Pledges, excuses and hypocrisy: an anatomy of bad losers

Pledges, excuses and hypocrisy: an anatomy of bad losers

by Jill Stephenson
article from Tuesday 29, August, 2017

AS WE APPROACH the third anniversary of the Scottish referendum, it is time to take stock of some of its effects. Although the pro-union side won, the separatists have behaved ever since as if they were the victors. They regard themselves as the genuine majority. After all, Alex Salmond’s view, expressed to Andrew Marr on 14 September 2014, was that ‘there isn’t so much as a No vote in Scotland, there are only deferred Yes’s’. It is this kind of arrogance that leads them to believe that they have the right to ask the question again, whenever it suits them. It appears not to occur to them that the settled will of the actual majority was expressed in September 2014 and that, in democracies, majorities tend to be accorded the right to have their opinion respected.

How did we get to this point? One explanation is that supporters of secession know that they are right, and that, therefore, their justified case should prevail. This is the response of the four-year old child whose will has been thwarted and who lies on the floor, drumming its heels in fury and shouting ‘I want! I want!’

We should be under no illusions: the SNP was never going to accept an answer that did not lead to separation. True, in the introduction to the White Paper of 2013, Alex Salmond said, ‘In the Edinburgh Agreement, the Scottish and Westminster governments agreed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome of the referendum, whatever it may be, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom’. Since the referendum, the Scottish executive has made no effort to work ‘constructively’ with the UK government. Indeed, it has constantly disparaged it and has tried to obstruct it at every turn.

In the wee small hours of 19 September 2014, Nicola Sturgeon pronounced that ‘Scotland has changed forever’. Later that morning, she announced to the press that the SNP had not won ‘this time’. That was a clear indication of her intent. Her followers twist and turn to try to discredit the 2014 result – citing BBC/media ‘bias’, dirty work at the ballot boxes or intervention by MI5 - or to claim that circumstances have changed. Above all, they try to deny that the claims made by Salmond, Sturgeon et al. about the 2014 referendum being a ‘once in a generation’ or even ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity meant anything. They were merely ‘hyperbole’, say nationalists on social media. When the leading politicians on one side of a debate repeatedly and publicly make the same statement, it is not unreasonable to believe that that is their belief and their intent. There is video evidence on YouTube of Sturgeon having made the ‘once in a generation/lifetime’ claims several times. Those of us who took her at her word can be forgiven for our gullibility.

That which has ‘changed’ things is, of course, the Brexit referendum result. Yet it is not the reason for demands for another referendum: these demands were voiced regularly by separatists before the 2016 referendum. No, Brexit is the excuse for the Scottish executive pressing ahead in spring 2017 with its demand for another Scottish referendum. There is no point in nationalists claiming that an EU referendum was a surprise. It was in the Conservative manifesto in 2015, and the possibility of such a referendum was explicitly mentioned in the SNP’s White Paper of 2013, the basis of its 2014 campaign, in Part 5, section 266 (pp. 460-61):

It is the view of the current Scottish government that the only real risk to Scotland’s membership of the EU is the referendum proposed by the Prime Minister…. Following a vote for independence, Scotland will become an independent EU member state before the planned in-out referendum on the EU in 2017. However, if we do not become independent, we risk being taken out of the EU against our will.”

Both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon signed the Edinburgh Agreement of 15 October 2012 (pictured), one of whose provisions was that the referendum would: ‘deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect’. In thus pledging in advance of the 2014 referendum to accept its result, the SNP’s leaders did not say: ‘We will accept the result of the referendum unless the UK leaves the EU’. No-one said that before the result of the referendum was known. But that is what they are saying now. Bad losers always look for an excuse.

Furthermore, complaints about Scotland being ‘dragged out of the EU against its will’ are utterly hypocritical: what nationalists were actually voting for in September 2014 was for Scotland to leave the EU. The EU Commission had made it perfectly clear to the SNP establishment that, if Scotland left the UK, it would also leave the EU. Christina McElvie, SNP MSP, Convener of the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament, had written to the EU Commission on 10 March 2014 to ask what the position of a separate Scotland would be vis-à-vis the EU. She received the following response from the Vice-President of the Commission, Viviane Reding, dated 20 March 2014:

“The Commission’s position on the issue that you raise has been stated on a number of occasions since 2004. The Treaties apply to the Member States. When part of the territory of a Member State ceases to be a part of that State, e.g., because that territory becomes an independent state, the Treaties will no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent region would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the Treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory.”

Therefore, had Scots voted to leave the UK in September 2014, Scotland would have left the EU on the day chosen by Alex Salmond as its ‘independence day’, 24 March 2016. That is to say, Scotland would have been due to leave the EU even before the Brexit referendum was held. It is the height of hypocrisy for the SNP to complain about Scotland being ‘dragged out of the EU’ when that is precisely where their own, and only, policy would have led us.

The prospect of an early referendum has receded, not least because it was clear from the June 2017 general election results in Scotland that there was little popular appetite for one. This does not mean that it is no longer on the agenda. It is difficult for Ms Sturgeon to remove it altogether, given the fervour for a referendum among her party members. Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP, has tried another tactic: leave the prospect of another referendum until after the Holyrood parliament election of 2021, fighting that election campaign on a request for a mandate for a referendum. In that event, voters would know what to do: ensure that the SNP is not returned as the largest party with even the merest sniff of being able to carry through such a policy. Denying the SNP a near – let alone an actual – majority in 2021 is the only way to give us respite from the neverendum.

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