Heartbreak

I’m feeling pretty heartbroken at the moment. Like Charles Kennedy, I’m a highlander, a Scot, a Brit and a European, with the first and the last most important. Now my rights as a European citizen (though I will be one no matter what) and a British citizen are under threat.

As I write, the Labour Party, the so-called opposition, is about to crumble  and let the Government have its way on the Bill that will pave the way for our exit from the European Union. It beggars belief that the Government has been able to get this through without any serious opposition. It’s the greatest issue of our time, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party might as well have been part of the most right-wing, isolationist, dangerous government we have  had in my lifetime.

I’ve been fairly sure that the country has been headed to hell in a handcart before. There was the 80s, for a start, when Thatcher destroyed the industrial fabric of our country and championed selfishness over community. You thought things could only get  better with a Blair Government but he ended up ruining the country’s standing with the folly of Iraq.

I thought I had felt heartbreak in 2011 when I saw so many of my friends lose in the Holyrood election, when we lost our MEPs and the turmoil that followed, in 2015 when the General Election result was the worst we could have anticipated. None of that, tough that it was, comes close to my sadness and fear for the future.  I feel like we’re throwing away our safety net in so many ways. What will be left of workers’ rights and human rights in ten years’ time?

This is something else, though. The country chose by a small margin to leave the EU. The Government could have met that close vote with an inclusive strategy that kept the country together, but they chose instead to hurtle, helped by the opposition, over the steepest, most dangerous cliff. And to hear government ministers talking about human beings as cards is one of the most callous things you could imagine.

When the extent of the disaster becomes clear, people will remember that  the Liberal Democrats did all they could to stop the Article 50 Bill being passed unamended. They  have spoken up for the rights of EU nationals, for the single market, for the final say on the deal to be given by the British people, not Theresa May and her Brexiteers with no check on their authority. How can we possibly pretend to be a democracy when the biggest decision of our times, to leave without a deal, may be taken behind closed doors while Parliament sits on its hands?

EU nationals can be assured that every Liberal Democrat parliamentarian and every one of our 85000 members stands with them.

And today, in a development which was so inevitable that it’s taken the BBC by surprise, Nicola Sturgeon announced that IndyRef 2 is on – at least if she has anything to do with it. I had always thought that Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will would be my tipping point and in the dark early hours of 24 June, my position on independence changed. I’d think about it. Well, since then, I’ve realised that the response to your arm being cut off isn’t to rip your heart out. It just doesn’t make social or economic sense for the UK to break up. Reformed? You bet, but even in its current form, it’s better than the alternative.

This is especially so as independence would be unlikely to give us membership of the EU – partly because it looks like the SNP Government would not seek it. They used to talk about independence in Europe all the time. Nicola Sturgeon prevaricated in her press conference, refusing to commit to an independent Scotland being in the EU or even the single market. For the Liberal Democrats, being part of the EU is an essential part of collaboration. For the SNP, it’s a cynical device to secure what they really want.

I don’t relish the next two years. The last independence referendum was horrible. The atmosphere was toxic and anyone who dared to challenge the SNP was vilified. So, already, my timeline fills up with cybernats. No doubt I’ll be called every traitorous name under the sun by the end of the week. The fight ahead will be hard and victory for the No side is not guaranteed. After Brexit, complacency would be foolish beyond belief.

So tonight, I will weep softly. When Article 50 is triggered, its documents so starkly devoid of protections for our people, I will probably cry some more and swear and throw things.

Nothing will stop me, though, from putting my heart and soul into as many kinds of peaceful resistance to Brexit as I can. Nothing will stop me from trying to persuade my fellow Scots that we can build a better Britain, one that’s more equal, liberal, tolerant, generous-spirited, compassionate and one that sticks together in good times and in bad, for the benefit of everyone.

We are entering an age when politics isn’t a game any more. It will have to be a way of life. We will need to put in some serious shifts to stop our country from the ruinous course on which it is set. I’m up for it. Are you with me?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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41 Comments

  • Yes. Bit tired and depressed at this point, but I can’t turn by back on this fight.
    So I will get up in the morning and carry on. This weekend I will go to Gorton.

