THe SNP should continue strategy of patiently persuading people to choose independence over Brexit, writes Laura Waddell.
At the stroke of eleven tomorrow, Britain will leave the EU. In France, Germany, Italy, and many other continental nations, it will be midnight. A little further to the east and south, it will be already 1am of a new day.
In her essay Coventry, in the book of the same name, writer Rachel Cusk describes the wartime atmosphere of her parents’ generation, “… a world where sacred monuments could disappear between bedtime and breakfast, a world at war: it is perhaps no surprise, then, that war remains their model”.
Indeed, war is still the mould which shapes our big political and public events, urged in words of duty and zealotry, and it is this sentiment which pushed the question of Brexit into a national crisis so very easily.
Now, the monuments at risk of vanishing are no longer the bricks and mortar of grand cathedrals but our social dedications to compassion, to truth, to quality of life, and to humanity.
In every war, there is sacrifice and there is hope. The jingoism of the Brexit mission spoke to both, evoking nostalgia for an era the majority of us never experienced. But the sacrifice of our living standards and security are to be made for the spoils of politicking and private interests.
There is no glory in the isolation which has been marketed so successfully as soverignty. Barely concealed opportunism is raring to really get going while hands are busy holding flags aloft. Trade partners and private providers know they have the upper hand, waiting for bits to be chipped off the National Health Service, social care provision, food supply, public broadcasting, and myriad other socialist achievements in British life in the stable years after the Second World War.
Austerity, privatisation, devolution dismissed
And who will suffer? Those who already suffer – the poorest of society. Those who’ve been let down by this and many other political projects, both cynical and well-meaning, who are told to climb a dangling rope which is attached to nothing secure at the top. Those with a little more cushioning might see job prospects shrink; food and medical supplies strained. This is what impact reports predict. We will have to wait and see to what extent everyday life will be upended, for those who haven’t already felt the draught.
It’s not just the collision of austerity and continued privatisation in the wake of Brexit where risk lies. The European Convention on Human Rights will be removed from UK law. Devolved parliaments, weakened by a power grab from the UK Government, have been dismissed outright as they try to navigate the turmoil, as an emboldened Johnson Government did this week in record time by almost instantly knocking back the Scottish Government’s 94-page migration proposal.
Walk through any public park or city square and you will find war memorials which speak of sacrifice. There will be no stone monuments to those who suffer from the inevitable social and economic erosion of Brexit, ushered along the road to nowhere with marching songs of glory and strength.
The sheer absurdity of it all. The idiocy of the 50-pence coin created to mark the occasion. The pointlessness of those getting worked up about the coin not having an Oxford comma rather than its likely devaluation when the economy tanks, politely sniping as a last resort. The woeful capitulation to a vote in the working class’s worst interests by the trade union and political party leaders facing depleted, dispersed labour movements who were unable to wrestle the narrative from the Brexit campaign’s crass xenophobia and outright lies, so gave into the most damaging political decision of decades.
Ugly public disorder
The very idea that those in favour of Remain aren’t meant to say Brexit is mind-numbingly stupid and dangerous lest we underline our own supposed elitism and entrench factions further. Brexit means Brexit? No, Brexit means pointless loss. The utter waste and rot and yes, the spectacular stupidity of it all.
But of course, it was stupidity by design. The derision of experts. The false equivalencies that bound nearly every broadcast debate, legitimising and elevating ideas that should have been torn apart for their lack of sense and detail. The vote itself, an appeasement of rebels, immediately reduced to a senseless rabble.
A street party planned for George Square in Glasgow tomorrow night brings back memories of the September evening following indyref, when rearing police horses, salutes, and Union Jacks filled the streets and the ugly public disorder that had, until that point, been absent from the debate was unleashed. Let’s hope for snow, that the cold winter weather dampens any possibility we’ll see such scenes again.
Brexit was a trial of British public discourse and revealed which politics benefit from a confusing melee. Logic and rationality have lost. We see this in economic anxiety, in the industries already packing up and leaving, in the swift and almost silent removal of glossy company headquarters, and most of all, in the ramping up of hatred and insecurity for our EU citizens.
And yet, Scotland is also susceptible to these factors, and still chose to vote a different way. There are some who urge the independence movement to join in the fracas and who despise the strategy of persuading voters over the line. But patience and persistence has not deserted the campaign; indeed, it has been the SNP’s greatest appeal as they returned another overwhelming sweep of Scottish seats at Westminster recently. It will be an uphill political battle, but scorched earth tactics would leave little to look forward to.
In Scotland, when Brexit feels hopeless, we have been cushioned somewhat by the lingering possibility of independence. How long will Scotland continue the unneccessary sacrifice of being anchored to the UK’s folly?
How long will we trade in the fool’s gold that has become the currency of a United Kingdom outside Europe?
There is significant pressure to accept Brexit, to give in, and to go along with it. But we don’t have to. Independence is a way out.