Marc Wilson is a person I have much respect for. For those who do not know, he is an ex-member of the Scottish Labour Party (who at one point ran to be councillor in Dundee) and a very strong opponent to the independence movement. However, unlike his noxious colleague Michael Sheridan, Marc is a person of strong principle in tackling social issues, in terms of equality and democracy. If you met him in person and he gave his political views, you’d be very surprised by his positive and progressive character. I know this for myself, since I first met him in the Scottish Youth Parliament a while ago, most memorably when he gave a speech about how city transport should be in public hands. It’s clear Marc has a bright future ahead of him.
But, sadly to say, I am not writing this article to primarily give him homage to his political conviction, but to highlight his rather odd case he shows towards democracy and independence.
Marc wrote an article on the ammarute blogspot “Backbench”, discussing the Scottish Government’s pursuit of another independence referendum, whilst bringing in issues surrounding the EU debate and the question of mandates. My palm on multiple occasions met my face, since he is oblivious to much evidence and facts that are missed out. And this isn’t the first time either, as in the past he’s awkwardly compared Scotland, a country, to regions in the UK and claims nationalism is only divisive.
(If nationalism only brought division, should we condem Nelson Mandela for his civic nationalism?)
So to Marc or others, this is my analysis/response to his own article, from one young person to another.
Marc Winsland starts off his article describing the multiple times voters have gone to the polls. He points out Scotland has been to the polls 9 times (10 with the upcoming Council elections) and concludes his first paragraph with “At the first independence referendum, the whole country was gripped by voting fever. Turnout of 85% is impressive by any measure, of course. But now it just seems like an ugly flu we can’t get over.”
But he furthers his point, by then making this argument:
“When the country makes a decision about its future, and is told that that decision is a ‘once in a generation’ event, then that should be accepted and respected. When the people exercise their own sovereignty with their own wisdom, they should not be forced to reconsider as if they were wrong the first time. A majority of Scottish people voted to stay in the United Kingdom, aware that there was a risk we could leave the European Union later (evidently this was a better proposition than the definite departure from Europe which would have been thrust upon us by independence).”
First of all, Scots are not being “forced” to reconsider the idea of independence, they democratically elected a pro-independence majority, that being lead by an SNP government on the manifesto to hold another one if an event such as Brexit occurred. The term “forced” is incredibly misleading. But the comment of “once in a generation” was made by politicians, the people do not have to follow suit to their ideas if they wish.
Marc fails to understand here, we live in a liberal democracy. The will of the Scottish people is never “settled” because someone or a mere few say so. It will always be provisional, open to change and open to expression. That is what a modern democracy is about. If he accepted this fact, then he would understand the large flaw in his argument.
And his last note on the “definite departure from Europe” if Scotland was independent is laughable, since he gives no sort of evidence to this case nor does he even name anyone to back up such a point. And he does himself no favours talking about Europe…
This is an argument which is dead in the water for most unionists, since it’s very clear that Scotland would be either “fast-tracked” into the EU or simply remain a member after independence. But Marc also argues that Scots knew of the risk of the EU referendum.
It is certainly true that the Conservatives had promised one, but he fails to mention that Labour had a comfortable lead ahead of the Conservatives, which averaged 3.9% before the vote was held.
And it was also only going to happen if the Tories won a majority, with evidence at the time clearly showing that was not going to be the case.
It was actually Ed Miliband who the bookies favoured on being Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2015.
But even then, members of Better Together were also saying that such a referendum would not be delivered. That was from Alistair Carmichael MP, who made it clear “There is no question of there being a referendum. There is no mechanism for the Conservatives to deliver a referendum 2017. That is the hard political fact.”
So what Marc is arguing simply does not translate into reality, especially with the fact it was unionists who made the case that the EU referendum would not happen. But let’s continue with more of his article:
“Any reason for staying in the EU is an even stronger reason for staying in the UK, but Nicola Sturgeon is proceeding with the opposite in mind. Independence is her only priority, and so incompetence is her folly. The majority of the country at the moment do not want another referendum, particularly as the uncertainty she warns us about with Brexit will only be compounded by yet another constitutional question.”
The line “Independence is her only priority, and so incompetence is her folly”, reminds me of a tweet made by Kezia Dugdale which was completely ill-timed.
However, if a few tweets does not convince Marc, let the First Minister tell him what she’s been doing.
But Marc should know there is a large difference between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The UK is mainly a political union, whilst the EU is mainly a trading bloc (although, it does do a lot more politically compared to 30 years ago). The EU does not control most macroeconomic levers, Westminster does (being used for a hard right-wing Brexit). The EU does not slash Scotland’s budget, Westminster does. The EU does not force enforce laws through the undemocratic House of Lords, Westminster does. The EU does not have a FPTP system, Westminster does (the EU actually has PR, which is more democratic). The EU does not force Scots to keep nuclear weapons which the vast majority don’t want in the country, Westminster does. The EU does not take Scotland into illegal wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan, Westminster does.
I think you all get the point.
But Marc continues with his false claims when he states “The majority of the country at the moment do not want another referendum”. That’s simply not true.
First of all, most Scots believe that Scotland is a country and should not be forced to leave the EU when we voted to remain.
