You may have noticed that I've not been doing much blogging lately. Partly it is simply that I've been very busy at my work but it's also that I've just been very depressed about the state of the world with no desire to depress myself further by putting why down on paper.
But the events of the past few days prompt me to say something about the state of Scotland's polity.
Much has been written about post truth politics but in Scotland it seems to me that we are drifting into post reality political reporting. It obviously suits political journalists to talk up the prospect of a second independence referendum, it's story, but that should not be at the expense of pointing out the absurdity of the proposition on offer.
That proposition is simply this. If the UK Government proceeds with a hard brexit then a second referendum will/may be called so that Scotland can remain in the EU. But no it can't. For simple reasons of timing.
Mrs May has indicated the intention to trigger Article 50 next Spring. Now, that might not happen then, I readily concede that*, but since the cause for this second referendum is apparently to be that triggering then, even if it is delayed, my observations as to what follows still stand but only at a later date. So let's take the Prime Minister and indeed the First Minister at their stated intent.
Article 50 is triggered and Nicola decides immediately and without waiting for the detail to go for a second poll. For the sake of the argument to follow, both of these things happen in March 2017, meaning the UK is to leave the EU in March 2019.
Well, first of all Nicola would have to get legal authority for a second vote in the form of a s.30 order passed at both Holyrood and Westminster. We know what this involves because we've been through the process as recently as 2012. The Scottish Government conceded the need for a s.30 on 25th January 2012. The UK Government had indicated a willingness to consider such a request earlier that same month. At the time there was a genuine desire on both sides to reach a deal but, nonetheless, it took until 15th October for the deed to be done. Crucially, it was done largely on the terms the nationalists wanted, chiefly I suspect because our side thought there was little real prospect of us losing and just wanted to get on with it. This time that deal will not nearly as readily be done as I suspect there will be real issues over the question and the franchise and the timing. To posit but a few, if Yes/No was inappropriate as the Brexit choice then would it still be acceptable in a future independence referendum? If the choice now involved a hard border (an inevitable consequence of a Scotland in/ UK (hard) out of the EU) then shouldn't Scots living in England get a vote, given that this would inevitably impact on their right to remain and work in the residual UK? Should EU citizens in Scotland still get a vote as they did in 2014?
I say this just to indicate that, even if the UK Government is willing, the s.30 process will not be a dawdle. But let's concede that it will take no longer than 2012, So that there is a section 30 by January 2018. Then we need an Act of the Scottish Parliament. The 2013 Act was introduced on 21st March 2013 and became law on 18th December 2013. Now, the delay in introduction might be shortened this time but the Parliamentary time is dictated by the Parliament's established procedures so it is difficult to see legislation before the the end of 2017. But in some ways that doesn't matter because this being Scotland, the vote would need to await the better weather (sic) anyway. So not before May 2018.
And then in the event the flag-eaters won? Well, Scotland would not become independent immediately but remain in the UK until the "details" had been sorted out The September 2014 vote anticipated "Independence day" being in March 2016, a timescale many even on the Yes side thought to be hopelessly optimistic, but let's just apply that same nineteen month period to a May 2018 vote. Independence in January 2020. Until when we'd still be part of the UK. And have left the EU nine months before.
So there is simply no timescale that allows Scotland to vote to remain in the EU. We could certainly vote in anticipation of (attempting) to join once independence was a reality but that is as good as it could possibly get.
Now, neither Nicola nor the people round about her are stupid. They know all of the above as readily as I do. They have nonetheless attempted a gigantic confidence trick both on their own rank and file and, more importantly, on the electorate.
My question is this however. Why have the press fallen for this? Why haven't they pointed out that the Empress Nicola has no clothes? Over to you, ladies and gentlemen.
Important postscript! I've just realised I've actually given the Nats an entire year! The earliest there could even be legislation is December 2018 and a referendum the Spring of 2019! By which time we'd already have left.
*For what it's worth I think the Courts will rule that the Government requires a parliamentary vote before triggering article 50.