AS THE Scottish Parliament prepares to vote next week on whether to open negotiations with Westminster about a second independence referendum, local SNP member Iain Malcolmson – who joined the party following the September 2014 referendum – outlines why he believes “Brexit has changed everything”.
I grew up in the Thatcher years and as a reaction to her and her policies I have always been left of centre. I have always believed in fairness, equality and opportunity for all.
Maybe coming from a place like Shetland I have also been also acutely aware that the environment in which you live and work should influence the way it is governed. For me one size does not fit all and over the years this has greatly influenced the way I live, the way I work (my architecture) and the way I vote.
During the 80s I flirted with liberalism, attracted to their federalist ideals, ideals which withered and died during the Liberal Democrats’ disastrous power sharing with the Tories at Westminster (I will never vote for them again).
Even during this period, I was always sympathetic to the idea of Scottish Independence or home rule. An idea not too far removed from what the Liberal Democrats used to believe in, but for me the referendum in 2014 made everything crystal clear. The fog of uncertainty (that I didn’t realise was there) lifted and I was absolutely convinced that an independent Scotland was the way forward.
I must admit I was absolutely devastated after the referendum result, but after a few hours I felt completely galvanised. The result was close but decisive and the Yes voters had to accept that. It did not mean, however, that you had to change what you believe in and the subsequent meteoric rise in popularity of the SNP in Scottish politics is testament to this. I have since decided life is too short not to say your piece in a democratic society. I needed to stick my head above the parapet and I joined my first political party.
My political colleagues and I were in for the long haul but Brexit has changed everything. I remember being on the street during the 2014 referendum and having a good discussion about Europe. It was clear as day that the No side were using the prospect of Scotland having to leave Europe as a big stick to beat us. I have always been pro-European and my argument at the time was that the only way of guaranteeing Scotland staying in Europe was by voting for independence. The argument that the greatest risk was in fact the Tory Party fell on deaf ears. Unfortunately, this prophesy has come to pass even quicker that I thought.
Shetland and Scotland voted emphatically to remain in the EU. England and Wales did not. They were split down the middle but narrowly to the wrong side for my liking. The map of Britain that morning looked like Maggie from the Simpsons and it would have been funny if it was not so tragic. The democratic imbalance was there for all to see in a yellow head and blue baby grow (go with me on this one). Scotland was about to be dragged out of Europe, an alliance we had supported for over a millennium, against our will. Something was going to have to give.
Since the result the very worst has come out from our neighbours south of the border. The type of nationalism that is abhorrent to me, the inward-looking, isolationist, narrow-minded type of nationalism that can lead to racism and xenophobia seems to be floating to the top stoked by an extremely right wing Tory government hell bent on a “hard Brexit”. This is not what I want and perhaps not what many Leave voters wanted either.
I recently came back from Gdansk in Poland. Poland is a relatively recent addition to the EU (which still uses the Zloty instead of the Euro, but that is going into the currency argument… one for another day perhaps). It is going through an amazing transformation. EU money seemed to be funding building work everywhere, an example of which was the European Solidarity Centre. This beautiful building houses the most fantastic exhibition which charts the rise of the Solidarity Movement in the 1980s that paved the way for the fall of the Berlin wall and Iron Curtain.
I was truly inspired by the bravery, tenacity and peaceful protest that eventually gave Poland back her freedom. What struck me most was the fact that they were fighting a Communist regime for the right to strike, a right that successive Tory governments in Britain ironically seem to want to erode. I do not want to be constantly shackled to this type of ideology. Brexit is going to do exactly that.
The SNP government has a rock-solid mandate to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. Not only was it in their most recent manifesto that taking Scotland out of the EU against its will could be a trigger but they have performed the impossible by electing all but two of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster. The democratic deficit is there for all to see. If Scotland cannot influence political decisions when it is in the strongest possible position when will we ever be able to do so? Answer – never. It is time to change that.
The proposed second referendum will be a choice. The timescale is designed to fit the Brexit process so by the time of polling we will have a clearer picture of what type of deal we will have with the EU. This will give voters the ability to choose between the Brexit we are getting (followed by decades of Tory rule) or an alternative future controlled by ourselves. I know which way I will vote. How will you?