Coverage of coronavirus has dominated the news media for months. It’s important. However, almost hidden from view in Scotland – away from much public comment or scrutiny – there are important negotiations being conducted elsewhere to decide the relationship the UK (and by extension, Scotland) will have with the EU after the Brexit transition period. The issue of Brexit, once so controversial and so prominent, is now at best under camouflage in Scotland. And if we wait too long to expose it, will we discover too late that its former potency has evaporated?
In a Scottish context, it should still rile us that negotiations of such importance are led by a Tory government in Westminster we didn’t vote for: but does it … enough? They’re negotiating on ‘our behalf’ a Brexit we didn’t vote for and with no part in their process for our Scottish Government or Parliament: does all this not still scream ‘democratic deficit’? Have we grown content to wait passively as this Tory government, powered by its majority in England, decides Scotland’s European future? Have we come to accept Scotland’s state of ‘powerlessness’ over this issue? If so, beware of slippery slopes!
The very fact that the Tories in England seem to enjoy much of their Brexit support from those most concerned with regaining ‘sovereignty’ – regardless of forecast economic harm – makes the near silence on Brexit in Scotland at present bitterly ironic.
But the Tories promised ….
The TuSC recently referred to Ian Murray MP’s comments in the Edinburgh Evening News based on a Social Market Foundation (SMF) report. Mr Murray warned of major job losses in Edinburgh: “A no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for jobs and the city’s economy. I don’t think anybody wants this, whichever way they voted in the Brexit referendum.” This may be true, but recall his solution. He asks the Tory government to: “… keep its promise to secure a trade deal, and if it can’t then it will have to ask for an extension to the Brexit transition period”. Should that make voters in Scotland feel appropriately, sufficiently empowered?
Getting clarity …
Mr Murray has confirmed two important policy positions over recent days. Firstly, he has accepted the inevitability of Brexit for Scotland and is now reduced to asking the Tories just to avoid its worst option. Having Scotland’s economic future in Europe now riding on a Tory promise, Mr Murray is busy on a second front. He is ramping up efforts to ensure the Labour Party does all it can to deny people in Scotland a second independence referendum.
What a telling characterisation of democracy in Scotland by the current Labour leadership: (i) on Europe, we now accept that you in Scotland have no agency – but it won’t be as bad as it could be as we’ll ask the Tories to keep their promise; but regardless of how the Tories respond, (ii) on Europe, you in Scotland will not be allowed to exercise agency – if we in the Labour Party have anything to do with it!
A very convenient camouflage?
Just as coronavirus has pushed Brexit matters off to the side for now, it is also possible that negative economic outcomes arising from the pandemic will be used by the Tory government to camouflage – to obscure – negative impacts on the economy that rightly should be attributed to Brexit.
Notwithstanding whatever wheeze the Tories in Westminster may seek to pull off, it’s important in Scotland – now as a matter of urgency – to spot any and all forms of Brexit ‘camouflage’ already at work. As a timely wake-up call, the recent analysis of the likely impact of coronavirus and of Brexit undertaken by the SMF has value. It provides a valuable reminder of what’s in store after Brexit for the UK and by extension, Scotland.
Headline findings from the SMF will be highlighted in a later post. And the findings beg a big question: why is any of this a ‘better together’ outcome for Scotland?