On Question Time last night a lady piped up with her opinion which received rapturous applause from the audience in Bognor Regis: Why are the Scots demanding a referendum now, because when they voted in 2014 they KNEW there was going to be a Brexit vote.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this stated. It’s nonsense of course and anyone with decent powers of recall or even better, access to google should be able to establish a few basic facts. But let’s give the good lady from Bognor the benefit of the doubt and say she wasn’t following the situation in this country as closely as we were here and look at just why she’s mistaken.
Joanna Cherry MP had a decent stab at addressing all the points put to her and to be honest it could have been an hour long show with just Ms Cherry, David Dimbleby and the audience of Bognor Regis, but the question above was one she didn’t respond to and in my view should have.
In the lead up to the September 2014 referendum Scots were being told by the print, radio and television media and by Labour politicians that if they voted No a Labour government was just round the corner. That if they voted No, in less than a year they could sweep the coalition from power and that Ed Miliband would become a Prime Minister who would hold Scotland in high regard. Indeed Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson deliberately played down the Tories chances of returning to power to reassure Scots voters that they should vote for the union. I was one of many warning that this wasn’t the case; that Ed Miliband was unelectable and that the Tories would not only take power but seek to emasculate Scotland in the process. I was correct on every single point.
From The Guardian, September 2014
“Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland, highlighted fears of a yes vote when she told a cross-party referendum debate on STV on Tuesday night that the Tories are on course to lose the UK election. This was seen as an attempt to reassure wavering voters who are more likely to vote for independence if they believe the Tories will win the UK election, according to the former Labour first minister Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale.”
“Citing unguarded remarks on Monday night by Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, that the Conservatives were unlikely to win the general election, Miliband will insist that Labour would win in 2015 – a year earlier than Scotland could become independent.”
But I digress. In the lead up to September 2014 the Tories were having internal rows and were under pressure from UKIP and David Cameron was floating the idea of an EU referendum to quiet the unruly within the party and to stop wavering voters from switching to UKIP. The EU referendum bill was actually introduced to the UK parliament in October 2014, just over a month after the Scottish referendum. It passed its first hurdle then floundered, before David Cameron included it as a manifesto pledge for the May 2015 election, and it was confirmed as going ahead later that month.
So in the pre-Indyref campaign the possibility of an EU referendum was certainly there, but it was being played down in Scotland by the Tories, Labour and the Lib-Dems, with all three campaigning on the same message: voting Yes was a sure fire way of taking Scotland OUT of Europe.
At the Labour Party (Scotland Branch) conference in March 2014, Margaret Curran made a conference speech in which she said:
“Because Alex Salmond knows Scots don’t really want independence.
What they want is a Labour Prime Minister and a Labour Government.
And rest assured, Conference, Alex Salmond know that his biggest threat is Ed Miliband is throwing David Cameron out of number 10.”
While the main thrust of the No campaign was squarely behind the Project Fear approach the one positive aspect that they did try to sell was a tenuous house of cards. If any one aspect was removed it all fell apart. Everything hinged on No winning, then hapless Ed Miliband winning the general election, so that there would be no EU referendum. Even the dog’s in the street could see that Ed was the weakest link in that chain, yet he was talked up by Labour as the best of both world’s. And still no one was willing to admit what anyone with any sense could see: that he was a short term solution to a long term problem, and that even had he by some miracle won that the Tories at some point would be back, vindictive as ever. The plan fell at the second hurdle and left Scotland facing another Tory government.
As we saw afterwards, once Scotland was secured within the union, focus returned to Europe. The Conservatives, ran their campaign with two major themes; that they would deliver a referendum on EU membership (which Cameron fully expected to win) and that Ed Miliband would be a puppet Prime Minister worked from the back by Alex Salmond. Having told Scotland it would be a valued and equal partner, within months Scotland was the enemy within, and while Labour tried to blame their loss of seats to the SNP for their defeat, simple mathematics showed that Labour had been roundly defeated by over a hundred seats and even had they retained their Scottish seats would still be languishing effectively a million miles behind the Tories.
Having brought in English Votes for English Laws which stripped Scottish MP’s of some voting rights the UK parliament has now moved to reduce Scottish MP’s by scrapping 6 seats. With a now tried and proven system in place for the election in the form of whipping up anti-Scottish sentiment and insinuating that Labour will (if they remain as one party) enter coalition with the SNP to deny the English electorate their rightful government, we have a recipe for Tory government in Scotland for years to come. So if there’s a way out of Brexit and from another lost generation of Tory rule, I’d grab it. Margaret Curran might think otherwise though…
Edited to add: Murdo Fraser caught red handed trying the same line with Andrew Neil (Video: Wings Over Scotland)