Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shock YouGov poll is torrid for Theresa, as Scottish public demand Holyrood MUST be given a say over Brexit

The results of four YouGov poll questions on Brexit commissioned by the SNP have just been released.  I gather they were part of a much longer poll that included a straight question on independence, so unless the results are being released in stages, the likelihood is that we are seeing the figures most favourable to the Scottish Government's position.

Probably the most important finding is a decisive 51% to 29% majority in favour of the Scottish Government's proposals for Scotland remaining in the single market being taken seriously by the UK government and raised in negotiations with the EU.  That's pretty embarrassing for Theresa May because we already know she's decided to do the complete opposite.

By a margin of 49% to 23%, respondents feel the Scottish Parliament should be consulted before Article 50 is triggered.  This question is asked in the context of the legal challenge before the Supreme Court, but of course the letter of the law and the spirit of the law are not necessarily the same thing - even if the court ruling goes the wrong way, there's nothing to stop the UK government respecting the Sewel Convention and giving the Scottish Parliament its proper role in the process.  That is clearly what the public want to see happen.

As you'd expect, people who voted Yes to independence in 2014 are strongly in favour of the Scottish Government's stance on both of the above questions.  More interesting, though, is that No voters are literally split down the middle, which raises the possibility that the UK government being seen to make no meaningful attempt to compromise could start to erode support for the union as the months go by.

If the independence numbers from this poll are being withheld, it's difficult to know what to read into that.  The SNP obviously wouldn't want to publish a poll showing a drop in support for independence, but then they probably wouldn't want to publish a poll showing a no change position either.  You could also make the case that they would withhold a poll showing a dramatic increase in support for Yes, because that might put too much pressure on themselves to call a referendum quickly.  I suspect they might have been tempted to publish a poll showing a middling jump for Yes into the high 40s, but that's just a guess.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hard Brexit Means Independence Referendum

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new article at the TalkRadio website, about how Theresa May's hardline British nationalism (and the craven refusal of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to challenge it) is opening up a golden opportunity for the Scottish independence movement.  You can read the article HERE.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Labour's wizard plan for avoiding Hard Brexit is to call it something else

In her speech today, Theresa May announced the following -

* The UK will leave the Single Market.

* The UK will leave the Customs Union (giving us a lesser status than Turkey).

* The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will no longer extend to the UK.

* The UK will not retain "partial membership" of the European Union.

* The UK will not accept anything that leaves it "half in, half out".

* The UK will not seek to "adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries" (ie. the Norway or Swiss models that are synonymous with a soft Brexit).

* The UK will not seek to retain "bits of EU membership" after Brexit.

Labour's mind-boggling response to that manifesto was "it is good that she has ruled that hard Brexit out at this stage". Which begs the obvious question - what exactly would qualify as hard Brexit in Labour's eyes? What would make them acknowledge that this is a plan that needs to be fought, rather than embraced or finessed? I'm beginning to think only a foreign policy akin to that of North Sentinel Island (breaking off all contact with the outside world and throwing spears at any boat or plane that approaches) would do the trick.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Scottish Government don't blink on single market membership : independence referendum becomes even more likely

When the news broke on Saturday night that Theresa May was preparing to pull the UK out of the single market and the customs union, I suggested that this was the moment of truth for an independence referendum, and that we'd find out everything we need to know by watching for whether Nicola Sturgeon abandoned her red line that Scotland had to remain a full part of the single market.  We didn't have to wait long for our answer.  The SNP's immediate response was to post a short article on their website explaining the fundamental difference between membership of the single market and mere "access" to it.  That's absolutely fascinating, because if the London commentariat's pet theory that Nicola Sturgeon is bluffing about a second indyref is correct, you'd have expected the SNP to do the complete opposite - they'd have probably started muddying the waters between 'access' and 'membership' in the hope of selling a lesser compromise to the party rank-and-file.  The course they've actually charted leaves no easy means of escaping an indyref - and that appears to be a feature, not a bug.

So is there any lingering possibility that a referendum might still not happen?  Yes, but that outcome is looking less and less plausible.  It seems to me there are only three conceivable ways in which a independence vote might be averted -

a) The advance briefing of Theresa May's speech tomorrow might not match the eventual content, in which case there may still be an outside chance of the UK remaining in the single market.

b) EU leaders might do a highly improbable U-turn and drop free movement of people as a precondition for continued single market membership.

c) Theresa May might do a highly improbable U-turn and agree to consider special status for Scotland within Europe after all.

