The Scottish National Party are out to pick a fight, any fight on any pretext, so that they can act the injured party and gain the sympathy vote. They know they are on borrowed time and it is running out for them; not just with Scotland’s voters but also with their own members and supporters. Likewise with Sinn Fein, who are in exactly the same position in Northern Ireland (and also failing to make a decisive break through in the Republic). Both parties are National Socialist, which may come as a surprise to many SNP members and elected representatives who think and are told they are social democrats. As such, they are both adept at misleading the public and spinning the facts as they pursue their overriding aims of independence and reunification. In that process they are creating anxiety and further divisions that will inevitably lead to aggression and violence. SF can turn this on and off very easily to suit their agenda. There is also an aggressive element that has attached itself to the SNP and with little excuse would ape its cousins across the North Channel. Their justification, notwithstanding their behaviour and provocation, is they are both victims and being forced to respond because they have no choice. They are being taken out of the European Union against their wishes!
The CDP supports the right of peoples to self-determination and this right should be exercised when there is a clear and unequivocal indication that a substantial demand exists to be put to the test. The people demanding a referendum to that end have a duty to act responsibly and truthfully. Given the danger of a return to violence in Northern Ireland and the incitement of aggressive and threatening behaviour in Scotland, it is incumbent on SF and SNP to be exemplary in their conduct and to act with honesty and integrity. Self interest and party political objectives are secondary. The risks are too great. The Common Weal is paramount. Unfortunately, both SF and SNP are being cynical.
Prior to the legislation, giving effect to the EU Referendum, being enacted the SNP tried to make it provisional on each constituent country having to vote to leave before the result was valid. In effect it would have to be unanimous, as if the UK was a federal state. Even though this proposition was rejected the SNP are acting as if it was the situation. They are also ignoring the fact that it was a whole UK vote about whether the UK should remain or leave the EU. They are joined in this piece of mischief by SF, even though it is rank nonsense. On that reasoning they would refuse to accept any legislation they did not agree with because it was against their wishes. That is not how the democratic process works.
But if that is the rule they wish to apply, they can have no valid objection if those parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland that voted for the UK to leave the EU decide they too do not want to be taken out of the UK against their wishes. We have noted previously that in 1922 Fermanagh and Tyrone did not wish to be included in the newly created state of Northern Ireland. Their protests were ignored. The CDP position is that this must never be allowed to happen again. As such, if SF succeed in securing a referendum on the reunification of the whole island of Ireland, it must be conditional on allowing those counties that vote to remain in the UK to do so. You will then quickly see SF shifting its position and doing contortions in order to argue that the wishes of the majority prevail.
They will be out-contorted by the SNP if any future referendum on Scottish independence takes place. In the 2014 Referendum the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands voted against independence. With the possibility of another referendum they do not wish to be taken out of the UK against their wishes. They are already exploring the various options that would be open to them. The CDP position is that they be given the choices in their own local referenda, with the possibility of achieving Crown Dependency status. That would create a real economic problem for the Scottish Government. The same principle could apply to the Outer Hebrides. Also to Dumfries & Galloway, and to the Borders who voted to remain in the UK – and it would be feasible just so long as territorial integrity could be maintained. If that is the consent game the SNP want to play, then the same rules must apply.
SF have another problem. Even if they did win the reunification referendum it could only be effective if a similar referendum in the Republic agreed. While there is an emotional desire for reunification, there is no desire by the Republic’s taxpayers to bear the substantial financial costs involved. They are still suffering the burden of austerity following the 2008 financial crisis. The Republic’s annual budget deficit is now expected to be down to Euro 1.25 bn in 2017. Northern Ireland’s annual deficit is £9 bn. Shouldering that burden would be too much for many, never mind the potential for a violent backlash from militant Unionists. Reality will also trump emotion with the North’s Nationalist community. They would have to commit to the Republic’s fiscal situation. The idea of paying an access fee to consult with their GP or attend at a hospital would be a culture shock, as would the payment of the Universal Social Charge. SF fully appreciate the realities of the situation. Their collapsing of the Power-Sharing Executive at Stormont was irresponsible and intended to advance their own agenda. Despite their claims to have been the victor in the resulting Assembly elections, they are no better off than before. The number of Assembly seats had reduced from 108 to 90, and that together with a very high turnout resulted in the close result, but the DUP is still the largest party and they will provide the Chief Minister. SF will overplay its hand in negotiations with the real danger of a return to direct rule from Westminster. The other real danger is that Nationalist frustration will be orchestrated in to a campaign of violence. If that occurs it will be entirely down to SF and no amount of bullying will change the situation.
SF does not have a mandate and neither does the SNP, despite their claims to the contrary. They are a minority government in Scotland and their score of 56 out of 59 seats at Westminster was achieved with 49.9% of the vote. Impressive but not the mandate they claim. The other claim by SNP politicians that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU is never challenged by BBC interviewers. The referendum turnout in Scotland was five percentage points lower than the UK average. Take out the 2,000 spoilt ballot papers and the one-third of registered voters who did not cast a vote, and the number of Scots voting for Remain was 41%. Of those that voted there was a twenty-four point advantage for the UK remaining in the EU, and there is no denying that was impressive, but it was not what the SNP are now claiming.
In Northern Ireland the Referendum turnout was 10 percentage points less than the UK average with an eleven point advantage in favour of Remain. That translates in to 35% of the electorate “being taken out of the EU against their wishes”. The opinion polls [if they can be trusted] indicate a much lower level of support for remaining in the EU if that means leaving the UK. It is incumbent on SF to show there is at least half the electorate demanding a reunification referendum, before the Northern Ireland Secretary give it any serious consideration. In Scotland the SNP should also be expected to prove the same level of demand for an independence referendum before the Prime Minister accedes to a Section 30 request.
Negotiating the UKs exit from the EU is going to be complex and time-consuming. The distractions and obstacles being presented by SF and SNP cannot be allowed to interfere with the process. The SNP have already lost an independence referendum and it is too soon for another one.