Thursday, 23 March 2017

Defend Scots Democratic Rights - Part 4 of 6

Scotland clearly is not the equal of England, within the British state. It is Westminster that collects the vast majority of taxation and other forms of revenue, and then allocates it to the devolved parliaments and regions etc.; it is England that has the overwhelming majority of MP's in the British Parliament, so that, even with the SNP holding all but three of the Scottish seats, at Westminster, whilst the Tories hold only one, it is the writ of that English Tory government that holds sway across Scotland.

And that inequality has been demonstrably marked, when Tory English nationalism sought to assert itself over Brexit. When Scotland held its 2014 independence referendum, 16 and 17 year olds were rightly given the vote. Had they also been allowed to vote in the EU referendum, a majority for Remain would have resulted, but the English Tory government denied 16 and 17 year olds the vote, not just in England, but in Scotland too.

When the Scottish independence referendum took place, the Westminster parliament insisted on its right to determine the basis on which it was held, but at least it accepted negotiation over those terms. No such negotiations with the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly was allowed over the EU referendum, or on the terms of Brexit, however much the Tories prattle about the dialogue of the deaf they undertook, as a cover for such negotiations. They can refer to the vacuities that May included in her Lancaster House speech, but none of those twelve principles were even included as commitments in the Brexit Bill!

If the nations of Scotland and Wales, and the people of Northern Ireland, were to have equal rights to England, in relation to the EU, the referendum should have recognised them from the start, so that they could not be wrenched out of the EU against their will. But, England utilised its dominance over those other nations to impose its terms, and to assert its privileged position within the union, to override the democratic wishes of those other nations.  To claim that the Scots have proportional rights, as part of a unitary state, is itself to admit that they do not have equal rights, because political rights are not divisible.  Scotland cannot be in or out of the EU, in proportion to the size of its vote, it can only be either in or out, just as you cannot be a little bit pregnant.

Moreover, even in terms of the process following the referendum, the English nationalists, of the Tory Party, in Westminster, have imposed their authority in defiance of the democratic rights of Scots. Article 50, even according to the promises given by the Tory government, should only be triggered after agreement with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, has been reached, on the terms of the separation. But, no such agreement has been reached, and its clear that the Tory government had no intention of reaching any such agreement. The fact that Labour collapsed into English nationalism (also grotesquely symbolised by its use of the flag of St. George on its election leaflets in the Stoke Central by-election) in lining up with the Tories' Brexit Bill, facilitated the Tories in pursuing such a disregard for these democratic rights.

The Scottish government had proposed a series of principles for such an agreement, and those principles, such as continued membership of the single market and customs union, and so on, were principles that Labour itself had originally claimed were its own red lines, for any triggering of Article 50. Yet, Labour has not only surrendered itself, in relation to those principles, but now does not even offer any support to the Scottish government, or the Scottish people, who voted to remain in the EU, in insisting on those principles.

No comments: