We are living through history and we are the history makers – Gerry Hassan

We live through history and we are the historians

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, July 12, 2020

The British government has been involved in several crises – COVID19 and the upcoming economic storm – while Brexit is ongoing and a no deal Brexit is very likely by the end of this year.

If that weren't enough, Britain is committing self-harm on the inheritance of a helpless and dogmatic government. It treats large parts of England like distant provinces and only remembers Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when they cause problems or stay in line.

And in connection with the upcoming Brexit juggernaut, it was announced last week that the UK government is planning a UK single market calculation that will have profound negative consequences for Scotland and Wales and will affect the nature of the UK.

The intention of this calculation is loud Financial Timesis to give the British government "free hand in the post-Brexit trade negotiations with other countries" and "emphasize the far-reaching constitutional implications of the exit from the EU". According to British insiders, the British government will be able to force Scotland and Wales should have Westminster impose new standards in a variety of areas, including food, environmental and animal standards – without proper consultation with Scotland and Wales.

Minister for Europe Mike Russell said the Scottish government had accepted the need for a "common framework" across the UK, but accused the UK government of "maliciously" proposing a legislative standardization framework for the UK single market that would allow Westminster to "do what." to impose “you like & # 39 ;. Russell concluded: "We do not accept that this is a legitimate way of operating within decentralization."

This impending crisis has worsened in recent years since the Brexit vote in 2016, and the UK government's insistence on one size fits all Brexit – for Scotland and Wales, with Northern Ireland taking special precautions only because of the efforts of the Republic of Ireland and the EU Has . But we have to ask ourselves if this is Westminster's ultimate disregard, which transcends democracy and engages in the ultimate takeover. Or is Westminster's bark worse than its bite and somehow a compromise is found? And what can the Scottish and Welsh governments do (when the crisis comes) to resist it?

First, the name of this bill and its content illustrates Westminster's confusion – referred to as the UK internal market accounts when Northern Ireland is excluded. Dr. Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Center for European Relations explains: “We still don't know how stalemate the common environment for the UK single market is – misnomered as Northern Ireland will remain in the EU internal market for goods including agricultural products anyway. "

Second, this is just the latest Westminster example of overreach and insensitivity. It comes after years of ignoring the contributions of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish ministers and the atrophy of the Joint Committee of Ministers, which should be the way the political center of the United Kingdom and decentralized nations worked together, and which deteriorated under Brexit has and COVID19.

Third, it exposes the limits of decentralization. For Scotland, you cannot have one-sided quasi-federalism in a country that essentially sees itself as a unitary state. The idea that Westminster would abolish the Scottish Parliament has always been far-fetched and will not happen. However, previous Tory governments abolished the Northern Ireland Stormont Assembly in 1972, the Greater London Council in 1986, and the Strathclyde region in 1996. This shows that Tories have long viewed the British Constitution as their own political property to do what they want.

It is more that decentralization had two contradictory views. The first is the Scottish view of the people's sovereignty, which was represented in 1988 in A Claim of Right for Scotland, which the Scottish Parliament agreed in 2012 and the British Parliament in 2018. The second is the view that "transferred power is keeping power". and that Westminster remains at the top – a position that was written in the Scotland Act 1998.

Prof. James Mitchell of the University of Edinburgh puts it this way: “While the British government ultimately has more power and can simply do what it wants, this will only further alienate Scottish public opinion. The lack of one Evolutionary culture in Westminster is a big part of the problem. The Scottish government has a remarkable level of public support – but must be careful not to overdo it. "

Fourth, this shows what has been evident in the past four years, namely the nature of what "taking control" really means. Brexit is a deep constitutional moment for Britain, as observers like Vernon Bogdanor emphasized, which could have been used to democratize and renew British political institutions. Given the ideas of leading Brexiters, this was never likely, but it has turned out to be worse and has contributed to a degeneration of the constitutional regulations and a further concentration of power in Westminster and Whitehall.

