Thursday, 14 January 2016

A Scottish EU referendum

The National party is currently laying the ground for a split vote in the upcoming, interminable, referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union. The ideal scenario is that Scotland votes to Remain part of the bloc whilst Leave votes from the rest of the United Kingdom outweigh ours, and we are thus dragged out against our will, having been told by the Unionists for two years that the only way to remain a member of the European Union was to vote No in 2014.
This would then form the basis of a material change in the 2014 settlement, and trigger a second independence referendum, in which Scots would assert that we are indeed Better Together with bus drivers from Bohemia, window cleaners from Warsaw and milkmen from Magdeburg than we are with lords from London and dukes from Devon.
There’s only one problem with this prospectus: it’s balderdash.
The United Kingdom is a unitary state, not a federal state. We do not vote as Scots, or Cornish, or Welsh, or English. It is one voter, one vote in this referendum. Indeed, if the British have any sense at all (and they didn’t manage to hang onto their restive and most important province in 2014 by being stupid) they will move to block such a happening from taking place by refusing to count votes by region or constituency or nation, and instead declaring one single, UK-wide result.
Even if they don’t, the waters will be muddied enough. The Uncle Tams will be out in force the morning after to tell us that the good burghers of Altrincham and Sale West voted to Remain and have to Leave because the majority voted to Leave, and you don’t see them wanting independence, now, do you, so why on earth should this be a reason for Scotland to want independence, and it’s just selfish, and the whole thing’s rather petty and silly and there’ll be a border and sure what currency would you even use anyway?
We will be told that, ah, but Scots didn’t vote for Scotland to Remain in the EU, but voted for the United Kingdom to remain. You’re looking at the result of one referendum and trying to extrapolate from it the answer to an entirely different question and would you even be in Nato?
The only way, as far as I can see it, for the Scottish government to use the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union against the will of Scotland as a pretext for a second independence referendum would be if they had already, separately, previously, held their own, Scotland-only referendum on the issue (and Scots had voted, of course, to Remain). It needn’t be a binding referendum, merely an advisory one. In circumstances then where Scots had voted explicitly to Remain in the European Union, ratified that by voting for the United Kingdom to stay in, and then been dragged out anyway, such calls for a second independence referendum would be difficult in the extreme to ignore.
The remaining Unionists might boycott such an advisory referendum in an attempt to undermine its legitimacy. Good. Let them. It would mean that all broadcast media coverage of the campaign and all the debates would be between the Yes-Remain and Yes-Leave sides. It would marginalise Unionism from daily life and debate even further than it already is. It would mean that we would get a break from having to watch their gurning, Dementor-like permarage and constant, unremitting misery.
There are now only a few thousand members remaining in Unionist parties. Their number of activists is measured in the hundreds. They have lost almost all of their MPs. In May, they look as though they will lose the majority of the MSPs. They control fewer than half of Scotland’s local authorities and look set to lose control of all of them next year.
Unionism is gradually disappearing from Scotland’s day-to-day political life. A Scottish EU referendum would leave them choosing between disappearing further from mainstream political discourse, and legitimising a referendum designed to provoke a second referendum.
Gonnae dae that?
Transparency – particularly, as we have seen since May, over financial affairs – is vital if an organisation wishes to be trusted by people in post-referendum Scotland.
With that in mind, it is interesting to note the out-of-character radio silence emanating from the unrelenting self-publicists in “Rise”, the SWP-linked group which successfully perpetrated an hostile takeover of the Scottish Socialist party.
SSP members – and a growing band of former member – have been asking questions about the financial affairs and the transparency of “Rise”, which have been met with an impenetrable wall of silence from The Rise Team, as the SWP clique refers to itself (when they’re not admiringly referring to each other as “The Scottish SYRIZA”).
There are very simple questions, with very simple answers. And a party which trumpets its transparency and democracy surely won’t have any problem answering them. Yet… the silence is deafening.
Question 1: “Rise” is selling merchandise branded “Refugees Welcome”. Most people buying merchandise branded with the slogan of an organisation dedicated to helping refugees would assume that the money generated is going to either refugees, or charities assisting refugees. Is the loot raked in from punting “Refugees Welcome” merchandise going to refugees, refugee charities, or is it being pocketed by “Rise”?
Question 2: “Rise” has promised that any MSPs it has elected in May (they are currently at 0% in polls, which, if repeated in the General Election, would result in a total of 0 constituency MSPs being elected, topped up by, er, 0 MSPs from the List) will take “a workers’ wage”, giving the rest, presumably, to charity. Does the “workers’ wage” apply exclusively to remitting the overage of the Parliamentary salary, or will all income over and above the average workers’ salary, including media work, be remitted?
Question 3: As the “Scottish SYRIZA”, “Rise” types – although almost exclusively from the SWP-linked wing of the party, not the SSP wing - have taken to jet-setting around the globe to let everyone else know just how great they are. Who pays for The Rise Team to travel abroad to raise their profiles?
Question 4: Even before the takeover of the SSP by “Rise” and the decision to stand in the election, the party was grubbing around sniffing for cash. A seemingly never-ending succession of conferences and rallies were organised, with tickets at sky-high prices designed to keep out the working people the party pretends to represent. People will hope that their money goes towards an election campaign; not propping up the profits of Merchant City cocktail bars.Can “Rise” clarify whether any of money has been paid to members of The Rise Team? Will “Rise” members be given a say on whether their cash is paid to members of The Rise Team in the future?
Question 5: Despite promising SSP members before the vote on the takeover that “Rise” was “not going to be a political party”, it sneaked registration with the Electoral Commission through – as a political party – the week before Christmas. This was not necessary to stand candidates – the SSP could have registered a party description as “Rise”, ensuring that “Rise” would appear on the ballot paper, but the “Not A Party” promise wouldn’t have been torn up. It has registered a Party Leader, a sole Nominating Officer, and a Treasurer. How were the incumbents of these positions chosen? Who voted for them?

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