Emotions are running high. And, to an extent, they should be. Brexit represents a profound change to life in the UK that may have serious effects on the economy, but also on less tangible things like our sense of identity and place in the world. If we do indeed leave the EU in five months’ time, saying the words “I am British” will mean something different to the current definition.
But, just as The Scotsman recently called for more reason and less passion in the independence debate, the same should be said – and said repeatedly – about Brexit.
A “State of the Economy” report, published today by the Scottish Government’s chief economist Dr Gary Gillespie, provides some important facts and reasoned opinions to help prepare for the future. The good news is that Scotland’s GDP is growing and at the strongest annual rate since 2014. The bad news is that “uncertainty” about the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU may hit investment levels as businesses postpone big decisions. Companies may also start stockpiling goods, creating a boom during this financial year that would be “more than offset” by a post-Brexit slump. It is the kind of measured and practical advice that politicians need to know when making decisions about the preparations necessary to smooth the transition.
Everyone knows the name of the report’s author and the analysis can be challenged by anyone who cares to do so. Some may insist this is another example of “Project Fear” and continue to put the case for the benefits of Brexit. Passions may run understandably high. But it is important not use language at odds with peaceful democracy, particularly given the rise of the far-right across the West in recent years.
The pro-Brexit MPs quoted anonymously as saying Theresa May should “bring her own noose” to a meeting of backbenchers and talked of the imminent moment “when the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted” – adding “she’ll be dead soon” – perhaps thought they were using metaphors like the “Night of the Long Knives”, used to describe Harold Macmillan’s 1962 reshuffle.
But the phrase’s origins are deeply sinister, referring to murders carried out by Hitler to ensure his grip on power in pre-war Germany. In light of the murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016 by a far-right extremist, politicians need to be more careful with their words, lest they inspire others to take similar actions.