Now isn’t the time for political game playing. Now isn’t the time for divisive votes. Now isn’t the time for a snap election. Oh dear, oh dear… It would appear that now isn’t the time for democracy either, would it Theresa?
The reactions to the news this morning that Theresa May would be seeking a snap election were met with mixed reactions. Some, like Nicola Sturgeon, were left aghast at this monumental U-turn. Others were opposed to the idea saying that the government should be getting on with the business of dealing with Brexit, not ten weeks of distraction and destabilising an already wobbly political situation. Some were very much in favour of the idea; most surprisingly Jeremy Corbyn who, at the current projections from Electoral Calculus, stands to lose around 50 seats – surely this would be a career ender? Myself, I was confused as to why the Prime Minister would bother to call an early election; she has a mandate, what’s the use? Well, I can tell you why now, and it’s not great, really…
There is talk of wanting to ensure a smooth negotiating position with the EU, an easy path for the Brexit bills to float through parliament and the idea that an election now means that, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, three years after Brexit to work out the creases rather than one. Pish. It is a blatant disregard for the democratic process and little more. Forget the idea of opportunism given the current polls, that’s just a happy coincidence. May and her government are unhappy with opposition to the bill and have decided to obliterate it, and with Corbyn’s deeply underwhelming performance of late, that’s just what she’ll do.
Listen to the Prime Minister’s speech this morning, go on, listen all the way through and you’ll see what I mean. For example she says; “in recent weeks, Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement…” The clue is in the name ‘Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition’. Or “the Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union.” Again, this is one of their core party commitments; the SNP has been very much pro-EU for some time.
Listening to the Prime Minister’s speech this morning felt like listening to a dictator; “There is opposition to our policies and that shall not be tolerated. We will take the steps required to eliminate the opposition to our progress. Long live our glorious motherland… etc., etc.” With her current lead in the polls of roughly 20% – the highest in over twenty years – she is all but guaranteed success in this endeavour.
Surely, if so many of the opposition and your own party are opposed to a bill in its current form it can mean little other than the bill stinks! Surely if the idea of a hard Brexit is so widely hated, the bill should be redrafted, the parameters of our exit from the EU rethought? But that’s too close to a real democracy for Theresa May’s liking; no, it’s my way or bust – though it’s entirely possible that her way will mean bust anyway, but nevermind.
The sad thing is that she will get her way. As Labour voters either refuse to turn-out or vote another way as a protest at their leadership, UKIP voters will flock to the Conservatives again as the Tories are now the only party with a hope of achieving their own party’s goal of total separation from Europe. Across the whole country as well, political apathy will take hold too; with this being the second general election in two years and having had a referendum and council elections, voter fatigue will be a crucial factor. This will be even more pronounced in Northern Ireland where politics and trips to the polls have dominated daily life lately, especially following the collapse of talks for a power sharing agreement in Stormont.
In Scotland, we must make sure that this is not the case. By the time we go to the polls for the General Election, it will be the ninth time since 2010 that Scots have gone to vote – if ever there was a stage set for voter fatigue, this would be it. Rather than be turned off by the prospect of yet more elections, we need to grasp the opportunity to show Theresa May that, regardless of her attempts to subvert it, democracy is alive, well and cherished in Scotland. Regardless of what may happen to Labour, Scotland must unite as the source of political opposition to the austerity obsessed, hard-Brexit driving Tories in Westminster, pushing our country ever more to the political right.
It has become clear that May has no regard for democracy in the slightest in Scotland; this is shown by her total disregard for the Scottish Parliament’s request to hold another referendum on Independence prior to the UK’s actual departure from the EU. This, in spite of the Scottish Parliament agreeing on this course of action by a vote. This, in spite of the Scottish people electing a pro-independence majority to Holyrood in the Scottish General Election. There is not even any regard for the SNP’s 56 MPs as a mandate from the Scottish people for change. Indeed, when the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland ask the UK Government for an arrangement that would allow Scotland to remain within the single market post-Brexit, the ideas were thrown aside. Rather than regarding the SNP’s MPs as a legitimate request for a change in the relationship between Scotland and Westminster, they are regarded as a threat to Theresa May’s plans and must be eliminated. There is no room for compromise or discussion in Theresa May’s democracy.
In the last General Election, the pro-independence parties rallied behind the SNP and delivered a landslide for the Yes voters in Scotland, and we will need to see that again. Only that way, can Scotland’s voice in Westminster be assured. So the SNP will not be eliminated, the Scottish people’s desire to remain with the EU (or as close to it as possible given current circumstances) will see to it that the SNP hold their current domination of seats at Westminster. But without Labour holding the seats it did in England and Wales, the opposition will be badly diminished and make room for the Tories to bulldoze through.
So, how does Scotland get out of this one? With Britain speeding towards a hard-Brexit with Scotland sat helplessly in the back seat, it does look pretty hopeless. The question then is, how do we get out? The Prime Minister has ruled out another referendum before the UK has formally left the EU… though she did also rule out an early election so…? The SNP can continue pushing for a referendum, but it may not come, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “before it is too late.”
If now is not the time for a “divisive referendum” (how delightfully ironic), then perhaps another route has to be taken. Derek Bateman, on his personal blog, offers up an alternative. In his post this morning he asks; “shouldn’t we bypass the failed referendum route and upgrade our demand?” He asserts that the SNP should run on a manifesto pledge of an SNP majority means independence. This is not new, and I have seen it all over social media with friends and colleague suggesting the SNP could simply “declare independence” if the people of Scotland give them that mandate.
To be fair to them, the SNP have been riding a political steamroller since 2007 and are predicted to carry on doing so. The issue with just declaring independence is that, firstly they would be going against their whole pledge of “giving the people of Scotland a choice” and making that choice for them. This could be played by the “No” voters in quite a bad way. More importantly, Scotland would have to obtain permission from Westminster to make such a declaration legal, otherwise the Scottish government would be seen as illegitimate across the UK and the rest of the world.
What of simply holding a referendum anyway? Then you run into the issue of the result not being legally binding and the UK Government being well within its rights to refuse independence.
In short, the pro-independence movement have been driven into a corner with no real means of escape, and this is precisely what the May’s Government wanted. Silence the pro-Europeans, silence the pro-independence lot, and continue onto oblivion unobstructed.
That’s why we need now to shout louder than ever before for independence, for Europe and for opposition to Theresa May and her Tory juggernaut. We need to generate sympathy for our cause not only in Scotland and the UK, but also across Europe. The EU, the bastion of democracy and freedom, cannot surely stand by as a government seeks to eliminate all opposition, as the democratic will of a constituent part of a long time member is dragged out against its will. Surely Europe cannot stand by as European jobs and citizens are thrown out of a country and the citizens of that country simultaneously stripped of their EU citizenship and rights. So we must shout, kick and scream. We need to make as much noise as possible and attract as much attention as possible.
We can do this by electing our SNP MPs back to Westminster to ensure that we still have that voice of opposition.
If we are serious about remaining with Europe and gaining our independence, we need to make sure that Theresa May cannot ignore us. Given her recent demonstrations, that may be quite difficult, but we have to give it a go. Whether we go for independence by referendum or declaration, Mrs. May needs to hear us loud and clear. We have a little over six weeks to do it, so let’s get started.