The day after the referendum, like many others I'm sure, I listened to the news of the result with a sense of disbelief, followed by a great sadness. After some time I felt that I could not listen any more to the various people who spoke (all of whom sounded sad, including the politicians who were all for leaving the EU). To try to calm the tumult of thoughts and feelings, I went for what turned out to be a very long walk.
Though I have my own ideals, convictions and values I'm not a very political person, in the sense of being actively involved in any movements (apart from going on the occasional demonstration or protest march or signing petitions). And since there didn't seem to be much that I could do now that the referendum was over, as I walked, it occurred to me that rather than feel mired in a sense of sorrow, I could consider what I could do in my personal life.
I realised that even if my country leaves the EU and there is no longer a political union, I can strengthen my own ties with people from other European countries. I've already worked collaboratively with people in my own field – of writing and literature – sometimes with editors and publishers, but mainly with individual writers – writing prefaces for their books, translating their work, and proofreading and editing English-language texts. And as I walked, I thought of various ways of doing more of this. And I began to feel much better, and more positive.
Bob Cant's recent article in SR very much chimed with my own thoughts and the conclusions I came to, regarding what I can do personally. In his article he revealed how this sense of anger and frustration could so easily be vented on some innocent person. And on a personal level, he said, we can show kindness. There is something we can do, in the place where all of us have control, where all of us are empowered, and that's in our personal lives.
My son phoned me this morning from London. 'It’s like waking up to find there are no trees’, he said. 'I like trees. I’ve never known life without them. They’ve always been there. I’m not sure why I do but that is just how it is.' At the school gates dropping off his daughter, several parents came up to him and said: 'We’ll just need to go and stay in Scotland. We’ve had enough. At least in Scotland you have an alternative’. I am beginning to think they have a point.
There are whole swathes of other people in England who for years and years have felt that nobody speaks for them. That same lack of voice is what made so many vote 'yes' in Scotland in 2014. I voted no because I hate nationalism, think it solves nothing and that to vote yes meant turning our backs on friends in England. If there is another Scottish referendum explicitly tagged to an independent Scotland within Europe, I might think again. But there could be no guarantee that we’d be accepted. So how choose? Being independent and outside Europe would be very lonely.
Much analysis remains to be done but it seems clear enough that working-class people in Labour heartlands voted against the limp arguments of the party leadership. It will be those same voters who are likely to suffer the most from the economic turmoil that was already being churned up early this morning.
Next to any economic hardship suffered by the vulnerable, unionists in Scotland should advance their own grievances with a degree of humility. But the question is simple: How did this happen? This was the UK whose future had been dramatically endorsed less than two years ago by the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence. Now there are fewer obstacles in the path of its disintegration than its continuation. If the No vote was in some ways a gift to those who cared for the integrity of the UK, Scottish unionists woke up last Friday morning to find that same gift had been taken into an alley and traded for a handful of magic beans. With the prospect of a UK led by Boris Johnson, many will find the fire in their bellies burning down to embers. Who will rally unionist sentiment to fight a second independence referendum? Point out the leaders with the powers to reverse such demoralisation, such disillusionment.
In an article published in SR back in March, I wrote the following: 'It is a question of priorities. Those who plan to vote in favour of leaving the European Union should be clear: their actions may help to set in motion a series of events that could result in the end of the country they hope to save. The advice is simple: Don’t invite the Scottish public to the polling stations for a third time this year – lots of them are likely to have been convinced that they are mad as hell'. I argued the prospect of a second independence referendum should be used by Remain campaigners. The issue should have been ruthlessly whittled to the following fundamentals: Do you dislike the EU more than you like the UK?
Perhaps some people cast their vote in ignorance of the likely consequences of a Leave vote. If so, it’s scant consolation but better than those who reckoned with the full implications and voted to Leave regardless. Friday 24 June will be remembered as a dark day for those who believed that the UK was a concept and an entity capable of future greatness.
