In what was described as a ‘positive’ meeting today, 15th July, beween the new UK Prime Minister, Theresa May and the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Scotland, Mrs May ddeclaed her openness to considering all options put forward by Scotland in respect of relationships with the EU.
The Prime Minister was unequivocal that Scotland had had its vote, that the outcome was clear and that both governments had agreed that the decision was binding.
Mrs May has been equally clear – and equally right – that the same is true of the result of the EU Referendum, saying [as a Remainer] that ‘Brexit means Brexit – and we are going to make a success of it’.
This is a typically straightforward acceptance of the reality of the situation in an evolved democracy and one that has a welcome integrity in its respect for that democracy.
Many of us are deeply disturbed by the result in favour of Brexit, for what it says about Britain and for what it may mean for our economy. No one, however, can reasonably or fairly dispute the Prime Minister’s absolute – and enabling – clarity.
The will of the majority of the people is the engine of democracy. The losing side, whatever its size or power, cannot keep pressing for more votes on an issue until they grind down – or, the euphemism, ‘persuade’ others to see things their way.
The will of the majority was even more plainly expessed in the Scottish Referendum than in the EU Referendum.
In the September 2014 Scottish Referendum, the electorate voted to stay in the United Kindom by a majority of 55.3% to 44.7%.
In the June 2016 EU Referendum, the electorate voted to leave the EU by a majority of 51.9% to 48.1%.
In the case of the Scottish Referendum, it would take a shift of 5.5% to achieve a narrow majority the other way.
In the case of the EU Referendum – whose result similarly went against the policy and will of the Governmnt of the day – it would take a shift of 2% to achieve a narrow majority the other way.
Yet Mrs May – a Remainer – has had the integrity to insist that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
Her position on the Scottish Referendum then has the added integrity of consistency – which the First Minister’s opportunism does not.
Scotland cannot remain in the EU and the UK, with the rest of the UK outside the EU. And if Scotland were to make a unilateral declaration of independence [UDI] from the British Union to try to join the European Union, for the same reason as the impossibility of Scotland simultaneously being a member of both unions, it would face a hard border with England and with Northern Ireland in either event.
That reason is that the unarguable driver of the narrow UK majority for leaving the EU was the uncontrollable immigration that comes with the freedom of internal movement that is an EU condition of membership.
England in particular will not accept a soft border with Scotland in either of the two scenarios above. Scotland would become an open back door to exactly the sort of incomings that drove so many in England and Wales to reject continuing EU membership.
Scotland has not had the vigour of Mrs May’s acceptance of the will of the majority on continung membership of the UK and has made no effort to make a constructive success of that membership. Serial complaints – often manufactured – and equally serial demands do not comprise a positive attitude to playing your part in the success of the union to which you belong and which demonstrably treats you wih asymmetric generosity.
Scotland has failed to understand that as a member of a union, it has responsibilities to play an active part in the success of that union – and not just to milk it for its own ends, keeping on demanding more and more.
That behaviour is not the mark of a mature democracy.