Referenda remain the appropriate way to resolve major constitutional issues and it’s becoming clear that something fundamentally wrong went on in the last Brexit one. With the vote so close and evidence that there was something cancerous about the actions of the Vote Leave campaign, it’s not just doubts about what people were actually voting for that exist but the validity of the outcome itself that now arise.
For that reason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Brexit vote needs to be rerun, not just reviewed, though reviewed it most certainly should be with intense scrutiny and prosecutions to follow if illegality has taken place. This goes to the heart of democracy in our society and cannot be blustered or hidden away. If individuals, or even states, were manipulating the vote, then severe action needs taken. This cannot be laughed off or treated as just a minor infraction.
Our very democracy is imperilled and those entrusted with it, or participating in it, need to respect that. A postman goes to jail for interfering with the mail as it’s viewed as so serious and it’s equally necessary to send a message to all others.
But breaking election laws is far worse than opening some letters or binning a few mail bags. Those in privileged or vital positions need to uphold the trust placed in them and if they don’t, they must face the severest of consequences. And if they are rich and powerful that mustn’t give them immunity, democracy demands that or is fundamentally damaged by any failure to defend proper process. Given the difficult and dangerous world we now live in, this is a Rubicon for our democracy.
As the prospect of a “no deal” departure looms, the release – never mind leaks – of strategies to prepare for food and power shortages is frightening. More worryingly, it appears clear that Parliament as it’s currently constituted can’t resolve it. An election there’s going to be and, as with Indyref 2, it’s just a matter of when. The accidental Prime Minister has proven to be the thoroughly hopeless one, now derided and held in contempt not just by all parties but all wings even within her own party.
The schisms and rifts within both Labour and Tory make it hard to see either an outright winner or how either could coalesce around an agreed Brexit policy. On that basis there should be an election to try to allow a capable Government and a competent Prime Minister to be elected, no matter how hard that may be. But also the opportunity must be given to rerun the Brexit vote. It was held on a false premise, sustained by lies, delivered by dirty money and deeds and is taking us all to “hell in a handcart”.
It must now take priority over Indyref 2 for the SNP and it’s good to see Brexit Minister Michael Russell support a rerun of the vote and Ian Blackford, who has reinvigorated the SNP Westminster group, allude to just that position. Brexit 2 isn’t supplanting Indyref 2, but is a necessary prelude to it, never mind being essential for Scotland to avoid political and economic disaster. There are some independence supporters who will see that as heresy, but it’s realpolitik – Brexit 2, which I believe would be comfortably won by Remain, should be supported by the SNP before Indyref 2.
There’s no possibility of having a second Indyref vote at present, even if the UK is diminishing, if not imploding. The stark fact is that Westminster won’t allow it, even if there’s a vote for it in Holyrood. Precedent was set in 2014 with the Edinburgh agreement and circumstances haven’t changed to depart from that. That’s been compounded by the Catalan situation where attempts to do so without agreement have been fraught, with little international support. Never mind practicalities about how you’d even do it. Calls for SNP MPs simply to leave Westminster and come north are bonkers, this is Scotland 2018 not Ireland 1919. Besides, there’s neither an SNP mandate for that nor any likelihood of it being publicly supported. So, Scotland’s locked into the UK at the moment, until circumstances change.
Equally, the political circumstances of Brexit aren’t good for the independence cause and most certainly not a hard Brexit. The border issue becomes a real problem in Scotland, as in Ireland; trade with the rest of the UK likewise. And whilst both can be resolved, they’re not easy to counter. An implosion of the economy and collapse in living standards aren’t the best circumstances for a confident people to vote for independence. Suggestions that Scots will see no alternative to leaving the UK are offset by worries that when things are grim they “hold on to nurse for fear of something worse”. I’ve never believed that the worse it gets the more folk are likely to vote for independence. No! Sorry, the worse it gets, heads go down and hope fades!
But, that doesn’t mean that the SNP are powerless or should do nothing. It’s perfectly legitimate to seek to make support for second Brexit referendum conditional on support for Indyref 2. There are many political outcomes that make that not just possible, but probable. There must be the likelihood of a hung Parliament or minority Government, in which case the SNP can demand Indyref 2 as their price. Moreover, given the continued high support for independence and the likely strength of SNP representation, it’s quite possible that a new Government will see that as sensible on both topics.
So, it’s not either Brexit 2 or Indyref 2, but both with the former the precursor for the latter.