We have screwed up. All of us. The world we could have created we have cast aside. And our chosen leaders also. We did it, millions of us. Decision made – there is no comfort, bar shadenfreude, in looking back. We all contributed to how we got here.
Now the future. First we need an early general election. The most insulting thing of recent days was Cameron saying there should be a new PM before the Conservative Party Conference. No, No, No. The prime minister has resigned. There should be a general election as soon as possible. He has not resigned because of any personal failure. He has resigned because his government, and his party, has failed. Their policies have failed.
People do not trust politicians. They elect them. Most folk have no utopian idea that any one or other politician will create perfect solutions to our many problems. They just hope they will get on with the hard work of addressing these issues – economy, care, education, relations with Europe and the rest of the world. The current flock have failed to do that. Neither of the major parties seem to hold great trust between members and MPs. The only way to resolve these issues is a general election. As soon as possible. That will concentrate minds.
We are a representative democracy. Our MPs serve constituents not parties. The best way to reassert that democracy, and it does need to be reasserted quickly, would be to call an early general election, whether the parties are ready or not. How about 8 September?
I was concerned about Kenneth Roy’s article. Like most Scots, he has no particular knowledge of how the world has changed over the past 20 years.
It is foolish of countries to identify their future with the EU. By 2050 there will be some 9bn people in the world. The EU will then account for only 6% of the world’s population, as against 20% before 1950. Its share of the world’s gross product will have shrunk to some 10% by 2050, as against 30% in 1950.
In the coming decades most growth in GDP, market size and investment returns will tend to occur outside continental Europe. Most EU countries will have a shrinking and ageing population. The EU in general is likely to decline economically, politically and culturally relative to the rest of the world, and in particular Asia, where the bulk of humanity lives.
It makes no sense at all for Scotland to seek a second referendum. What should we do now? We should immediately look at how we can now recover our fishing industry. We can now raise tariffs on cheap steel imports from China and rebuild our steel industry. India has the second largest population in the world and the nine-year delay in negotiating trade deals with them can now proceed at a much faster pace.
We can now apply to rejoin EFTA and we can now look at also joining the Nordic Council. But even more important we can now be represented on world organisations like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which we previously couldn’t due to EU regulations.
I am very upbeat about Scotland’s prospects outside the EU but in we would be joining a declining organisation that is wracked with indecision.
The Chokka Blog, which has great credibility on finance, has already detailed in great depth the findings of the GERS report showing how Scotland would have a £7.5bn black hole in our finances were we to have independence. EU regulations also state clearly that to join the EU you must have a debt to GDP of only 3%. Scotland already has a 9.4% deficit so to join the EU we would have to agree to put in place policies to meet the EU’s target.
Frankly it makes no sense at all to leave the UK and especially when the UK is leaving the EU. Don’t forget that while the EU is the largest export market for Scotland, some 70% of those exports go to England alone. Should Scotland be independent and join the EU, which in any event is unlikely given our debt to GDP ration, that would mean border controls between England and Scotland. We have already seen a decline in our exports to England since the referendum, so how much more would this decline with border controls?
Now may be the moment for Katie Grant to watch 'Mr Blandings builds his dream house'. Not because it'll offer any long-term solutions for the Brexiteers or other feckless lying folk without plans, (Emperor's new clothes, Messrs Johnson and Gove?) but because it provides a bit of escapism with a happy ending, not things which are currently associated with Scottish never mind British or European politics. Now, back under that duvet, I think...
My only disagreement with Katie Grant's excellent piece is that (without mixing metaphors) actually you do have to build walls before the roof.
As to the recent piece by Anthony Seaton, I don't quite see that the title matches his point, unless he's saying that the UK parliament has failed to evolve as quickly as the people require and should then oppose the 'decision'...in which case it would shorten the agony by ensuring they themselves and the system were next 'up against the wall'.
We need to be getting a move on with the shifting sands under our feet, so integrity in our leadership is of the essence.
