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