In 70 days the Article 50 negotiation period will expire and unless something changes, the UK will leave the European Union, with or without a deal. What happens in the next seventy days is anyone’s guess but it is sure to be the greatest crisis of the British state in modern history.
Chaos reigns supreme at Westminster. In the largest ever defeat of a British government, the Tory deal negotiated over the last two years has been blown off the table.
May triggered Article 50 without a plan and her government has spent two years consumed by infighting and jostling over who succeeds her. In a show of outstanding arrogance, no effort was made to reach out to opposition parties or the devolved governments to find compromise.
Despite losing the Tory majority in 2017, Theresa May charged blindly ahead with a set of negotiating criteria which were impossible to match with any combination of MPs large enough to pass a deal.
This mix of incompetence and arrogance has brought us to a point of genuine crisis. A Government with a dead deal, opposed not only by every other party but by most of its own backbenchers and a clock counting down to Brexit day which they don’t yet intend to stop.
The No-Deal Brexit that would result in would be genuinely catastrophic, leading to shortages of food, medicine and potentially even drinking water (many of the chemicals for water purification are made in Europe, not the UK). Those are inevitable consequences of collapsing the customs borders of your own country when you don’t make enough of all the things you need to keep the country going.
A peacetime government of one of the world’s largest economies is buying thousands of fridges to stockpile medicines and calling up military reservists in anticipation of unrest. It is madness.
How can the deadlock be broken? Labour’s No-Confidence motion was defeated so there’s no general election coming and Labour Brexit policies themselves are contradictory and vague.
This is why we need a new referendum. If MPs can’t break the deadlock, let the people ‘take back control’ of the process and offer the choice of staying in the EU, an option secured by the ‘Scottish Six’ court ruling I was proud to be part of.
Winning that vote for Remain solves the immediate crisis but the long term one remains. None of the tension, nor those who stoke it will go away.
Scotland will still be stuck in a union where devolution has come under direct attack and where our long-term future in Europe will be at risk. The only solution to that is to leave the Westminster basket-case behind with independence in the European Union.
We can’t rely on revulsion at that basket-case to push people towards independence though. We need to show how an independent Scotland can address the problems that plague our society, including the ones exploited by the Leave campaign.
Insecurity and anxiety fuelled by austerity cuts, low-wages, and an increasingly insecure economy were instead wrongly pinned by the right-wing press and complicit politicians on migrants and the EU. Scotland largely resisted that mind-set but it was far from universally rejected.
Independence and EU membership won’t automatically solve these problems. It will take political will to reverse austerity and to restructure the economy away from finance and towards sustainable industries rich in lasting, quality jobs.
We have the potential to become an industrial powerhouse in green energies. Hooked up to a European-wide energy grid, which the EU is already helping to develop, we can support high quality and sustainable jobs exporting clean energy across the continent.
Similarly, decommissioning the oil and gas industry will need skilled jobs for decades. It’s an expensive but essential job to decommission the 470-odd platforms and thousands of kilometres of pipelines that form the infrastructure of the North Sea oil & gas industry.
We must be brave enough to make those companies who have grown rich from that oil & gas pay for it. After all, no UK Government ever made them share their obscene profits with the people while the industry was booming. Why should we be saddled with their bill?
That requires not just independence but the bravery to take a fundamentally different path.
In many areas where Scotland can succeed, the EU can support us. But we can’t ignore its shortcomings. An independent Scotland must be a voice for reversing the austerity disaster across our continent and building a people’s Europe in its place.
The EU can be reformed. It is constantly reforming. Let’s tell the story of how an independent Scotland can not only thrive but can lead that transformation. Scotland has always been European. With independence, we can truly make our mark on a continent ready to welcome us with open arms.