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Showing posts with label Catalonia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catalonia. Show all posts

Monday, 22 December 2014

Thinking the Unthinkable - first published 22nd December 2014

During the long referendum campaign, online commentators such as myself had to think hard about the potential negative impact on YES of raising certain questions, offering certain opinions, addressing certain topics, voicing certain criticisms, and the wisdom of giving them “the oxygen of publicity”.

The campaign inevitably polarised opinion, and given the tsunami of abuse and misinformation thrown at YES by the Better Together campaign, the might of the UK unionist media and the Whitehall and the Treasury machines, I was reluctant, like many others, to risk giving ammunition to the other side.

But this instinct had to be rationally balanced against to need to correct perceived inaccuracies and damaging beliefs (I mean as perceived by me) that, if not countered, would have pernicious effects on our struggle for the independence vote. This led me into difficult waters over, for example, the BBC and NATO, where I felt I was serving the cause more effectively by speaking out than maintaining a silence. The question of BBC bias – where I took the position that, although there were many specific examples of blatant bias, the BBC was not the devil incarnate, and much of its output was not only objective, but absolutely vital to informing the electorate – was a long running war with other YES supporters, many of whom I had, and still have the highest respect for.

NATO was a much more difficult one – it was a fundamental point of principle for me (and a few others) and it produced some very bitter attacks on me by email and online. It divided the Party at Conference, and it led to my resignation from the SNP. Post referendum, I’ve bitten that bullet and rejoined, not because I’m reconciled to NATO membership, but because post-indyref politics have shifted its significance – for the moment.

On the monarchy, as a republican by conviction I was prepared to accept the FM’s position of constitutional monarchy, believing it was a realpolitik price worth paying to get a YES. Now, after the putative Queen of Scots’ unwise indyref intervention, I’m not sure it was – or is.

THE NEW INDY POLITICS

A few months before the 18th September, I offered an algorithm to a highly-respected media contact – one I now regard as a friend – setting out what I saw as the possible results of various indyref outcomes. I won’t reproduce it here – suffice it to say,  outcomes I didn’t forecast were

The Vow

First Minister’s resignation after a NO vote

the unprecedented surge in SNP membership

High YES supporter morale

inexorable SNP poll gains

the launch of a new Scottish newspaper, The National, supporting independence.

Neither did anybody else!

The new post-indyref politics are normal party politics resumed, but in a highly volatile and unpredictable UK political context, with the immediate focus on the general election 2015 (GE2015) and the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections.

I think it’s fair to say that not all YES supporters are entirely comfortable in the new political climate. Having flocked to the SNP banner, and had the adrenalin rush of Nicola’s triumphal tour, indulged understandable schadenfreude at the uncomprehending splutters of indignation from the “winners” of the referendum, relaxed in a kind of post-coital phase, they’re now looking for action of the kind they grew accustomed to in the campaign.

Most have adjusted, thrown themselves into the new politics enthusiastically, battle-hardened, tempered in the indyref fires and ready to work for independence in a dazzling variety of new ways. But some are pining for the old binary certainties – clearly identifiable villains and heroes, and simple characterisations and choices – and are a bit lost. One dedicated indyref campaigner described himself to me as feeling ‘bereft’ at the void in his life since September.

And so to thinking the unthinkable …

Throughout the campaign, there was a strand of independence thought from supporters (never from politicians or party animals to my knowledge. and little from media commentators) on a taboo subject, UDI – a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Most of this, at least as I experienced it, as I carried out the tedious and sometimes depressing task of pre-moderating blog and YouTube comments and my email inbox, was adolescent nonsense, whatever the age of those articulating it. But some of it was rooted in deeper thinking about possible reactions to scenarios that could, at least in theory unfold.

I have some limited vicarious experience of historical UDI, though a Rhodesian connection and from those who were part of the Slovenian velvet revolution. And there was the very real situation and stark choices facing our staunch friends of Scotland in Galicia and Catalonia over their own referendum.

All of this came back to me in the last few days when a Danish friend, political contact and invaluable information source asked what kind of situation could give rise to a UDI in Scotland, even if I fundamentally rejected such a course of action – which I do.

Here is the answer I gave -

START

The only sequence of events that would provoke UDI I could foresee would be -

UK refusal to legitimise a referendum request

such a referendum then being held without a UK legal basis

a significant  majority resulting, in the order of, say, 65%/35%.

For such a scenario to unfold at all, it would probably have been preceded by a majority of Scottish Westminster seats having previously fallen to SNP and other Scottish indy-supporting parties - a possibility in the general election of May 2015.

However, it could not be a velvet revolution like, say, Slovenia's because of the massive disentanglement of institutions required - and the fundamental question of control of the Clyde nuclear base.

It would of course potentially provoke an immediate crisis of loyalty in the armed forces in Scotland, and the possible emergence of powerful anti-democratic forces, perhaps through the military establishment.

END

These conditions are unlikely to arise, in my view, and I hope they never do - in my lifetime or anyone else’s – but they are conceivable.

The much more likely scenario for GE2015 is significant Westminster seat gains, and a confidence and supply arrangement with Labour, either to permit them to form a minority Labour government a la Salmond  2007 in Holyrood, or to support them against a Tory/LibDem/UKIP coalition.

And on that note, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Scotland, the EU – and Barroso …

Scotland's independence will create a situation for which there is no real precedent, and no clarity or certainty in European law or EU history. We have the farcical situation that a Tory Party that shows a distinct wish to leave Europe are arguing against Scotland's independence on the basis that the rUK would be in and Scotland out. There is also the fact that a significant number of Scots, including many nationalists, would be delighted to be out of Europe too ...

I have never doubted that one of the many complex questions raised by Scotland's independence would be the terms of its EU membership, and that it would have to be negotiated. Since a YES vote in 2014 does not confer independence, but only fires the starting gun for negotiations to achieve it, the very earliest date for conclusion of the core negotiating issues would be 2016, with the formal independence date well beyond that, during which time both the UK and Scotland/UK membership would still be in force.

Since the incompetent UK parties can't forecast what will happen to the economy and the currency in the next three months, I lose no sleep over Scotland's ultimate membership of the EU in say, 2017, if indeed the EU still exists by then! But if it does, Scotland will be in - the idea of them being out, or being blackballed is risible historically.

First we had the leaked – but never sent – letter, and now we have Barroso's latest public statement

Here's my view, informed and assisted by  invaluable help from my Danish friend Troels who is expert in EU law, and keenly interested in an independent Scotland.

Barroso talks of "a part of a country that wants to become an independent state", i.e. analogous to Catalonia (something he's deeply worried about) not a "union state" being dissolved and two successor states emerging. His use of the phrase "a part of a country" indicates that Barroso is rather confused on the history and structure of the United Kingdom.

He seems to perceive "Britain" as a country (like Spain or Portugal) and not as a unitary union state, which it what it is. This is evident from the end the television clip, where he clearly believes that the UK will still exist after Scottish independence like, say, Spain after Catalan independence, or Denmark after Greenlandic independence, where the old state continues to exist, but a part of its territory becomes independent.

In fact, in the case of the UK, it would be the union state dissolving, and at least two successor states emerging, very much akin to Czechoslovakia.

Barroso's view is poles apart from the kind of opinion that the European Court of Justice would give. It is worthy of note that Barroso, speaking for the EU Commission only, offers no legal arguments or references that can be debated or be refuted.

In other words, his statement is self-serving and purely political - a piece of realpolitik gamesmanship. There's a lot of that about - and there will be a lot more of it before 2014. The old order is breaking down, and like all ancien regimes, it doesn't like it.