They will be jumping up and down in Diss about Kenneth Roy's article. North Norfolk is Cromer and the Poppy Line. Diss is in South Norfolk. BTW I love England too and lived down there for 20 odd years – I don't get what happened. In Luton, home of General Motors, it was implicit that if they came out of Europe, the manufacturing plant would close, ditto in Ellesmere Port. What did they do? They dissed the biggest employer and voted to leave.Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Anyway, keep up the good work, thought-provoking and hard-hitting.
I wish you would commission Tom Gallagher to write on a second Scottish referendum. Perhaps you might ask Jill Stephenson to comment too.
Very good contribution from Bill Jamieson. How refreshing to consider the realities of EU membership, including arch tax-thief Juncker, rather than the pious guff that has been churned out during the referendum debate! Our new status as an independent, autonomous democracy will take some getting used to, and we shall have to rise to the challenge of standing on our own feet, but the UK is the world's fifth largest economy and we already trade with countries across the globe, so the future will be what we make it. Plus, we in Scotland have the extra pleasure of hearing those who want independence for Scotland bemoaning the fact that the UK has chosen autonomy and self-determination! Laughable irony!
I cannot allow to pass the comment by David Torrance that 'what a class act the former deputy PM (Nick Clegg) is'. An alternative view is that along with his senior colleagues he is directly responsible for the demise of the Liberal Democrats as an effective political force in the UK.
He had the best opportunity that perhaps any leader of his party will ever have to break the divisive two-party system in Westminster and to achieve real long-lasting power and effective government but for reasons best known to himself, which I suspect were all about personal power rather than the common good, he chose to join forces with the Conservative Party to form a coalition government.
How much more effective might it have been for the Lib Dems to use their balancing position as the (then) third party, voting with the Conservatives on some matters with which they agreed and with the Labour Party on others? How much more effective might the UK have been as a member of the EU had that form of government had been in place? How much less divided into the 'haves' and 'have nots' might the UK be now had the Lib Dems and Labour parties worked together towards uniting the country instead of giving the Conservatives the opportunity to secure an overall majority at the following general election? Instead of which Nick Clegg became deputy prime minister and has since pretended that his party’s involvement in a coalition made a difference. Anything which he achieved in that way would also have been achieved without a formal coalition.
The most damning criticism though is that he sacrificed the fundamental Liberal belief that the voting system in the UK is wrong and unrepresentative to the wish for power as part of a Conservative government. The opportunity was there to demonstrate that true representation of the people would work and it would have been a small step then to use the influence to create a sensible proportional representative voting system.
The last time there was such an opportunity to produce genuine representative government in the UK was following the formation in 1981 of the Social Democratic Party but for whatever reason, the 'Gang of Four' was not able or was unwilling to maintain the momentum of the movement which they had started. I doubt if there will be another opportunity in my lifetime for that to happen. There is certainly no sign of it just now.
I had the privilege of meeting Charles Kennedy several weeks before the last general election and had the opportunity to put these points to him. I told him that I had voted for the Liberals in various guises for most of my adult life but certainly would not have done so at the previous election had I known that my vote would support a Conservative government. I told him I vowed then that I would not vote Lib Dem again despite the fact that he was an exceedingly good constituency MP for the area in which I live and I asked him if there was any reason for me to change my mind. I said that I believed that many other Lib Dem voters would be of the same mind. He replied simply that had he been leader of the party at the relevant time, things would have been very different.
I suggest that David Torrance reflects on that and what a different country we might be on the road to creating now if the 'class act' had not revealed his true colours.
I want to thank Kenneth Roy for his writing, his thoughts, his wise and humane perspective in all the many pieces he has written for SR over the years. I read them all with pleasure. So often he says what I think or sheds light on matters of real importance that are not dealt with in mainstream media. His article on the 60s, and the loss of generosity of spirit, on the eve of this absurd referendum, was a classic. Long may he continue.