The news in recent days has focused on military aid to Ukraine, and the enlargement and strengthening of NATO with America sending troops and jets to Europe and the UK. But another event has dominated the news in Britain. It is the prospect of a referendum to be organised by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her party on independence, and an application to the High Court to approve its legality.
As someone who has worked both inside the EU administration and as a journalist in Brussels the announcement brought back a key memory. In 2017 Catalans voted for independence. The result was the arrest of political leaders, their conviction and sentencing to long terms of imprisonment for sedition.
They have, so far as I can ascertain, all been released but remain barred from being politicians. The scandal beneath what many regard as shocking is that the European Union (apart from what might best be described as ‘muttering’) took no action. Of course, a large part of Catalonia lies within France and that is surely why Brussels took no action to defend democratic principles within its borders. Spain is not the only state that has imposed draconian penalties on separatists.
Neither the European Union, nor the United Kingdom are technically at war – yet. At least that is what we are told although Vladimir Putin takes a different view. Film of Ukrainian soldiers training on Salisbury Plain in England seems to bear out the view of the Russian leader.
The EU has repeatedly encouraged Scottish independence by suggesting that an application for an independent Scotland to join would be looked on favorably. Some of us are aware that significant support has been given to the SNP by people connected to Brussels. The UK has accepted that another referendum might be appropriate after 2050.
The question many are asking is why Sturgeon is pressing for one next year? War has not been announced, but to some campaigning for a referendum that might break up the UK while the country is technically, morally or in-effect at war is “seditious”. Certainly Britain is engaged with allies in a new Cold War.
Now I have to make it absolutely clear that I do not in any way suggest that Sturgeon or the Scottish Nationalist Party are breaking or have broken any laws in this respect. What I do argue is that politicians and the media have lost the plot. The UK, like Europe and the USA has been under attack from the Covid pandemic, international economic problems and political issues that are dividing societies.
Debates on the BBC suggest that voting for independence is increasingly popular in Scotland with many wanting to be ‘in the EU’. And thereby lies another rub. Do they really understand what being in the EU would mean to a nation of some six million people?
How does independence sit in the framework of a Europe wide state run by an unelected bureaucracy, and with a parliament in which party majorities are set by political groups from much larger states?
Political incompetence and scandals may well be fostering a belief that Scotland would be better off in Europe but the idea that the EU is well run and not prone to scandals should be closely examined. Only this week reports suggest that SMS messages between Commission officials and a leading pharmaceutical company during the Covid pandemic were both refused to be handed over and then deleted so that they could never be examined.
That the UK is a mess in almost every respect cannot be denied. As I have repeatedly stated the UK spends more on defence that any European Country. Defence spending is being increased as the once admired National Health Service is collapsing. The announcement came as the EU and New Zealand signed up to a free trade deal such as is denied the UK.
Instead of talking independence right now politicians would be better campaigning for an EU/UK free trade deal. It would benefit both sides. The probability is that the new Cold War will last for many years: it is time to forget the irritation and blame of Brexit and all sign up for a long haul.
And let’s not forget separatism is not confined to the UK. Nor should we forget the words of Albert Einstein: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
———— Dateline: Corner Cafe, Deal, Kent. ————
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