I’ve seen quite a few angry reactions to Magnus Linklater’s article in The Times today, “SNP’s dithering is making immigrants angry”. Here are two typical reponses:
We're used to a lying unionist press, but this takes the biscuit. Magnus Linklater is blaming the SNP for the Tory UK government's immigration policy – a reserved matter Holyrood has zero control over.https://t.co/Bmf7Vt3Dw4
— Lindsay Bruce (@RogueCoder250) August 6, 2018
This shows how low so-called journalists have fallen. The SNP has been enormously supportive of EU nationals but the entire shambles is down to the UK Tory government. Looks like we can no longer trust anything journalists write. https://t.co/UcAFk0xwHR
— Dorothy Bruce (@DorothyBruce14) August 6, 2018
However, I am an immigrant and an SNP member, and I agree with most of this article. The way I read it, it isn’t blaming the SNP for the UK Government’s immigration policy or for the whole Brexit shambles. It is blaming the SNP for promising to keep Scotland in Europe, and then not doing very much at all, pointing out that EU citizens are voting with their feet:
Not surprising, then, that workers from Romania or Poland are increasingly reluctant to come to Scotland to pick raspberries; 18 per cent of EU doctors in the NHS have made plans to leave; Scottish universities are beginning to lose the European academics on whom they depend if their international status is to be maintained.
The article is also blaming the SNP for getting more and more lukewarm about the EU and drifting towards EFTA:
Nicola Sturgeon herself made it clear in parliament last March that she was against the common fisheries policy, despite knowing that opting out would be incompatible with joining the EU. […]
The SNP seems almost as conflicted about Europe as the rest of Britain. Its paper Scotland’s Place in Europe is all about the single market and the customs union rather than the benefits of being a European nation. It knows that at least a third of its members voted to leave the EU and that among farmers and fishermen there is strong hostility towards Brussels, so it draws back from full commitment, preferring the Norway option of joining the European Economic Area, otherwise known as the “nearly but not quite” model of EU membership. […]
Rereading the SNP’s document, I came across this ringing endorsement of Europe […]: “Europe is about more than economics,” it ran. “The European ideal is one of peaceful coexistence, mutual solidarity and support, and prosperity built on co-operation. There is much still to achieve, but a Europe which encourages openness and civic dialogue, and which welcomes difference, is one from which Scotland has gained much and to which it still wants to contribute.” Its author? Nicola Sturgeon. It would be nice to know if she means it.
I don’t think those criticisms are unreasonable. (Although, to be fair, “Scotland’s Place in Europe” contains the Scottish Government’s proposals for mitigating the impact on Scotland of the UK’s exit from the EU, through continued European Single Market membership for Scotland, demonstrating that this is also the best outcome for the UK as a whole. It’s not really about what an independent Scotland would do.)
The problem with the SNP’s stance is that Nicola Sturgeon’s strong defence of EU citizens the day after the EU referendum (which I thanked her for on Bella Caledonia) made a lot of us decide to remain in Scotland rather than head back to the continent with our families. My gut feeling is that many more of us opted for this in Scotland than in England and Wales, where it seemed much more obvious that there was no realistic alternative to Brexit.
If the SNP wasn’t going to do anything, it would have been much kinder to say so two years ago. We would then have had plenty of time to launch our own lifeboats. Telling people in a burning house not to panic because you’re going to save them and then not doing anything because it was harder than you had thought is not helpful.
As Nick Durie put it on Facebook:
[The SNP] can state whether it is the [their] intention that Scotland becomes an EU member state, and state how they intend to do this. At the moment there is zero evidence that we will even fight to ensure Scotland stays in the single market, if no Section 30 Order is forthcoming. […] People can judge for themselves whether they consider such a plan realistic, but at the moment we’re just engaged in vague promises, hopes, and playing with people’s emotions without any real evidence of a plan or a backbone. We’d be more humanist just stating that there is nothing that can be done.
I do understand why the SNP aren’t doing anything, though. They made three fundamental errors early in the process:
- They thought the UK government would consent to a new independence referendum when the Scottish Parliament asked for it. (Or they assumed 90% of Scots would explode in anger if they refused it.)
- They thought the UK government would act rationally, devising a realistic plan for Brexit that took in the concerns of the devolved nations, and that they’d look favourably at Scottish requests for special treatment.
- They believed those SNP members who are against the EU would accept Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-EU line if they could see it was the best way to get independence soon.
These assumptions seemed OK for a while, but when Theresa May declared that “now is not the time” in early 2017 and the support for independence hardly budged, followed by a lot of SNP voters staying at home in the subsequent Westminster election, it seemed like the SNP leadership had lost their mojo. They then thought they could wait until the Tories’ plan for Brexit was clear, not understanding that their never was any plan, and that it was always just about keeping the Tory party together.
I’m still hoping the SNP will do something soon, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. It’s quite possible that we won’t know whether there’ll be a no-deal Brexit till shortly before it actually happens, and there’s nothing Scotland can do at that point. It’s possible it’ll lead to independence, but the Scottish economy will have been decimated before that happens, and it’s just as possible that the voters will punish the SNP for being in charge when the Scottish NHS and the education system get destroyed as a result of Brexit.
At the moment, I think the best hope for us EU citizens and for everybody else is to stop Brexit. The SNP’s lukewarm support for a new Brexit referendum is not helpful in that context.
The SNP should have been campaigning for independence without having called the referendum for two years now. If they had done that, bombarding all households with information about how an independent Scotland in Europe would be enormously better off than Brexit Scotland, we would probably have had a huge majority for independence in the opinion polls by now.
If they were never going to do anything, they should have told us. So yes, I’m angry.