  • Brilliant. Give my love to Jackie. She is such a brilliant candidate.

  • “independence would be unlikely to give us membership of the EU” – should Scotland apply for EU membership it would almost certainly have a fairly straightforward transition to EU membership since as part of the UK it has already implemented EU law for decades.

  • But, Paul, the SNP is rowing back from its previous “Be independent to stay in the EU.” We may get in if we want (though it’s not guaranteed) but our government has to lead us there.

  • My worry is how you can ever improve the Union and make it more liberal when it tbrives up on a broken, un democratic system? It hasn’t happened since the first indyref, and I just worry, how an it ever start to improve when the old Interests cling to, even fetishise, their broken levers of power?

  • Hi Caron – I totally empathise with your feelings of sadness and fear for the future. What cheers me up is that you and others share them. I believe hearts will rally and minds will change as the wages of all this intolerance and division become clear. And if they don’t, it’s still worth fighting the noble fight.

  • My first post here after a lifetime of voting Lib Dem, morale is not good. At least A50 has been delayed a bit longer but I feel that the 48% are just not listened to. How few Tory and Labour MPs seem to have factored in the Scotland and NI question. The leadership needs to steady us voters.

  • Caron, the world changes and sometimes you just have to accept and get on with it. For me the move for a 2nd referendum is the best thing that could happen, as it seems in itself to be the best way to block leaving the EU. If Scotland votes to go Mrs May and the Conservative right will be responsible for the break up of the UK, especially relevant if the Irish border is also under review. Going for a Scottish status quo will only increase the prospects of leaving the EU. It is a catch 22.

  • The damage done to our country, our continent and the wider world on Monday 13th may take decades to repair. I still hope that a muddled mixture of pain and boredom may push the House of Commons into getting off its knees before a disastrous deal is signed, sealed and delivered. But the odds are in favour of them not so doing.

    This is a deeply conservative country and Labour are part of that in spite of their occasional bursts of radical posturing. For all the reason’s Caron gives, Lib Dems should never let them off the hook. The spineless Lords should have risked their own abolition (unlikely) or at least the use of the Parliament Act to stand up for what they believed to be right – but they didn’t.

    I may well be dead before we get anywhere resembling a return to becoming a generous, tolerant, civilised country, as indeed Roger Hayes may be – nothing personal Roger! His clarion call to commitment in the latest Liberator should be repeated across the land (accompanied by the Land Song).

    The consolation in all this is the opportunity for clarity. Whether the struggle be long or short, if you have values that are transparent and clear in the midst of the present mess, this is your hour.

  • Richard Church 14th Mar '17 - 8:31am

    The constitutional settlement of the United Kingdom is being smashed by nationalism in all its manifestations in these islands. Brexit is one of those manifestations.

    By 2019 that destruction will be virtually complete. So much about the way we are governed looks archaic and unsuited to our times. Instead of appearing as defenders of the status quo as the best bits of it are taken apart, Liberal Democrats need to make the case for the radical changes we have supported for years.

    Liberals need to be setting out a vision for a new constitutional settlement embracing federalism, electoral reform, abolition of the House of Lords, an end to royal prerogative and more. A new start for the governing arrangements of what used to be the United Kingdom.

  • Jane Ann Liston 14th Mar '17 - 8:40am

    One voter I spoke to on the doorstep last night said he had hitherto supported the SNP but was now minded to vote … Conservative, because he likes what they have been doing! I wonder if there are many more like him?

  • I admire your energy. But both you and I have been just as much part of that tribalist, political game playing crew over the years.

  • Bill le Breton 14th Mar '17 - 9:05am

    Caron, you won’t like me saying this but “you make your bed, you lie in it”.

