June’s general election.
I’m not suggesting that we should be discussing the timing of the next independence referendum all the time, but it is important to point out why we need independence in order to pursue the future we want, perhaps to the point of ending every speech with “Ceterum censeo Caledoniam esse independentem”.
In particular, Nicola should have spent a good part of her speech saying that it was dependent on Brexit getting cancelled or turning into a soft Brexit, remaining within both the Internal Market and the Customs Union (in which case, by the way, there won’t be any significant powers to repatriate). She should have said in no uncertain terms that a hard Brexit (or even worse, a cliff-edge one) would cause the whole programme to get cancelled and replaced by an emergency programme, including a new independence referendum.
As an EU citizen, I need certainty that Scotland won’t get dragged out of the Internal Market, and that was what Nicola promised the day after the Brexit referendum. I didn’t sense any urgency today, no attempt at explaining why Brexit has the potential to be such a disaster for Scotland.
Ceterum censeo Caledoniam esse independentem.