Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Responding to Scotland

To the great surprise of precisely no-one,  I disagree with the response of Carwyn Jones to the announcement by Scotland's First Minister that she is going to take the first step towards calling a second independence referendum.  But in saying that the nations of the UK are stronger together than apart, he is at least recognising the alternative possibility.  I take the opposite view on the desirability of independence, but despite what some may say, I don't see anything particularly unpatriotic about arguing that perhaps a country can be independent if it wants, but that it should choose not to.  It's a stance which betrays an utter lack of confidence in the ability of the nation he purports to lead, and in the capacity of his own party and government to improve things, but none of that makes it unpatriotic or anti-Welsh.

The response of Plaid Cymru hardly displayed any more confidence.  Brexit might prompt calls for "greater control of our own affairs" is a statement which looks like it's either trying to say independence without using the word or else threatening to maybe perhaps ask for a few crumbs.  It's not the confident approach of a party which knows what can be done and is ready to lead; it's the approach of a party afraid of losing votes by taking a clear and unequivocal stance.

The Tories have shown their usual inability to deal with the substance of the question, as well as their total failure to understand why anyone in politics would want to have an aim, let alone try and achieve it.  And UKIP have resorted to their usual nonsense of claiming that membership of the EU is equivalent to surrendering all power to Brussels.

The decision taken by Nicola Sturgeon is high-risk for the long term cause of independence for Scotland.  The result is by no means as certain as many independentistas seem to be assuming, and there'a s long hard road ahead.  Failure for a second attempt in such a short timescale would set the cause back by decades.  Much of the news coverage is suggesting that yesterday's announcement caught the UK Government on the hop.  Perhaps it did - but it should not have.  There is no excuse for not seeing what was about to happen, even if the precise timing was not so clear - it should have been obvious to the UK Government that the course on which they have set themselves was going to create a situation in which the Scottish Government was left with no credible choice; the fact that they seem not to have realised that speaks volumes.  

But the point that the UK Government doesn't understand it is no reason for the rest of us not to understand it - the SNP Government were left with little choice or room to manoeuvre.  Any sensible timing for the referendum, for all the reasons outlined by Nicola Sturgeon, is severely constrained by the decisions already taken at Westminster.  Many independentistas are naturally enthusiastic for the forthcoming campaign, and optimistic abut the result.  But the scale of the challenge is greater than some seem to think.

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