Yesterday the SNP rejected the idea of a plebiscite at their National Assembly. This was disappointing, but not surprising to us at ISP. We still haven’t heard a good argument against the proposal; as we have been at pains to explain, it is a legitimate, democratic, internationally recognised means of expressing the will of the Scottish people. It offers a way out of the corner that we have boxed ourselves into with Section 30. And it would also take the tide of opinion at the flood, while there is still majority support for independence. Alex Salmond would have given his eye teeth to have had 20 polls in favour of Yes, with three months campaigning to go in 2014 and with Boris Johnson in charge. Are we really going to squander that opportunity?
There is still a chance to run with this and the leverage to make it happen. And that leverage belongs to the Greens. This week, the SNP print their budget. They will require Green support to have it passed. And this is customarily the time when the Greens ask for something in return. We humbly suggest to Patrick Harvie that the bargaining chip should be to make the May Holyrood election a plebiscite on independence. There is no downside that we can see. It establishes the Greens’ credentials as an independence supporting party. If the SNP refuses, it’s bad for them and good for the Greens. If they say yes, then it gives the Greens the points for running with it. It’s win win.
A plebiscite is the last chance we are going to have for five years (unless we get a super majority) to have a vote on independence. And it’s not simply five years of sitting on our hands and waiting patiently. We are in for a five years that is going to make the forced de-industrialisation of the ‘80s look like a picnic by comparison.
During that five years, our country’s businesses and public services are going to be dismantled. Brexit is set to ruin our fishing industry, our food and drink exports and everything that requires us to do trade with those abroad. Our specialised brands will lose their protection. By contrast, companies will be brought in from abroad to buy up the NHS. The English NHS has already been broken up and sold off; now it’s going to be our turn. That’s before we even get onto the systematic deregulation of health and safety, employment rights and everything that goes with that. Our parliament is going to be turned into the parish council that Tony Blair spoke of; its powers emasculated and assumed by the Scotland Office. In short, Scotland is going to be totally and utterly destroyed as a country.
Please understand. Brexit is only a shambles to those adversely affected by it. To those who planned it, Brexit is the culmination of many years of campaigning since we signed the Maastricht treaty. It is the deregulation and final privatisation of Britain. It is to be an employer’s paradise with no minimum wage or hours, part time workers trained (or rather not trained) with a low skill set and being paid a similar low wage. This is what they wanted; this is what we are going to get. And our only escape is a vote out of Dodge, before it has time to gain momentum.
That is the price we are going to pay for not having a vote now. By the time we get to the point of having a referendum, it is going to take a generation to repair the damage done by waiting. It is not like switching a light on and off. Rather, it is like trying to raise a ship after it has sunk, or repair a house after it has burnt down. It can be reversed, but the marks on the economy are going to be with us for years to come.
The SNP in November 2019 had the leverage to do a deal on Brexit with Theresa May and obtain a referendum in return. They missed that opportunity and now the Bullingdon club rule supreme, braying and laughing at Scotland. The Greens now stand on the same threshold here in Holyrood. This is your chance to shine. Please for our sake and Scotland’s, don’t miss that chance.