Referenda? It's the hypocrisy that gets me!

Referenda? It's the hypocrisy that gets me!

by Keith Steele
article from Friday 28, October, 2016

I MOVED to Scotland in 2008, since when I’ve lived under a government whose political mantra was and still is that ‘nationality’ defines one’s route to a better life.

In late 2014 we were given a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to put this so called ‘civic’ nationalist agenda into practice by backing a referendum which would have made Scotland independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The rest is history as they say, well over 80% of the Scottish electorate participated and decisively ‘self-determined’ to stay in the UK. As a result of the process Scotland won many new devolved powers (although none yet used) but obviously with certain reserved matters continuing to be decided at a UK level.

Fast forward 18 months and the UK voted democratically to leave the European Union. I voted ‘remain’ and then to my surprise found my vote had somehow morphed into a trigger for so called indyref2. Sure Scotland voted to stay in the EU but this was not a Scottish referendum it was a UK referendum; it literally felt like my credit card had been stolen and used without my permission!

Why on earth was I surprised?

All I’ve ever seen from the SNP since they entered the world I inhabit has been lies, hypocrisy, and grievance.

In 10 years in power at Holyrood I truly don’t recall a single positive contribution to making the lives of Scots better, on the contrary we’ve seen Health, Education Transport all devolved and all in crisis under their administration. They simply have a one track mind and they truly make me question the value of Holyrood.

The economic basis of the SNP independence bid has been shown as a lie in 2016; with the collapse of the oil price if we had gone independent we would have started life with the worst public finance deficit in the developed world at £15bn, or 10% of GDP, clearly one of the 1st actions of an independent Scotland would have been to call in the IMF to be bailed out.

Let’s be under no illusion the EU would stay well clear of an independent Scotland; the EU deficit rule is 3% of GDP plus we’d need our own central bank, our own currency and an ultimate commitment to join the Euro, we are nowhere close to having any of these. The SNP still haven’t figured out the most basic of all questions, which currency would be used in an independent Scotland?

Instead because of the sound fiscal management of the UK government since the 2008 financial crash Scotland’s deficit as part of the UK is now just 4% of GDP and falling. We are shielded by the strength of the UK and a £10bn fiscal transfer which happens automatically and without the pains suffered by the Greeks, Irish, Spanish and Portuguese in the EU’s poor man’s version of monetary union which Nicola Sturgeon seems so desperate to join.

During the EU referendum campaign, I was astonished at the utter hypocrisy of Nicola Sturgeon who supported continued membership of the EU insisting the pooling and sharing of sovereignty for the common good was the way forward; I’m deeply curious as to why Nicola thinks this is desirable with the EU but not the UK.

Her enthusiasm to be part of a political union was clearly not to the liking of all SNP members who pointed out leaving the UK union only to join the EU union with far smaller representation was hardly ‘independence’ and accordingly, 36% of SNP voters backed Brexit  (presumably unlike the English however they remain free of ‘xenophobia’).

Lately we’ve also had the claim that leaving the EU single market will be an economic catastrophe for the Scots economy where 15% of our exports go, this is apparently far more important than the 65% of goods and services we export to the UK.

So off to Europe goes Nicola to try to ‘negotiate’ a separate arrangement with the EU for Scotland to have access to the EU single market except this comes with freedom of movement, incompatible with the likely UK outcome with potentially different tariffs with the UK; it’s quite simply a non-starter.

Last but not least we finally saw the last remnants of the sham of so called ‘civic Nationalism’ disappear without trace as we had the ‘England is xenophobic and populated by Tory racists line’ topped off by an Australian who likened his treatment by UK immigration authorities to that of the Jews in Fascist Germany in the 1930’s. Needless to say the frothing cybernats took their cue reminding all NO voters of the abuse they encountered in the first campaign.

So let’s point out some facts.

The UK’s migrant population is concentrated in London. Around 37% of people living in the UK who were born abroad live in the capital city. Similarly, around 37% of people living in London were born outside the UK, compared with 13% for the UK as a whole.

The proportion of people born abroad in England as a whole is 14.6%. Of all the nations of the UK, Wales had the lowest proportion of its population born abroad (5.6%), followed by, Northern Ireland (7.0%), and Scotland (7.4%).

For the most part the UK is a wonderful multicultural society reflected in the mix of the nationalities that live, work and play peacefully together. It is however a fine balance and there is no doubt that in particular people from lower income groups are feeling left behind by the impact of globalisation; they have also felt threatened by unrestricted immigration with perceived preferential treatment and downward pressure on wages and, given the relative shares of the migrant population across the UK it’s hardly surprising this is felt most of all in England.

I’m of course not blind to some of the issues that followed Brexit and I do not deny it has caused problems but what I refuse to take is the sanctimonious revisionism of the SNP and the disgusting ‘race’ card they played at their conference. Concern about levels of immigration is NOT racist and it is not peculiar to England and the SNP should know this because:

SNP manifesto 2015 – “effective immigration controls are important”

White Paper on independence – “a points-based immigration system”

As I said at the beginning of this piece I voted remain. It wasn’t in truth a particularly enthusiastic remain, for me the EU needs drastic reform; it is stagnant economically and showing no sign of recovery (the UK has generated more jobs than the whole of the EU put together in recent years), the Euro is seriously flawed and may yet collapse, and the whole project for me suffers a huge democratic deficit. On balance I voted to stay because I thought outside of the Euro and Schengen we had a pretty good deal; inside not a chance.

In any case my side lost and for me we have to accept the result and now work together to get the best deal possible for the UK.

As ever there are those on the extremes of each side of the argument who predict total catastrophe on one side or some miracle economic transformation on the other. I predict with supreme confidence that neither extreme will come to pass. I do believe there is a deal to be done that can work for both the EU and the UK.

The one thing I am absolutely clear is the deal we get will depend on a united front in our negotiating position. The ‘go it alone’ actions of Sturgeon are not helpful to say the least and in my opinion are doing great harm to Scotland’s future economic prospects.

Some in the media present her stance of threatening a new independence referendum as ‘protecting Scotland’s interests’. Forgive me for my skepticism, in my experience threats to your close partners are not the ideal way to garner cooperation and get the best outcome; add to that going behind the backs of your partners and you quickly become the outcast who nobody trusts.

So where do we go from here?

In my view the UK needs to negotiate as one and if Nicola Sturgeon is sincere in saying she wants to be part of the getting the best deal for the UK then she needs to act in a manner consistent with her commitment.

There is no way in my view the UK will sanction another referendum before Brexit and nor should they, indeed how could Sturgeon even demand they should? She has no mandate and she has no deal with the EU to put to Scots. What’s more Scotland is currently broke and doesn’t qualify for membership.

Without knowing the outcome of the negotiations on Brexit or indeed the terms on which an independent Scotland would be allowed into the EU e.g. our currency, the deficit reduction needs, the cost; the terms of entry – how can Scots possibly make an informed decision?

Independence is clearly a non-starter before Brexit; Sturgeon knows this but she will now find it very difficult to back down without losing face.

Theresa May should help her by offering her a mandate for a new referendum if she gets a real mandate for a new vote in the 2021 Holyrood elections. The price Sturgeon pays is she removes the indyref threat now and gets behind Team UK in the Brexit negotiations.

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