Responding to Boris Requires Winning not Losing

Mike Small, Bella Caledonia

14th January 2020

In a surprise to absolutely nobody, Boris Johnson has followed the lead from Alister Jack and refusing the First Minister’s claim for a Section 30 Order. This is of course an affront to democracy and a suppression of the right to vote and determine our future.

It is is undoubtedly disgraceful, but it is also inevitable.

Instead of turning our anger on the SNP or the Scottish Government – or coming up with wildly far-fetched fantasies about how to respond – we should make plans for a serious response.

The journalist Peter Geoghegan has written: “Boris Johnson can keep doing this for a long time. He doesn’t need Scottish votes and playing to an English nationalist gallery while issuing bromides about One Nation could play very well for him.”

This is unfortunately true.

The constitutional lawyers Chris McCorkindale and Aileen McHarg have written: “There are no legal short cuts … just as there is no legal right to insist upon Scotland’s independence or its competence to hold a referendum.”

This is unfortunately true.

The blogger Craig Murray has argued that we should : “…declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.”

This is, unfortunately, complete nonsense.

The reality is that without a legitimate legal process, or, in the face of resistance by Westminster of an overwhelming majority, it is highly unlikely that the international community would recognise an independent Scotland.

It is also true that in the absence of a majority in favour of an independence referendum, taking such unilateral action would doubtless alienate vast swathes of both the pro-independence movement and those considering joining it.

Talking of civil war, as Murray does here isn’t a functional, viable or useful contribution.

He writes: “At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. ”

This will play well on social media and Murray will be supported from his closest allies and the Woadus Dei – but this doesn’t and can’t play well IRL. This is not the time to play to the crowds to excite the already convinced and hide in the bubble of saltires and confirmation-bias.

This is precisely the time to talk beyond that silo and talk to people who will be shocked and offended by Johnson’s arrogance and anti-democratic actions.

Boris is a preposterous politician who will be an abysmal Prime Minister. Brexit will be an economic disaster. The Scottish Conservatives will be routed. We need to build the case for independence and win people over. This is very possible to do.

There are people who long-ago gave up talking to and engaging with people they needed to persuade and listen to. However frustrating, the political task remains to convince people and build a majority of people in favour of independence and in favour of a referendum.

Do this and we win, fail to do this and indulge in fantasies and we lose.