IN many ways, the course of events in post-indyref Scottish politics has been very easy to predict. Those of us who voted Yes could see from a mile away that Scotland would be more vulnerable rather than stronger as a result of the No vote. Since 2014, we’ve been saddled with a Tory majority, a surging Ukip and removal from the EU against our will. Promises from the No campaign about protecting HMRC and steelwork jobs, shipbuilding contracts and renewable energy have proven hollow. Westminster’s “new powers for Scotland” gambit was a pig in a poke. The Scottish Government has been left to fiddle at the margins of income tax – their single, paltry new economic lever – in order to offset Tory austerity.

Unionists howl at the SNP to use this “power” to somehow transform the nation, with loose change found down the back of the couch perhaps? Sorry, folks, if you voted No you have to accept that Scotland’s fiscal fate is decided by London rather than Edinburgh. Independence was the other thing.

The National:

Meanwhile, the sanctity of the Holyrood parliament, supposedly enshrined by the pre-indyref Vow, has been exposed by the UK Government’s submission to the Supreme Court over Brexit. Basically it’s: “We can do what we like to Holyrood after we leave Europe. After all, who’s going to stop us? The European Courts?”

Cue ribbald laughter and fwah-fwah-fwahs.

Many Yes activists tried to warn about all of this before the indyref – the point of a No vote was giving Scotland’s political power away, not accruing it – and so the worst-case scenario has come to pass. We are now in a state of paralysis, our belly exposed to Brexit’s sting. Neither can we progress until the contradiction at the heart of things is resolved: Scotland voted to stay within two unions, the UK and the EU, but only one of those is possible. Nicola Sturgeon’s new Scotland’s Place in Europe document is the only serious attempt by a British politician to analyse the situation and move it forwards.

From the UK Government? “It’ll be a red, white and blue Brexit.”


The National:

So while many things which followed Scotland’s 2014 vote have been predictable, Brexit has thrown the entire chessboard up in the air. The idea that a No vote in 2014 would protect us from “uncertainty” or economic damage has been exposed as a joke. There is now a terrifying vacuum at the heart of British politics.

And massing above all of this are giant stormclouds: an unpredictable narcissist in the White House, who has instilled confidence in far-right agitators across the West; the Chinese pushing back against the American frontier; a bellicose Russia starting to flex its muscles; the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis intensifying, with all its knock-on effects for a Europe simmering with racism; deepening tensions between Catalonia and Madrid over their own independence vote in September; impending environmental havoc wrought by climate-change, which could lead to the mass migration of peoples; the timebomb of the UK economy, founded on a trillion pounds of debt.

In virtually every country of the world, the ordinary population, clinging on to a livelihood by their fingernails, are getting angrier and more desperate, a mood which the capitalist class, abetted by the right-wing media, are cynically directing towards immigrants and the poor in order to deflect attention away from themselves.

So predictions for 2017?


THE only certainties for British citizens are this: that Philip Hammond’s public-sector and welfare cuts to get “match fit” for Brexit will make George Osborne’s look like paper-doll practice; that the UK Government will take the opportunity of Brexit to slash employment rights and wages for workers; that living standards are going to plummet even lower; that the housing crisis – and therefore homelessness – will be further exacerbated. Huge parts of Britain are going to feel like a Third World country.

Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last. 
Basically, there has been a complete and abject failure of politics. Some form of gigantic collapse feels as though it’s in the offing, but no-one can quite see the shape of it yet, nor what will happen in its aftermath. Certainly, the centre-ground has fallen through a sinkhole. The old struggle between right and left, perhaps even between fascism and socialism, is becoming manifest anew. In Austria this year, the Green candidate Alexander Van Der Bellen defeated the far-right by the narrowest of margins. All eyes are now on the French election in April. If the neo-fascist Marine le Pen wins then Europe is in serious danger, with far-right movements across the continent, emboldened by Brexit and Trump, all waiting to seize their moment.

In this context, Sturgeon’s pro-immigration, pro-EU stance throws the difference between the SNP and “ethnic” nationalists into stark relief, even if she remains unsure if they’re part of a European left-wing insurgency or a centrist managerial class.

The National:
The English left meanwhile – gathering round Jeremy Corbyn, the only serious challenge to neo-liberal othordoxy since the miners’ strike – still has serious challenges ahead before it’s in a position to topple the Tories. Ukip are making worrying inroads into Labour’s northern heartlands. The Labour right will mount another coup against Corbyn if polling figures and by-elections go against him. Even within Labour’s left-wing Momentum bloc, sectarianism has reared its head, with conflict arising around the presence of the Trotskyist and Militant tendencies. Tim Farron, meanwhile, recently refused to rule out another coalition between his “progressive” LibDems and the Tories.

For the Yes movement the way ahead will be signalled by a conference on January 14 at the Radisson Hotel in Glasgow. Scotland in 2014 experienced an upsurge in hope; the belief that we could replenish our democracy and actually direct the future of our country. The flame of that hope is guttering in the winds of all that has happened since but has not gone out, because the idea of independence is still alive within almost half of Scots. After all, the No vote in 2014 hasn’t exactly worked out, has it?

Common Weal have been doing excellent research on the questions of the economy and currency upon which many No voters made their decision last time, and I’d urge all Yes activists to accquaint themselves with their findings. If another referendum is called – increasingly likely, given Theresa May’s dismissal of Sturgeon’s plan to keep us in both the UK and the European market – we need to be ready. A successful Yes vote on the basis of internationalist links, and a migrant-friendly approach, would be that hope made manifest, an antidote to the xenophobia sweeping the West.

To some extent, the Remain vote has cut across the Yes/No divide in Scotland and helped competing forces to find philosophical ground. It’s at the level of co-operation where things start to founder, given the tribal nature of political parties and their divergent views on the UK’s constitutional crisis. The Unionists seem to have but one policy between them: prevent independence at all costs. Their failure of imagination is huge. If a financial crash, global war or environmental disaster does come then Scotland’s response will be decided by the ruling elite in London, whose first thought will be only for themselves.

So by all means let’s discuss how best to bring about the transformation of Scotland, for which most people reading this newspaper believe independence is key. But we also need to think far bigger than constitutional change. Humanity at large is failing itself and so we need a humane response. 2017, by necessity, has to be the year when something psychological changes within the population. At a deep cultural and community level, we have to start reimagining and reviving our relationship to our fellow human beings, whether they be native or immigrant, pro- or anti-independence, struggling in work or struggling on benefits.

Capitalism has atomised us from each other, rearranged us into discrete units of selfishness. This mess is the result. Everyone’s in trouble now. No-one from above is going to swoop down and save us. We have to help each other.

Humanity has thrived for tens of thousands of years based on our ability to co-operate with each other. Competitiveness – a relatively late arrival on the scene of homo-sapiens – has placed the vast majority of us in a perilous state of insecurity. In the face of that, people are clinging ever-harder to their tribal loyalties, which can lead to a dangerous “othering” of some of the most vulnerable in society. We’ve seen this in the spike of hate crimes in 2016, thanks to Brexit and Trump. Our survival as a species now depends on our ability to treat each other with respect and dignity, to share what we have with those who need it most.
If 2016 was the Year of Hate then my prediction for 2017– naïve, overly optimistic and simple – is this: the return of kindness and generosity of spirit.

It’s our only chance.