    You were on the wrong side of arguments that led to the disasters that now cause you heartbreak. There was little or no resistance to the follies of the leader chosen by the Party in 2007. 2011 was really no surprise. There was little or no resistance north of the Border to the position of the Party alongside the Tories in the referendum campaign – a reverse of long standing Liberal and Liberal Democrat policy – which provided a catapult to the SNP – another obvious consequence of that positioning. There was little or no resistance to the poor politics of 2011 to 2015, both strategically and tactically. Anyone who went round the country ‘mystery shopping’ local campaigning had no doubt what kind of disaster would come in May 2015. Finally, really, any experienced political adviser knew that putting one’s faith in the same people would lead to defeat in the EU referendum.

    As I said repeatedly over many years, if you weren’t part of the solution, you were part of the problem. Good intentions are not a guarantee of good outcomes.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Mar '17 - 9:05am

    Paul – ‘should Scotland apply for EU membership it would almost certainly have a fairly straightforward transition to EU membership since as part of the UK it has already implemented EU law for decades.’

    There was a similar comment on here the other day about that. I’m not convinced by this argument. At a minimum the EU will likely want a functioning and stable lender of last resort in Scotland and a currency. Now, obviously, there’s no reason that can’t be set up but it’s some way beyond what was proposed in 2014.

    If Scotland were to join the EU it would be a ‘hard remain’ with Schengen, monetary union and all the other political construct bits that come along (refugee quotas, TTIP etc). Things can be done about this – some countries have dragged out monetary union without penalty (yet), and Sweden voted it down in a referendum. That wouldn’t make Scotland flavour of the month, and the functioning institutional framework would need to be in place on joining the EU. Having been badly burned by softening the rules in the last decade I doubt that the EU would want a repeat performance. As I understand it (happy to be corrected) Luxembourg, a long-standing EU member had to make some very significant changes to its financial system under EU requirements as recently as 1998. (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/euro/briefing/general/25_en.pdf)

    The closest comparator I can think of for Scotland is Montenegro. Montenegro wants to join the EU and has used the euro since it was introduced despite not being in the EU. So far the EU appears not to have been keen in relaxing the rules for Montenegro regardless. That I think is how Scotland would be treated. I note in passing that Montenegro has seen harsh austerity.

    So whilst Scotland joining the EU is perfectly possible I think it would need some reforms that did not appear to be envisaged at the previous referendum.

    I’ve not lived in Scotland for some time now and I’m out of date, however my feeling always was that Scotland was best described as ‘less anti’ rather than ‘very pro’ on the EU.

  • Bill le Breton 14th Mar '17 - 9:14am

    And on the subject of Sturgeon’s initiative yesterday: it does mean that the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with EU27 will be’softer’ than it otherwise would have been.

    EU27 will not want to help any successionist campaign and will have an eye on what they offer the UK so that it does not lead to Scotland’s succession from the Union.

    And athome, HMG will now have to keep an eye on the type of Brexit so that it does not give succour to the SNP and the cause of Independence. Devo-Maximus Plus Plus.

    After yesterday, EEA nonEU and a refined Single Market with the UK as a member has become much more likely.

    We have to move from a negative campaign to a highly positive, visionary campaign with an image of A Truly United UK. One where life chances are less affected by where you are born or choose to live.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Mar '17 - 9:17am

    Bill le Breton – ‘HMG will now have to keep an eye on the type of Brexit so that it does not give succour to the SNP and the cause of Independence. Devo-Maximus Plus Plus.’

    That may yet be the real issue here. Option one – leave the UK and (seek to) join the EU. Option two – remain in the UK. At that point the question is what’s option two. An OUT UK could offer Holyrood competence over things that were previously done by the EU, notably fish and agriculture. A devo more max than was possible before.

    As I said I’ve not lived in Scotland for some time and I don’t really have any feel for how this could play out – or even if there might yet be an option three.

  • Surely if Scotland leaves the Union it will have to join the Euro, the treasury has already said it would not allow Scotland a Currency union with the pound.
    Scotland would be left with 2 choices, forming it’s own currency or joining the Euro, which the EU might make a condition of them joining anyway.
    Then there is the problem of Scotland’s budget deficit, which I read to be 9.5% making it worse than Greece and EU policy is for no member state to have a budget deficit of more than 3%. On that basis I can not see the EU allowing a new member in to the clique which will only add further woes to the Union.

