Brexit is the battlefield on which independence must be won

Seven years have passed since the first independence referendum.

During that time there have been two Scottish Parliament elections, three Westminster elections, a European election and a Scotland-wide local authority one. The SNP – standing on a platform of independence – have won them all in both seats and votes.

Moreover, a slew of polls in recent days confirm that such results were not flashes in any sort of pan.

Indeed, one predicted that the SNP would win every single seat in Scotland at a UK General Election if it was held now.

These facts put into partial context the increasingly frantic fury of many self-appointed commentators on Scottish politics.

The “Spectator Set” – a nest of constitutional dinosaurs screeching at the sky as the extinction event of independence hurtles towards them – is particularly angry.

Writing about Nicola’s conference speech, one of them even lambasted the First Minister for daring to suggest that it was undemocratic for the UK Government to resist another indyref.

According to this individual, it was she who was defying the will of the people by refusing to accept that the outcome on September 18, 2014, still stood and should not be challenged.

Despite not only Brexit but, presumably, each and every electoral outcome since then.

Such writers are usually unfamiliar with any of the detail of Scottish politics – for example coverage of the security issue at Holyrood completely failed to distinguish between the entirely independent and cross-party Holyrood Corporate Body and the SNP/Green Scottish Government – but that does not stay their hand.

In fact, ignorance seems to inflame their rhetoric, with The Spectator headline directly accusing Scotland’s First Minister of “breathtaking dishonesty”, while the right-wing, Westminster-centric Guido Fawkes blog sneeringly illustrated its condemnation by the imposition of a tinfoil helmet on her picture.

Frustration at continuing Tory failure in Scotland may be the immediate spur for such unpleasant spectacles but the underlying reason is – as ever – Brexit.

For this week it was the First Minister’s devastating expose of how Brexit is being used, and will be used, to argue that Scotland is, once again, too poor, too wee and too stupid to be independent that got the Tory fans with word processors so riled up.

Her offending words are worth repeating because they present some essential truths.
“Westminster will use all that [Brexit] damage,” said Nicola, “as an argument for yet more Westminster control.

“By making us poorer, they’ll say we can’t afford to be independent. By cutting our trade with the EU, they’ll say we are too dependent on the rest of the UK.”

“By causing our working population to fall, they’ll say the country is ageing too fast. They want us to believe we are powerless in the face of the disastrous decisions they have taken for us and the damage those decisions are doing. They want us to look inwards not outwards.”

“And the reason? They know – and are utterly terrified by the prospect – that when we look outwards, we see all around us the evidence right there in front of our eyes. The evidence that independence works.”

And that is exactly what is already happening. It is GERS on steroids – using the damage caused by dependence to argue that independence is not viable.

It is a massive con, a barefaced three-card trick, and calling it out loudly and repeatedly is the only way to tackle it.

The bizarre Tory reshuffle last week was, of course, cut from exactly the same threadbare Brexit justifying cloth and provides confirmation of the point.

This wasn’t an adjustment of personnel to ensure better governance.

By all accounts, Robert Buckland was, for example, a reasonably good minister, while it is hard to think of an even vaguely sentient life form that could not be a better Secretary of State for Scotland than Alister Jack.

It was a clearing of the decks, in the literal meaning of that phrase, in preparation for another election in which the need to secure an even more back-to-basics, pure and complete Brexit – the type that can usher in not just pounds and ounces but a society unprotected by European human rights legislation, high regulatory standards and safe food – will be the central message, with the other parties cast as too weak and unwilling to stand up to nasty, interfering, inflexible Johnny Foreigner.

This is a truly Orwellian approach. It aims, in the words of 1984, to “erase the past” with “the erasure forgotten, and the lie becoming the truth”.

The past that has to be erased is the palpable failure both of Brexit as a policy and the negotiation of it by Johnson, Frost et al.

They have made a complete pig’s ear of what was a stupid idea in the first place.

Moreover they paid no heed to what were prescient warnings of vast cost, empty shelves, rotting fruit in the fields, the shortage of key workers and the imposition of costly tariffs.

Of course they cannot admit to such overwhelming deceit and failure, so scapegoats must be found and then, the past being erased by a vicious and scorched-earth electoral campaign, the monstrous lies of Brexit will be restored as truth for another term of government.

Defeating the increasing desire in Scotland for a different future has to be part of this, lest the infection of truth were to spread.

Normal progressive European politics underpinning and enriching a normal, small European democratic nation is a deadly threat to Johnson’s intentions.

So nobody tell me that Brexit is a distraction for indy supporters.

Brexit is actually the battleground on which independence will have to be fought and won – the truth versus the lie – for it is being used to cement the Tories in power for a generation with a dishonest, backward-looking, isolationist and impoverishing agenda, which includes diminishing and indeed destroying Scottish democracy – including even our current limited level of self-government.