The situation in which those in the agriculture and fisheries sectors find themselves is, of course, very largely a bind of their own making. Satisfying as the schadenfreude may be, it is hardly constructive. By all means, enjoy a bit of finger-pointing. But don’t settle for that. Farming and fishing are hugely important to Scotland – economically, environmentally and culturally, We must resist the base urge tell farmers and fisherman who campaigned and voted to stay in the UK and leave the EU that they’ve made their bed and must lie in it. Those who got it right are perfectly entitled to remind No/Leave voters how they got it wrong and point out the consequences of their tragic misjudgement. But we must also get past this instinctive reaction and be prepared to engage with these people positively if and when they recognise their error and determine to rectify it.
We might start by joining with No/Leave voters in an effort to understand why they made such unfortunate choices. We could, for example, have a conversation about the way in which the potential consequences were not discussed. Particularly in the case of the first Scottish independence referendum, there was no meaningful media scrutiny of the anti-independence arguments. Statements from the British government and it’s agencies were simply assumed to be accurate and honest. Claims made by the British political parties were rarely, if ever, questioned. Threats and smears coming from Better Together/Project Fear were never challenged. Leading figures in the anti-independence campaign were never interrogated. The lies, distortions and empty promises of British Nationalists were never exposed.
Bearing all this in mind, it is clear that those who voted No in 2014 did so without any hard information about what they were voting for. In reality, they voted for nothing more than a vague assurance that everything would be all right. Nobody really knew what a No vote meant. It was never defined. Those who voted No quickly discovered that their vote could mean whatever the British political elite wanted it to mean. In voting No, they had handed the British establishment a licence to do whatever they wished with Scotland.
Much the same applies to the EU referendum. The negative implications of a Leave vote, potential and actual, were never acknowledged by those campaigning to take the UK out of the EU. It is now clear that the full implications were not even understood by those leading the Leave campaign. The implications were never properly examined. The consequences were never considered. None of it was explained.
Those voting Leave on the basis of the case made by Boris Johnson and his ilk didn’t know what they were actually voting for because Johnson and the rest of the Mad Brexiteers didn’t know – and/or didn’t care -what leaving the EU would entail. Through wilful ignorance or for the purposes of malicious deceit, the Leave campaign peddled a glittering fantasy to obscure the unpeasant reality.
Leave voters aren’t getting the glittering fantasy they thought they were voting for. No voters are getting the very opposite of the certainty, security, stability, prosperity and respect they uncritically and unthinkingly associated with keeping Scotland thirled to the British state.
There is little hope for Leave voters. It looks very much as if they, and the rest of us, will have to live with the consequences of the UK flouncing out of the EU in a self-harming British Nationalist huff. That’s a bitter pill for the Scottish people to swallow, having voted decisively to maintain Scotland’s mutually advantageous relationship with Europe.
Happily, those who voted to relinquish Scotland’s sovereignty to the British state will have a chance to change their minds. Later this year, those who voted No in 2014 will have an opportunity to make a better choice. An informed choice. Very evidently, they cannot rely on British politicians and the British media to provide the information they need. Project Fear and the Leave campaign proved that.
The information is there. The answers are there. It’s just a matter of accessing that information and asking the right questions. Yes campaigners – once they’ve had their fill of schadenfreude – must prompt No voters to question their assumptions about the Union. When we berate No voters it should not be solely for the purpose of recrimination. The aim always should be to provoke No voters into questioning their own assumptions about the Union. To make them look at what the Union really means for Scotland. To break out of the old habits of thought. To stop rejecting independence long enough to wonder why they should just accept the Union.
According to Professor Michael Keating, politics professor at both Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities, we still do not know how much flexibility in relation to agriculture and fisheries policy the Scottish Government – or the other devolved administrations – will have after Brexit.
In fact, we do know – or are obliged by the precautionary principal to assume – that the British political elite intend to allow no flexibility at all. The ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ being proposed suggest anything but flexibility. The phrase reeks of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism and the rigid conformity to imposed policy that this implies.
Professor Keating speaks of “the danger is that a piecemeal approach will make it more difficult for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to forge coherent agricultural and rural development policies tailored to their own conditions”. He seems not to recognise that this is not a potential danger but an imminent threat. It’s not just something that might happen as an unintended consequence of what the UK Government, but the actual purpose of what the UK Government is doing, and something that will happen if the people of Scotland do’t act to prevent it. and quickly.
We have the means to prevent this eradication of Scotland’s distinctive political culture and avoid the looming hammer-blow to our farming and fishing communities from a combination of Brexit and policies imposed by the British government. We can take back the power that was so recklessly handed to a corrupt and incompetent clique of British politicians. We can bring our government home. We can restore Scotland’s independence.
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