Alex Salmond: We must refuse to accept that Scotland will be dragged out of Europe against its will

Written by Alex Salmond on 8 June 2018 in Comment

Former first minister Alex Salmond on the prospect of a snap election, a second Brexit vote and indyref2

The talk of the steamie around the Westminster close is of yet another snap election.

Indeed, if Theresa May breathes too much of the rarified air of the Alps on her summer walking holiday, then what the Welsh hills inspired last spring, so then the Swiss mountains may do this summer.

In truth, a UK election would solve little. Theresa May’s essential problem is not that she cannot command a parliamentary majority on a European policy, it is that she doesn’t know what she wants a parliamentary majority for. She is an instinctively soft Brexiteer in an increasingly hard Brexit parliamentary party. Merely rejigging the accounting units in an election will not make a dysfunctional Tory party suddenly functional once more.

On the other side of the aisle things are little better. Jeremy Corbyn is a Eurosceptic in an increasingly Europhile parliamentary party. If he was to become Prime Minster, then this position, which is merely embarrassing in opposition, would become totally unmanageable in government.

Thus, an election will solve nothing on the European log-jam unless and until a real choice is on offer. That seems unlikely if we assume that Vince Cable is not going to sweep the country. The behaviour of the Lib Dems rather neatly illustrates the problem.

In Scotland, they are gung-ho against a second referendum on independence despite the democratic mandate for one. In England, they are gung-ho for a second referendum on Europe despite putting that to the people last year and being crushed yet again in the election.

In reality, you do actually need an election to force another poll on Europe, in which case the party favouring a second poll has to win a mandate. Even substantial Lib Dem progress would not work the oracle, as you would not have to be too Delphic to argue in response to the Liberals that if they say a majority in the Scottish Parliament does not justify a second referendum, then why should a minority in the Westminster parliament?

In the second Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan we were first introduced to the Kobayashi Maru training exercise. This was designed to test the character of cadets at the Starfleet academy by placing them in a no-win scenario.

Captain Kirk boldly solved the puzzle by the simple expedient of surreptitiously reprogramming the simulator because he didn’t accept the ground rules which laid down that there was no opportunity to win through!

We need some of Kirk’s bolshie thinking in Scotland if we are to plot our way out of the Brexit bog.

We must refuse to accept the inevitability that Scotland will be dragged out of Europe against the will of the people, and reject the assumption that Westminster can prevail in turning down another Scottish referendum against the will of the parliament.

The first would be a democratic slight and the second a democratic outrage. Neither is compatible with the supposed unionist conferred status of Scotland as an equal partner in the United Kingdom. And both should be actively resisted, not reluctantly tolerated. Two years ago, immediately following the EU referendum, it was actually Scotland and not Ireland topping the Brussels Brexit agenda. Now Ireland is the rock on which the Brexit fantasy ship has been dashed, while Scotland is a continental afterthought. We need to project Scotland back into the epicentre of these negotiations.

Last year, Nicola Sturgeon secured a vote in the Scottish Parliament for a second referendum on independence. After the election setback, in which the SNP still won a majority of Scottish seats, she decided to stay her hand until Brexit was clarified – a sensible decision to bide her time and await the day when the Brexit haar starts to clear. However, that carpe diem moment may be upon us very soon.

The young Captain Kirk veered between dismissal and commendation for his solution to the Kobayashi Maru test. Eventually a commendation was the Starfleet verdict. On the Brexit test, that is exactly how the Scottish people will judge, because in a sea of uncertainty, fortune will favour the brave to boldly go.

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