    I can not see the people of Scotland going for this.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Mar '17 - 9:30am

    matt – I don’t think that there’s any reason Scotland can’t set up those institutions. But I don’t think that joining the EU whilst in a currency union with the pound would work. A currency union appeared to be the strongly preferred option in 2014, and it will be interesting to see what arguments are made at the next referendum.

    After the last decade I certainly can’t imagine any circumstances where the EU would not strongly enforce the rules on economic policy.

    That said, looking at countries in eastern Europe the motives for joining the EU have been in many ways at least as political as economic. Certainly more explicitly so than has been argued in the UK. I don’t really have a feel for how politics and economics would stack up in a vote in Scotland.

  • Latest opinion poll of Scots last week on the subject was 50-50. Betting Industry yesterday installed Yes as favourite. The Scotish Liberal Democrats
    built a massive hole for themselves in the coalition, displayed no self determination to the party in the UK and have sufferred accordingly. They are now stuck in that hole and will keep digging unless they break out, become innovative and lead in a different direction.
    They need totally new thinking and I suspect after probably another sort of bad election results in May will need a new leader. 5th place is no good for anyone.

  • Russel McPhate 14th Mar '17 - 9:34am

    The nationalism that voted for the UK to leave the UK is the same nationalism that wants to pull Scotland out of the UK – the argument that “We would all be better off if it weren’t for [insert name here!] Just as Brexit was principally won by an emotional pull so might another independence referendum – particularly as a reaction against that same Brexit and I can fully understand why EU citizens in particular might see this as their only opportunity to stay in the EU or at least in a Country that is likely to want to keep them.

    However, the timing of this referendum means that there will be no opportunity for Scotland to negotiate to leave the UK and stay in the EU at the same time. Either way we are out, and once out an independent Scotland will only get back in after a period of real austerity. For those who aren’t aware the official figures show Scotland currently running a budget deficit that is higher in percentage terms than that of Greece at its worst and you will remember the austerity imposed upon them by the EU. Then, if we do get in we will be on the other side of a hard border – for reasons of currency and immigration – to our largest market by far.

    It really is a case of “Be careful what you wish for!” As I believe will happen with Brexit I think many people who are pulled emotionally towards separation will regret that decision when they see what it means in economic and social terms and will be looking for a way back. The best way for Scotland to be in the EU is therefore for the UK not to leave in the first place. that argument is still, I think, winnable but by calling for an independence referendum now the SNP, who care about the EU only in so much as it provides a stick to beat Westminster with, effectively distract a part of the pro EU segment of the population from that fight.

  • Reading this article one would never know that for five years between 2010 and 2015 the Liberal Democrats shored up “…. the most right wing, isolationist, dangerous government we have had in my lifetime”. It was the Liberal Democrats who provided the majority which time after time allowed the Tories to impose extreme and heartless austerity; destroy the welfare state and the NHS; and punish public sector workers for the greed and incompetence of the Tory deregulated financial system.

    Instead of stifling the Tories’ advance with mere Confidence and Supply, the Liberal Democrats went into coalition with them, out Torying the Tories with their zeal for cuts which affected the most impoverished areas of the country that were already reeling from the effects of immigration. This created the perfect conditions for creating economic resentment and xenophobia , factors which we all know caused the electorate to vote for Brexit. In the process Liberal Democrats reneged on their tuition fees pledge, were co-architects of the hated Bedroom Tax and were responsible for a massive expansion of benefit sanctioning and food bank dependency. Thanks for that.

    All this gave “… the most right wing, isolationist, dangerous government we have had in my lifetime” the opportunity to consolidate and strengthen its position (aided and abetted by the Lib Dem’s fixed term parliaments legislation) in order to prepare for an EU referendum. The consequence of Lib Dem collusion with that right wing, isolationist government was that the Liberal Democrats were gobbled up at the ballot box in 2015, thus providing the Tories with a sufficient majority last night to whip through the invocation of Article 50 without the inclusion of Labour’s principled amendments either in the Commons or in the Lords. It is the Liberal Democrats who created the circumstances which led to that.

    It is entirely disingenuous to blame Labour for this situation. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has behaved perfectly reasonably: accepting the democratic decision of the British people whilst attempting to ameliorate an unqualified invocation of Article 50 with principled amendments and an inclusive strategy for the whole country. It is not Labour’s fault that the Tories have a majority handed to them by the Liberal Democrats or that we are unable to remove “… The most right wing, isolationist dangerous government in history” precisely because of the Lib Dem’s fixed term parliament act.

  • Correction: the penultimate sentence of my post is incorrect. It should read “The most right wing, isolationist, government we have had in my lifetime.”

  • Don’t get me wrong, @cllr mark wright, if people who voted No last time are drawn to Yes because of what they see unfolding via the hard Brexit being imposed by the Tories, I do get it. I just don’t think that, as you say, the answer is further separation. Rather it is the job of all of us who are progressive and want to see a better world to roll up our sleeves and make it happen. We need to offer hope and change as against fear and blame.

  • Mack – the present government is not the same government as the coalition. It may fit your argument to pretend otherwise, but the fact is that the coalition government existed from 2010-2015. Then the Tories won a majority, so the coalition ended and a new, /different/ government began.
    As for your assertion that Labour has behaved ‘perfectly reasonably.’ Today Jeremy Corbyn is to address a rally calling for a policy which yesterday his party voted against in the HoL. That is not leadership, it is posturing.

  • We had to refuse to play ‘ping pong’ in the House of Lords last night. To have done otherwise would have made us hypocrites. Only the Liberal Democrats could justify using the unelected and unaccountable H of L to thwart the democratically elected will of the people expressed through a plebiscite and the democratic will of the House of Commons, now confirmed by two votes with clear majorities. Unpalatable as the rejection of the Labour amendments is to me, and, I assume to you, that is democracy. Is the term ‘democrat’ in Liberal Democrats merely ironic? As for this present government being different to the one the Lib Dem’s supported that is casuistry. Same old Tories. Only the figurehead has changed, like North Korea. I can appreciate that the Lib Dem’s want to consign their escapade with the Tories to distant memory, like a bad night on the town, but you really must take responsibility for creating the conditions that encouraged people to see Brexit as the only option.

  • @Little Jackie Piper

    “If Scotland were to join the EU it would be a ‘hard remain’ with Schengen, monetary union and all the other political construct bits that come along (refugee quotas, TTIP etc).”

    Project Fear2 eh? Well that worked so well last time and in the EU referendum!

  • Mack certainly has a point about the “don’t mention the war” attitude of much of this party to the disaster of the coalition but Baroness Hayter’s summing up last night where she saved most of her bitterness for the Lib Dems rather than Brexit was not a pretty sight.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Mar '17 - 11:41am

    Hireton – ‘Project Fear2 eh? Well that worked so well last time and in the EU referendum!’

    1 – Personally I couldn’t care less if Scotland goes independent. If Denmark can be independent I fail to see why Scotland can’t. Similarly if Scotland votes to stay in the UK then great.

    2 – I’m not sure I understand your point – are you saying that you think Scotland can/should negotiate EU accession with an opt-out from monetary union? Fine if so, but my reading of the situation is that the EU would not be keen on such an idea and I’d be interested to know how you formed your view if different.

    3 – What exactly is project fear about this? Many other countries around the EU sign up to the political construct bits. It’s not fear, it’s common European political practice.

  • @Mack
    Labour became blatant hypocrites when the Stalinist fanatics around Corbyn began pretending that Tony Blair had never done anything good and that Labour’s entire record in government must be repudiated to demonstrate True Socialism. They have sown that wind and now they are reaping the whirlwind, in that they now have neither policies nor leaders acceptable to the nation. To cling to power, Corbyn the Principled squirms from position to position like a frenzied devotee of the Kama Sutra as the nation watches in disgusted amazement and wonders what a real opposition looks like.

  • Sue Sutherland 14th Mar '17 - 12:14pm

    The Chinese proverb ‘May you not live in interesting times’ seems very applicable to what is happening to our country now. It is much worse than any of the other times you mention Caron because it threatens our very existence and May is incapable of dealing with it. Her strident ticking off of Nicola Sturgeon for playing games when she herself doesn’t seem to know what she’s doing was excruciating.
    I just have a narrow Southerner’s view of politics, especially as I have very limited energy so trying to keep up with Westminster alone exhausts me, but I can see a very positive future for Scotland on its own in the EU. A lot of our financial institutions are looking at moving to an EU country when we leave and what could be easier than just moving over the border? Industries would behave in a similar way if the Scottish government was welcoming. I think it would also help England and Wales to return to EU membership in due course because the concept would be kept alive on these islands.
    Who knew that democracy could be so revolutionary?

  • Sue Sutherland 14th Mar '17 - 1:02pm

    Mack, I have been in this party since 1985 and used to think I was closer to Labour than the Tories. When Tony Blair was elected I thought he would improve things for the people you mention but he just carried on Thatchers work with just a few things to help the poorest and weakest. So I really do not think you can blame the Lib Dems’ years as a small minority in government for all the ills that led to some people voting Brexit. You say same old Tories, but if you think of that government and compare it with the unbridled Toryism we now have, it becomes obvious that the Lib Dems were much more influential than many of us thought.

  • We’ll probably leave the EU.

    Life will go on.

    We may be better off (unlikely) or worse off (likely).

    Scotland may vote for independence.

    They will almost certainly be worse off in consequence.

    But life will go on.

  • Denis Mollison 14th Mar '17 - 3:15pm

    @Ian Macfadyen
    I agree. It seems clear that Nicola Sturgeon is trying to get three events in a sensible order:
    1) UK agrees terms for Brexit with the EU
    2) Indyref2
    3) UK/rUK leaves the EU
    If that’s the timetable, then until (1) we are on the same side as Scottish independence supporters: we are both trying to prevent or minimise Brexit.

    Meanwhile, we could be giving our long-held policy of Federalism one more try. There are some encouraging signs of wider support, for instance in Scottish Labour and in Wales and Northern Ireland; and I have long thought that the only way a Westminster government will consider Federalism is if there is a realistic chance that the alternative is (from their point of view) clearly worse. Willie announced at the Scottish conference that he is asking Jeremy Purvis to coordinate an initiative on Federalism, with both internal and cross-party discussions.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Mar '17 - 3:39pm

    As I have proposed as a comment on my earlier thread, I think the EEA/EFTA route forward will probably be the way to go, and will keep Scotland happy.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Mar '17 - 4:31pm

    Thread of March 13, ‘Now we must stand firm …’, I should have said. Let’s keep emotions in check as far as we can, at this difficult juncture, and look for practical solutions.

  • For those who can’t see the harm in another referendum, this article by a Yes campaigner might help to explain just how stressful the process was.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/14/scottish-independence-referendum-snp-vote-brexit

    Regardless of your long-term aspirations for Scotland, it’s important to remember that a third divisive referendum within a few years will only compound the divides in society, and place Scotland, and the rest of the UK, in yet further uncertainty. It makes business planning very difficult, and it’s not good for most businesses. Flag manufacturers, leaflet printers and bloggers are the exception.

    The thing many nationalists forget as they get steamy eyed about the EU is that should an independent Scotland join the EU, it’s position would be different from that of the UK, and it seems many didn’t understand how the EU made decisions anyway. I’ve seen several commentators explain that being in the EU is a group of 27 mature countries getting together to decide things together. It doesn’t occur to them that if Germany or France wants to veto something Scotland wants, there won’t be much we can do about it.

    The UK was a major player and major contributor. Scotland would be a small population country hoping for subsidies. We’d have less power than Greece, which is fine if we are confident that the rest of the EU always has Scotland’s best interests at the heart of all decision-making.

  • Chin up Caron. It’s time to dust ourselves down and start setting direction.

    I’m a yes, turned no, if Indyref2 happens. Now, more than ever we need leadership from a party. It’s time to draw up that federal model and explain how it works, for the benefit of all the UK.

    Forget “women for independence” or the Indy girls, I’m starting a group “Femmes for Federalism” 😉

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