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Indy Ref 2 is coming: the UK is no longer fit for purpose

(Photo: Tricia Malley and Ross Gillespie) - Credit: Tricia Malley and Ross Gillespie

Scottish nationalist Hardeep Singh Kohli is feeling confident about the prospect of independence for his beloved country

Significant and material change. You’re going to be hearing that phrase an awful lot over the next few weeks, months, years. The ever more shoogly shackles that have united this kingdom of countries have never been closer to crumbling and cracking, and with it the concept of kingdom consigned to history.

Indy Ref 2 is coming. And this time there is a very real chance that Scotland will opt for independence; an independence that keeps us at the heart of Europe rather than at the behest of Westminister.

The last referendum is still fresh in the minds of many. Having grown the appetite for independence from a little over a quarter of the population at the start of campaigning to 45% by September 19, 2014 was quite an achievement. But it wasn’t a win. Not even close.

Yet watching either side on September 20 you would have been forgiven for thinking the Unionists had been vanquished and Scotland had become independent. YES was selling hope, always easier to market than the ‘och we’d better not’ approach to campaigning.

Those that had never before been galvanized to pound pavements and persuade found themselves inspired by the art of the possible. NO voters tended to keep their own counsel, preferring privacy to preaching. YES inspired intense optimism, empowered those that had no power and created a refreshingly new flavour to our body politic. For me, the rise of an army of able and amazing women during the referendum will forever change civic Scotland. Them and the fabulously fragrant ‘Florists for Yes’.

Significant and material change. Events; they would insist on occurring. Having had a clear result a few years back, a vote that was meant to be once in a generation, today I don’t know anyone, on either side of the debate in Scotland, that is in referendum-relishing mode. While many may choose not to openly concede it, it does feel too soon.

Better Together like to characterise the 2014 vote as a battering and bruising battle that divided families, communities and the country. This divisiveness plays into their narrative, Project Fear. They chose to spook and scaremonger the Scots. They ended up talking the Scots down, the much muttered mantra that we were ‘too wee and too stupid’ to run our own country. They sold Scotland what Scotland already had; we were living ‘Better Together’. ‘Better’ means 220,000 Scottish children living in poverty; in Glasgow a third of our weans will go to bed hungry. Scotland has never had so many food banks, a level alarming higher than anywhere else in the UK. Do you know of any other country that found oil and got poorer?

In an attempt to assuage the activists of independence in a rather belated acknowledgement of events, The Vow was pledged to save the Union. The Vow became the Smith Commission, a ‘toom tabard’ talking shop that unified left and right, former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell describing it as a shambles and former Tory Secretary of State for Scotland Malcolm Rifkind backing a new, better thought-through commission. But of course, the war had been won. The day after the referendum Westminster was all about English Votes for English Laws. ‘Together’.

Significant and material change. We’ve never been so disunited. Ever. The year after my birth, 1970, Scotland sent 23 Conservative Members to Parliament; less than a third of its MPs. Since then that number has steadily declined reaching the ignoble nadir of ‘nul points’ as New Labour swept away everything before it (including, as many were soon to learn, the beliefs of its own voters.) Let me just make that clear: there wasn’t one single Tory MP elected in Scotland in 1997. In the three elections since but a sole Tory has been dispatched south.

Compare that with the fact that if you took every single SNP MP elected between 1935 and 2010 it wouldn’t come close to the current tartan army of 56 SNP members. I take no great pleasure in witnessing the inexorable implosion, the depressing decline of the once ebullient Labour Party. Blair and Mandelson’s smoke and mirror re-brand of the once workers’ party into the bastard child of Thatcher now reels and rails, spiralling senselessly and startlingly into an unconscionable oblivion. The diagnosis of death of ‘New Labour’ was diagnosed in Scotland. Scottish Labour shared platforms and pooled resources with the Tories and got caught in the crossfire; they paid the price for taking the electorate for granted once too often.

Significant and material change. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP turned Scotland yellow in possibly one of the most astonishing events in modern European political history. That was certainly significant. But it was by no means material change. But then Brexit happened; materially significant and significantly material. What an unmitigated exercise in utter arrogance. The Etonians, as always, expected everything to go as they planned and made not one single provision for a reversal. And here we find ourselves. England returned a 7% margin to leave compared to a 24% difference in Scotland who wished to stay. The political mood couldn’t be more different.

And so the politics begins…

An unelected leader in London is chastising an elected, popular, widely-respected leader in Scotland for fulfilling a manifesto pledge. Theresa May could not have been surprised by Sturgeon’s stance. The Prime Minister has made it clear that she intends to claw back devolved powers from Holyrood. She has yet to respond to the compromise proposals she received in December outlining the Scottish position as far as Sturgeon sees it. There is now talk around the corridors of Brussels that Scotland’s fishing waters may be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Currently with the chaotic Labour Party, unable to raise their gaze from their navel, and Farron and friends, a political party in search of a point there is a real and present possibility that the Conservatives will be in power well into the next decade and beyond.

We are definitely living in ‘interesting times’. The rise of the Little Englander mentality, the bloodlust of the baying ‘I want my country back’ brigade, seeking sovereignty back from Brussels only to then turn on that very sovereignty when the judiciary had the temerity to suggest Parliament should be allowed pass legislation to allow the triggering of Article 50.

Jonathan Swift, Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci combined couldn’t create the constitutional chaos that’s coming. And Scotland wants no part of it. Theresa May (a politician so absent during the campaign for Brexit that some were close to attaching ‘Missing: Have you seen this woman?’ signs to Westminster lamp-posts) is accusing Nicola Sturgeon of playing politics with the country. This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about opportunism. This isn’t about trying to gain independence while London burns.

This is about common sense, a sense of social justice and the natural parting of the ways. Yeah, yeah I know they will talk about dire economic predictions, the worthlessness of our oil, our interdependence and reliance on England as a trading nation. These are all very real issues that have to be addressed. But what is a country? What defines a nation? A shared sense of purpose, a unity, fairness and equality.

From where I write, my hometown of Glasgow, the United Kingdom is no longer fit for purpose. And if nothing I have said convinces you, wins you over or inspires you, I’ll leave you with this thought. Imagine it’s 2017. There has never been a Treaty of Union. Scotland, like Norway has existed as a northern European nation blessed with huge natural resources. Would that Scotland contemplate a Union with this England today? You have your answer….

Hardeep Singh Kohli is a broadcaster and writer

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