It’s a completely different thing though to articulate what you are for, as that can be complex and risk alienating those you’ve been courting. SNP policy on the European Union encapsulates that.
I was happy to support their Westminster debate earlier this week condemning the UK government for their failures with the EU settlement scheme.
It’s been catastrophic for Scottish business as skills shortages develop across a whole gamut of sectors, as well as being worrying for EU nationals who’ve come here and made this their home.
But this is no longer 2016, with the Brexit referendum facing us. I voted Remain then and had a sinking feeling when news of the Leave victory south of the border came through. It’s not even 2019 when Boris Johnson was returned committing to getting Brexit done, whatever Scotland thought and irrespective of the consequences.
It’s now 2021 and Brexit has happened with all its calamitous effects on Scottish business whether farming or fishing, along with the other social ills that it’s brought in its wake; and it can’t just be wished away. Nor can political positioning just be about opposing what’s been, as there needs to be an articulation of where we go now.
Of course, ameliorations to the EU settlement scheme would be welcome, as would rational discussions with the EU to resolve impasses. Current UK jingoism and foghorn diplomacy sounds more like partisan English football fans at Wembley, than supposedly experienced international diplomats. But those pursuing Independence need to detail much more and, in particular, how Scotland addresses Brexit.
Simply trumpeting about going back into the EU won’t wash. That’s probably at least five years down the line and we can’t just sit and twiddle our thumbs until then, even if that’s what Scots would wish, which is itself arguable. I can’t be alone in having voted Remain but wanting to wait until a future juncture before deciding whether to support re-joining.
For sure, access to the Single Market’s imperative but that can be resolved by membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta).
Re-joining the EU would necessitate a hard border with the rest of the UK, which is an anathema to many and undermines the case for independence. In any event the political union’s more controversial now, as the EU faces challenges with the departure of Merkel, Le Pen’s threat to Macron and the continued rightward drift of the likes of Hungary and Poland.`
SNP positioning though seems to be EU membership, irrespective of whatever happens or whatever the cost. That’s probably driven by many who joined the party post-Brexit or fired by the SNP’s pro-EU position. To avoid alienating them, the SNP concentrates on looking back, not preparing to go forward, as for some of them EU membership’s more important than independence and they were cultivated by Nicola Sturgeon.
But go forward Scotland must, which’s why Efta’s the solution and EU membership’s for a future referendum. It’s yet another area where the Yes movement’s pressing on, leaving the SNP behind.
Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian