Sturgeon shows her hand, and it’s a poor one

Sturgeon shows her hand, and it’s a poor one

by Brian Monteith
article from Friday 14, October, 2016

IT COULD NOT have been staged better. Like a general on the battlefield making the big appeal to the hearts and minds of her troops, or like a broadcast to the nation at a time of peril – using the SNP’s annual conference to announce the publication next week of a draft Bill to pave the way for indyref2 could not be matched.

The legions roared and cheered, ready to go over the top to convince us “free-dum” is worth any economic pain, any public service sacrifice. And go over the top is indeed, as we learned the last time, what some of them will do.

The media swooned, and the further away from Glasgow it was reported the more it was relayed as a declaration of intent, a Brexit bloodletting, rather than a mere consultation of a bill that can have no authority to deliver a referendum without Westminster’s agreement. (I know, I watched the overseas channels from Uganda.)

But working under the letter of law is not what the SNP, and especially Nicola Sturgeon are about.

At great expense, dedicated teams of officials have been made to work on drafting her bill while others are preparing the groundwork for the next White Paper. It may not be ultra vires expenditure, but it is not what the Scotland Act laid out as the responsibilities of a Scottish executive.

Meanwhile her erstwhile priorities of education, health and housing matter so little they barely got a mention in her speech.

While foodbanks flourish in the SNP’s Scotland that continues to suffer a slower growth rate than the rest of the UK – and is just about to introduce a new punishing tax on business – the First Minister has made it her priority to drag Scotland out of the UK. Her regular jaunts to the capitals of Europe, it was Reykjavik last week, make for good photo opportunities and smashing sound bites put don’t put food in anyone’s belly.

Sturgeon’s game these last three and half months has all been about trying to whip up hysteria to the point where people feel, and I really mean feel, a genuine grievance about leaving the EU. Only they don’t.

Having failed to do that she is now trying to whip up hysteria again, this time about leaving the Single Market, calling it the “Hard” Brexit of xenophobes and right wing nut jobs. She says there is no mandate to leave the Single Market because it was never made clear that’s what would happen. The electorate was conned, duped, fooled, enter grievance and hysteria stage left.

Only, she’s wrong. Let me remind Nicola Sturgeon that it was not just Michael Gove and Boris Johnson that repeatedly said we would leave the Single Market, it was David Cameron and George Osborne who repeatedly said it too. It is all recorded on film. There could be no doubt from the arguments of both sides of the campaign that Brexit meant leaving the Single Market.

Where then does that place Nicola Sturgeon?

If there is a Single Market that matters to Scotland so much that our leaving would lay waste to Scotland’s economy it is dragging us out of the genuine Single Market that is the United Kingdom. Does she think we are all left wing flat earthers?

The UK is the real thing, it is how a single market is meant to work, there is freedom of movement of people and capital - with one language, one currency, one central bank and a sovereign national parliament that is ultimately responsible for the common public finances including all assets and debts. It also happens to have a common history and shared culture of over 300 years which to many, maybe still most people, matters.

It is because the EU’s Single Market cannot be that genuine model – because the European peoples have no wish for it to be so – that it is doomed to fail and has been failing for over a generation. It has the lowest growth of any economic region in the world, suffers eye-watering unemployment – and countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal now have smaller economies than they had in 2009.

The First Minister talks of Brexit supporters trading on xenophobia, but it is a strange understanding of the word when her definition of a “Hard” Brexit would make it easier for much-needed doctors from India and technicians from Korea to be welcomed to our shores.

A xenophobia where the UK Secretary for Trade is discussing free trade deals around the world with fast growing economies and seeks to free the poorest of nations punished by the high tariffs of the EU’s despicable Customs Union, bringing prosperity to the darkest corners of Africa, South America and Asia.

A xenophobia that prevents us from becoming inward looking and introverted – or limited to being simply European – but demands of us that we take our seat at the tops tables of world institutions where we have been absent from for some forty years, that we become truly internationalist and open to the world, for without that approach our country will wither and die.

If that’s xenophobia pass me the pen and I will sign up for it now.

Sturgeon talks of avoiding Hard Brexit but what she wishes upon us is Hard Indy.

Her open door policies must, by definition, deliver a hard border, for remember, England is run by xenophobes. It must deliver a hard austerity, for our public finances will become the economic equivalent of a scorched earth policy. And it will deliver a hard Scotland, which will be marked by division, bitterness and hatred, splitting families and communities – far more than we had a taste of in the last indyref.

Let Sturgeon have her consultation and then, with her cards in full view, after we confirm our hard Brexit, let her call her indyref2.

There will be no hysteria, no grievance, for the better prospect is for Scotland to be outside the Single Market and Customs Union – regaining control of its fisheries and much more – and being part of a true Single Market that can trade freely with the rest of the world, sharing its opportunities while providing protection to all when the oil runs out and the coffers are bare.

Let Sturgeon play her hand, then we shall see just how good the SNP rabble rouser is.

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