Scotland

It’s not the same UK we’ll be taking on in indyref2

THE unrelenting shambles of what passes for our democracy at present is tiring. Week after week, scandal after scandal, UK minister after UK minister failing in their duties and refusing to take responsibility – it is infuriating and exhausting.

What we are witnessing is more than just a government in crisis: it is a government in freefall.

After the vote to leave the EU, we were unsure about what would happen next. For a while at least, we were heading towards indyref2, only for it to be put on pause.

At the time – to me anyway – it felt like a blow. We were fired up, ready to get going again, and then we didn’t.

But with the benefit of hindsight, it was a canny move by Nicola Sturgeon. Back then, the UK Government had time and glorious predictions as a get-out clause. They could promise the world from their Brexit negotiations, knowing that they had no intention of revealing their hand until it really came to the crunch, as the exit day edged closer.

And now? Their bravado and bluster has been proven to be hollow. Progress in the negotiations has been pathetically sluggish. Theresa May’s Cabinet can’t even agree among themselves, let alone pull off the extra-special-red-white-and-blue-get-out-the-bunting deal that David Davis was claiming would be a doddle.

In 2014, the Yes side achieved a remarkable feat. Against the big beast of the British state, with their enviable arsenal of resources and influence; in the face of scare stories and guilt-trips, 45% of voters decided they wanted Scotland to become an independent country.

When we get the chance – when we take the chance – to vote on independence again, that beast we faced in 2014 is diminished.

It is limping. It is weakened. It is dealing with more constitutional and political crises than it can possibly stretch itself to handle competently. It won’t have the element of surprise – and it certainly won’t be given the benefit of the doubt.

Its bag of tricks is empty. Love-bombing won’t work, promises won’t work – and rousing speeches about the benefits of a union will be drowned out with the sound of wry laughter, given the UK Government’s hard-Brexit stance.

What’s left? Fear and threats. We’ve been down that road before and will be better placed to respond.

The UK Government’s pals in the EU, so willing to give them hauners in 2014 will likely refuse to return their calls next time round: “Sorry Theresa – ecccchhhh – bad line here – eccccchhh – can’t hear you.’’

There are few Better Together stalwarts still in action. Aye, Gordon Brown will be wheeled out, Eddie Izzard might come for a visit, and Jeremy Corbyn might be convinced to make a rare trip north of Islington, but the audience listening will be very different to Scotland 2014.

The Yes vote has remained steadfast. Of course, there are core No voters who wouldn’t vote for Independence under any circumstances. But then there’s the folk in the middle. People like Murray Foote, who said at a recent event that his heart was Yes, his head was No, and now with the Brexit uncertainty, he finds his heart and head in alignment.

Of all my friends who voted No in 2014 – of which there are many – only a few fall into the “hard No” category. Many couldn’t see a good enough reason to diverge from the status quo. Some were worried by the predictions of doom.

Some had questions about independence that they felt went unanswered. It may be that next time round, they don’t change their minds. But I am optimistic that there is scope to do just that.

That’s why I am pleased to see the SNP Westminster group use parliamentary process to their advantage. Not because I am a big fan of mischief – though I absolutely am – but because their walk-out got people’s attention.

One friend who doesn’t follow politics messaged me soon after to ask me what had happened. She wanted to know what had prompted the visually-exciting scenes of SNP MPs exiting, jeered and booed by many in the chamber. I told her. And now she knows what happened during that debate when no Scottish MP got to speak on critical amendments relating to devolution.

The balance of power between Scotland and the rest of the UK has always been skewed. It has been proven that we are not a nation of equals.

But make no mistake: come indyref2, we have more power than we realise. Yes is organised and unencumbered. The UK Government knows this all to well which has why they are running scared of a referendum. David Mundell said on Wednesday that “now is not the time’’ for a second independence referendum. He said it wouldn’t be the time in autumn of this year, or spring of next either.

What he really means is that the UK Government isn’t ready. They need more time to get back to peak fitness. Their party is in no fit state to face the forthcoming battle.

We should take comfort from that, knowing that when it does come: we’ll be ready.

Kirsty Strickland

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