This is ultimately underpinned by a version of Britain and Unionism that – as I wrote last week – goes back to the traditions of Unionism that once had an explicit understanding of the patchwork nature of Britain as more than the Greater England area. People like Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas Home – backed by their Scottish background – represented a Tory Unionism that personally and politically embodied Britain as a union state and partnership. This pragmatic Unionism, which often campaigned for the local and ad hoc nature of the Union, is almost dead.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have announced that they will oppose this law. Mike Russell said of Westminster: "(If) they pass laws … then we will have no intention of implementing them and they would essentially have to go to court to enforce them." The Welsh ministers are also concerned about the proposals and said they will oppose them.

But if the British government enforces the problem, can it be stopped? Even if the Scots and Welshmen bring this before the Supreme Court, will it not only reveal the nature of political power in Britain? If this turns out to be the case, a lot depends on how voters see it and whether they think it affects their daily lives or whether it is an abstract political principle of "taking power" in Westminster acts.

In short, this issue, in order to have great political appeal, must make the constitution become everyday life. There is a possibility here that this will become a political conflict over competing principles. On the one hand, there is a Scottish government based on public health principles, scientific knowledge and expert advice – as we have seen at COVID19 – as well as measures such as the smoking ban and minimum prices for alcohol – and a British government that has stated that they disregard such principles. Mitchell believes that: “The struggle for the UK single market is more a symptom than a cause. The Scottish and British governments have very different political preferences and visions. "

All of this contributes to the political mood in which Scotland and England feel in very different places. As Rafael Behr wrote The guard This week, British politics completely denies an article on the independence debate, where Scotland writes: “A fire in Scotland may not be the next crisis that destabilizes Britain, but it is waiting in line. It is also worrying how little England is prepared when Scottish politics is a rolling test. "

This appears to be a turning point. A series of crises that will build on the already weak state of the Union and will lead to a deeper crisis and deeper malaise. Alan Little, an experienced BBC correspondent and observer from Scotland, has put this in perspective for the past four decades this week when he said, “I've been watching the Scottish independence movement for forty years. I cast my first teenage vote at the 1979 revolution referendum. "

He continued: "It seems to me that one thing has remained constant over the decades, and it is this – that support for decentralization and now for independence will increase when Westminster imposes Scottish policies that were rejected at the ballot box here – if the popular legitimacy of Westminster rule can be questioned. & # 39;

Is this, he asked, "a moment to sit up and take notice?" And ended up with the suggestion that every day he did, he was more likely to keep it. A disaster scenario with a high likelihood of occurrence is that the UK government imposes its UK domestic market bill on December 31stst This year, the transition period of the EU remains without a trade agreement that leads to a no deal Brexit.

Signs of this latter point are mixed as there are conflicting views on Brexit at the heart of the UK government, but there are many senior Tories and Downing Street employees with relaxed to positive views on such an option. If these two events grow together beyond everything – COVID19, the economic and social turmoil, and Boris Johnson's laconic, amateurish English way of being prime minister – it will undoubtedly be a time to stand up and become aware.

In the next five and a half months until the end of December and then in connection with the Scottish Parliament elections in May, many more upheavals, shocks and surprises, as well as crises and controversy, will have to be dealt with in May. There will be many moments of turmoil and turmoil in British politics, and it is not entirely clear how long Boris Johnson's tenure will last – with an increasing number of Tory MPs who are desperate and dismayed at the way he behaves, leads and Government are.

With that in mind, it is now possible to clearly imagine a future political terrain in which the independence of more and more Scots is increasingly viewed as our collective future. One of the main reasons for this was the consequent failure of successive British governments and the British state – economically, socially, democratically, in matters of life and death in war and the COVID19 pandemic.

This emerging picture is changing the situation in Scotland and the reaction of the public. We must now act more strategically and seriously and think responsibly about the choices and compromises inherent in self-governing Scotland. We cannot imagine that there are simple escape routes – such as playing the Scottish Parliament's electoral system, UDI or an unofficial referendum. Instead, we have to think about Scotland, which is not yet convinced of the benefits of independence, and understand and respect it as we try to win people over.

This point in our collective history requires leadership from all of us. Not just from Nicola Sturgeon or from unconditional trust and loyalty to the leadership of Sturgeon. It's more about recognizing the big picture and the stakes we're playing for. This is the beginning of a new chapter in our life and in Scotland that we can create and write together. We live in a time of history. One where we have the chance to be historians. Let's get down to work to realize these opportunities and not be redirected.

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