It is time for straight talking. Philip Hammond stated the plain truth when he said that Scotland could not have a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK. It is true as a simple technical truth, as I explained. If the UK leaves the EU, the only way for Scotland to remain a member is Independence. Frankly anybody who understands the first thing about the subject knows that and it is actually helpful for Hammond to explain it. I have no doubt that May gave Sturgeon the same message today. By proclaiming commitment to Unionism in the first sentence of her first speech in Number 10, and then immediately coming to Edinburgh, May could not have made her position clearer. Further there is no doubt that Hammond would have cleared his unequivocal statement with May before he made it.
If I can forsake honesty and straightforwardness, and try to channel Machiavelli, I can make out a case for Nicola Sturgeon to initiate a time-consuming – and expensive – process of entering extensive consultations to try to find a way that Scotland can effectively remain in both the EU and the UK, even though I have no doubt whatsoever that Sturgeon, who is not stupid, knows as well as I do that this is an impossibility. That Machiavellian argument goes like this – “We know it is impossible for Scotland to continue EU membership still within the UK if the UK leaves, but we must be seen to have explored all avenues so that unionists will be persuaded that independence is the only option left.”
But here are four arguments against that:
1) Pitching independence as a very bad option, only to be taken if no others are available, is not a good sales technique
2) Wasting European politicians’ time asking for an impossible “part of UK” arrangement will erode the initial surge of sympathetic support for Scotland’s democratic desire to remain in the EU, which sympathy has been strongly felt in Europe
3) Sturgeon has appointed an “expert panel” to advise her with a massive establishment and neo-liberal bias and a unionist majority, containing just a single radical thinker, Alan Mille.
4) We are witnessing the final implosion of the British Empire with the Westminster bubble detested and politics in a state of flux. There could be no more auspicious time to launch a new push for Independence. This is not the time for temporising.
The appointment of such an establishment “expert panel” really does worry me. You can guarantee that this panel is not going to recommend that Scotland leaves the UK in order to obtain a continuing or expedited membership of the EU. Three are former FCO colleagues of mine. They happen to all be people I like, but I don’t dislike people for their politics. You could not get a more solid establishment man than Lord John Kerr. He is on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, for Christ’s sake. David Frost as CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association actively campaigned against independence. Mariot Leslie is sound and pro-Indy but not radical.
Bluntly the composition of this panel worries me that Nicola Sturgeon is seeking not to push forward for independence and does not want an Indyref2. Why else would you appoint a representative of the steering committee of Bilderberg to your expert panel, together with fistfuls of other uber-establishment figures? For me, it says a lot about Sturgeon that she has chosen to advise her a group of people almost all of whom are used to six figure incomes and whose average income is well over £200,000 p.a.
Stuart Campbell hit the nail – as so often – on the head when he suggested that actually Hammond’s position should be a gift which Sturgeon accepts. It is extremely helpful that Westminster states Scotland can only be a member of the EU if it leaves the UK. It is true, and it is a choice the Scottish people must be offered to sort out the two incompatible referendum results. In a choice between the EU and Tory Westminster – a far clearer choice than Indyref1 – I am confident how the vote will go. For Heaven’s sake, Nicola, quit messing around with your entirely voluntary association with the Bilderberg Group and go for the referendum.