And a recent poll found that the majority of Scots believe that Holyrood should decide when a referendum is dated, with 61% backing the Scottish parliament compared to 39% for the UK parliament. Those same voters also believe that Westminster should not block another independence referendum, a 58/42 split.
And polling evidence has been clear that there’s a split in the polls when it comes to having another independence referendum. Such as this poll:
Or this poll:
Or this poll when it comes to the actual question:
(the STV poll actually showed overall support for independence when looking at the numbers, but slim)
And with the Social Attitudes Survey (which is a pretty big deal in terms of polls), 46% (+7%) of Scots support independence over devolution, compared to 42% (-7%) that support devolution.
Marc’s next paragraph talks about how the EU referendum was unnecessary and how unionists should approach the next referendum, so nothing to point out there that much. But just when you thought that he was done misrepresenting reality, he brings in Andrew Wilson (the economist) and states:
“He predicted that independence would set Scotland’s economy back by ten years (ironically back to the point before Scotland came under SNP control). Nicola Sturgeon knew this in January, yet pressed ahead with calling for a second referendum two months later. She is politically feckless and financially reckless.”
Except that’s actually not true though.
That was a waste of pretty much an entire paragraph, although Marc does say “the case for separation was undermined last time because the economic argument simply wasn’t strong enough”. But, for those who have read this blog before, you will know the case has actually strengthened thanks to Brexit. If you haven’t read my essay/article titled “The Economics Around Scottish Independence”, I highly recommend you do. But first, let’s see what else Marc says.
“It is reasonable to posit that the SNP fared fortunately in the wake of the No vote because, whilst people didn’t (and don’t) want independence, they nonetheless wanted a party which ostensibly put ‘Scotland first’. That is understandable – yet the SNP are wrongly interpreting this as a mandate to pursue separation, despite there being minimal evidence that the public’s mood has shifted in its favour.”
We’ve already covered these points essentially, moving on…
“Hence why many pro-unionists are delighted that Labour and the Liberal Democrats intend to campaign hard this time for a federalist solution – a solution which would be a bold alternative both to separation and the status quo. Federalism would empower Scotland, not endanger it, and would result in fairness for all people and places across the Britain.
Federalism would be Westminster’s ultimate bargaining chip. Sturgeon wishes to ask the country the same question it was consulted on in 2014: a simple Yes/No choice, with nothing in between. This is for no other reason than she wants to run a campaign which portrays ‘Yes’ as the positive, sunny vision of separation and paints ‘No’ as the dull, dreary continuation of what we already know. She does not have the right to pick and choose the options we can select from.”
But didn’t Scots already vote for federalism Marc? Heck, don’t we already have home rule?
And Brown himself believes that the Vow was delivered.
We’ve been here before. Labour have offered a federal UK and the most devo of all devo max super packs to ever exist in devo max super pack history. We will get to the year 2100 and Labour will be offering the Scottish voters heat vision and flight if we vote for them. But that’s all it’s been for these last few years, talk and talk.
And do Labour have the ability to get into government soon to kick start this federal UK before Brexit does most of the damage? Well, the polls are certainly not looking that way. Jeremy Corbyn is leading the party to huge electoral defeat come 2020. But despite that, it confuses me as to why Marc would rather have Theresa May in Downing Street, than a Labour government in an independent Scotland. Anyway, nearly finished…
“Although Labour and the Tories in Holyrood stood on manifestos of their own to oppose a re-referendum, the UK itself should not block a vote, we should beat it. Denying (or at least appearing to deny) Scotland the right to have a vote if it wants would be political suicide.”
“Embracing it and hitting the ground running with a positive defence of the union would be the constructive campaign the UK needs.”
Erm, I would start off with defending the long list of broken promises and deceits made by the unionist campaign in 2014. And with Brexit going down a long, hard and right-wing path, you want to promote a positive vision? I wish you the best, because you’re going to need it.
“This furnishes Theresa May with tremendous leverage: she could agree to hold the referendum on the condition that Sturgeon concedes to include the federalist option.”
“If it is an outrage that Theresa May is ignoring the 1.6 million Scots who opposed Brexit, then what does that say for Nicola Sturgeon’s brazen demands to ignore the 2 million of us who opposed independence?”
And with polling evidently going towards independence due to classic broken promises such as this…
(and many more)…Marc’s point simply does not stand. The UK that exists today was not the one that existed in 2014, and if Marc is seriously going to have tunnel vision over this issue, then there’s little hope to change his mind.
“Ideally, we could say that the subject is settled. It’s done, and it was decisive. We have had this conversation. We have answered this question. Our people know best, and that should be accepted.”
But of course, as we’ve said before Marc, that’s not how democracy works. Marc holds that view to suit his own unionist agenda, as he does not seem to believe that the will of the people is provisional, open to change and open to expression. If he did so, then he would have no objection to the democratic mandate the Scottish government have for this next referendum, the same mandate that the people of Scotland gave with a pro-independence majority.
“Let Sturgeon have her re-referendum. Let the Scottish Government confront us with this contest again. And then let them recoil with embarrassment and humiliation when they lose it again.”
Humiliation? Embarrassment? These feats are what I see of this article, one which does not understand political reality in Scottish politics today.