Every day it seems, another No voter makes the case for why an independent Scotland is right, now. The disillusionment with the Brexit Britain they find themselves in is turning even some of the most ardent Unionists into Independistas.
From either ends of the political spectrum – Paul Mason on the Corbynite left to Allan Massie on the right – there is a sense that the case for Scotland ploughing its own furrow as a modern European democracy is gathering pace.
Whilst there is a growing groupthink that Scotland in Europe is a much more viable position, equally there is a recognition that there are still issues from the first Independence Referendum which need resolved, primarily: a Scottish currency; a stronger economic case; reassurance about pensions; and protection of workers’ rights from the ravages of a Tory Kipper party that thinks it can ride roughshod over anyone and everyone.
Some of the solutions to the first IndyRef are permeating through in considerable and significant contributions to the constitutional debate. From Robin McAlpine’s polemic ‘Determination: how Scotland can be independent by 2021’ to Gordon Guthrie’s ‘Winning the Second Independence Referendum: Manifesto for Scotland in the European Union after Brexit’, the zeitgeist within the Scottish polity is clearly with independence more than the pitiful squeak from former Remainers Mundell and Davidson with their ‘let’s make the most of Brexit’ pitch.
The most that anyone in Scotland can make from Brexit is that Britain is heading for an economic disaster which won’t just be a jittery market when Article 50 is eventually triggered in less than 6 months time but for the next decade or so, as the UK is at the end of the queue for poorer trade deals with the world. If you are in any doubt, just listen to Professor Ngaire Woods explain trade deals, Brexit and why we must remain part of the European Single Market in less than two minutes:
It’s clear the Scottish Government gets it. The First Minister’s announcement that a new commercial embassy will be established in Berlin (akin to the Washington facility currently in operation), derives from the efforts behind the scenes of Scotland’s civil servants hard at work to prepare positions, options and strategies for the Scottish Government to meet its stated aim: protecting Scotland’s interests within the European Single Market.
What will be very interesting over the coming weeks and months is the position of Scotland’s trade bodies. In the aftermath of the EU Referendum result, there was a unanimous call that the Scottish Government should focus on how to influence the Brexit process, presumably so that Scotland could somehow remain in the EU/Single Market without another independence referendum. Now that the PM has categorically stated that we are heading for a ‘hard Brexit’ – no ifs, buts or maybes, out means out – where now doth the IoD, CBI, SCDI and FSB stand? Are you sensing from your members that the real opportunities are starting to lie within the EU or a separatist UK?
The Economic Development Association (Scotland) held a fascinating seminar lately at which the Chair of the Standing Council on Europe and Principal of Glasgow University, Prof Anton Muscatelli, and fellow Council member, Fabian Zuleeg, Director of the European Policy Centre, spoke in very knowledgeable terms that the needs of the Scottish economy are at the bottom of UK’s thinking on trade deals and could have a major impact on Scotland’s inward investment track record amongst a multitude of issues.
At this very same event, Michael Russell, the Minister with a very long portfolio name, stood out with authority, calmness and resolution in a way no UK Minister has so far matched. This is one Ministerial appointment that is a perfect match.
Which leads us neatly to the publication this week of the draft Bill for a second Independence Referendum. The mandate is in the 2016 SNP manifesto. The majority is in the Scottish Parliament. The threat from Theresa May that the UKG will over-rule the democratic intention of the Scottish people is as emotive language as the xenophobic hyperbole that got us into this dog’s Brexit. If the City of London gets ‘passporting’ entry to the Single Market, if the Irish border remains guard-less, even if Gibraltar gets special treatment, then why can’t May honour the respect for the Scottish electorate that she talked about when sitting in Bute House?
Oh and BTW, First Minister, if the Scottish Government is thinking of establishing a commercial embassy in Morocco, may I offer my services? Plenty opportunity here to establish renewable energy links, ethical social enterprises and educational exchange. Written from the autumnal sunny climes of a terrasse in the Gueliz district of Marrakech in case you’re all wondering – host city for COP22 next month.