Of those, only a) seems remotely credible.  In which case, an independence referendum might start to look all-but-inevitable as early as tomorrow.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's post-truth, it's cultish...yup, it's Massie

Scotland, eh?  The SNP.  Nicola Sturgeon.  Cybernats.  Jock-speak.  Streuth.  I mean...crikey.  Now, don't get me wrong, it's totally normal that all of these things exist.  Understandable.  Utterly reasonable.  Natural, even.  But all the same.  The Nats.  Salmond.  Mhairi Black's accent.  Jesus.  No wait, don't misunderstand me here.  We've got no right to complain about any of these things, which are all exactly as you'd expect them to be.  They're appropriate.  Fitting.  Apt.  But still.  Ian Hudghton.  Chris Law and that fire truck.  Flippin' heck.

Yes, I'd say that pretty much sums up every Alex Massie blogpost about Scotland for the last three years, and the latest one is no exception. The only difference this time is that the "but all the same" interludes take us even deeper into the realms of the fantastical than usual. First of all, Massie makes a truly mind-boggling implication about the short Jackie Kay poem that is included in each of the new baby boxes...

"I ask you to consider the reaction if the poet laureate agreed to write a poem celebrating – and therefore supporting – a new government policy (‘Ode to the Bedroom Tax‘ perhaps?)."

It's at moments like this you find yourself questioning your own sanity, but I have to report that having re-read the poem several times, I've completely failed to detect even the slightest hint that it 'celebrates' or 'supports' any government policy whatsoever. To my eyes, which admittedly are considerably less tutored than Mr Massie's eyes, every single line of the poem seems to be going on and on and on about how absolutely bloody marvellous some unspecified newborn baby is. He/she is extremely wise (seems improbable at that age, but who knows), has really bright eyes, a trustworthy hand, and a circular head (impressive). At no point are we invited to forget about babies, kneel in homage to the Dear Leader and chant "Material Change In Circumstances" forty-three times. Oh, and the poem is called Welcome Wee One, not The Box of Delights.

For his next trick, Massie attempts to brand Scotland a one-party state while gloating about the SNP only being a minority government, all in the space of one sentence. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't really pull it off, but you've got to admire his ambition.

"It is a reminder, if any were needed, that while talk of Scotland as a one-party state is overblown – the SNP is after all a minority government – Scotland is a country dominated by just one party. That has consequences, not the least of which is a realisation – commercial as well as political – that crossing the SNP may be unwise."

In other words Scotland isn't a one-party state but it really really is.

"a reminder that while much of the alt-Nat community thinks the mainstream press an irrelevance, sensible people know a little better"

Translation of 'alt-Nat' : exclusion from the mainstream media somehow makes left-wing Scottish civic nationalism a bit like the far-right groups that helped Trump into power. This makes perfect sense in spite of the fact that Massie himself is ideologically slightly closer to Trump than SNP supporters are.

"So just as there are idiots who think the BBC weather map a conspiracy to make Scotland seem awful small..."

Conspiracy or not, the undeniable point is that the BBC weather map does make Scotland look considerably smaller in relation to the rest of the UK than it actually is, and it's very hard to understand why right-wing Scots like Massie seem to glory in that fact. They could reasonably call it trivial, but why do they seem to think it's actually desirable? My own guess is that the map came about as the result of an unconscious bias - after all, if you were looking at the UK as if from space, it would be perfectly possible to centre the gaze on the heart of the country, with both the northern and southern extremes looking smaller than the area around Manchester. But no, it clearly just 'felt' more natural to centre the gaze on the far south, and to make Scotland look distant and tiny. That it might not have been a deliberate slight doesn't mean that it isn't extremely revealing.

" there are Unionists who think the use of the Scots vernacular – and the pretence the phonetic rendition of a Scots accent makes a language – the thin edge of the nationalist wedge"

For the love of God, someone buy the man a book. There may still be a lively debate over whether Scots is a dialect of English or a fully-fledged language in its own right, but the idea that it's no more than the phonetic rendering of an "accent" is such a preposterous post-truth claim that it might make even Trump himself blush.

Mind you, perhaps we've just solved the mystery of what government "policy" Massie thinks Jackie Kay's poem - written in Scots - was "celebrating".