At the last conference Alex Cole-Hamilton explained his opposition to Scottish independence by noting that he was a UK citizen, an EU citizen and wanted to remain both.
It is a fine sentiment.
The time, though, is fast arising when he and others may have to decide which is more important. When no amount of campaigning against the decision will prevent the outcome, when the Tory backbenchers melt and when the Labour leadership get behind the Brexiteers, then then people of Scotland are faced with a choice. It is a stark choice, it is a difficult choice and it is a choice, no doubt, that people do not want to make. But it is a choice they will be forced to: “UK or EU”, “both” will not be on the ballot paper.
So which to choose?
On the one hand we have the undeniably messy, flawed and incomplete European Project. Messy, flawed and incomplete though it is, that European Project has been a spectacular success. Begun in the ashes of Europe after only the latest of frequent catastrophic wars, in seventy years no member state, once admitted to the fold, has engaged in armed conflict with any other member state. We have taken newly liberated fascist dictatorships and kept them as stable, peaceful, liberal democracies. Newly liberated communist dictatorships have had their economies and societies transformed by EU membership. We have forged the largest market in the world, developed the means to improve our environment, advanced science and cooperated in fighting crime. We have developed a block that can take action against multi-nationals, stand up to the US, China and Russia and can forge trade deals from a position as an equal, not as a supplicant.
Against this any Brexit must be seen as regressive. Any Brexit moves back to a narrow parochialism that will diminish and impoverish us all.
The Brexit we see, though, is beyond awful. Not content with parochialism, we see contempt for decent values. We see contempt for the rule of law, contempt for human rights and contempt for parliament. The government holds the status of citizens of other EU states in contempt; seeking to use the lives of our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and even our own families as tools in their negotiations. The Brexiteers hold us, anyone who disagrees, in contempt. The Brexiteers even hold those who voted their way in contempt, people to be manipulated with an outlandish picture of a post-EU idyll that evaporates as soon as the manipulation has fulfilled its purpose.
With the UK set to leave the EU any campaign to keep Scotland within the UK is a campaign to drag Scotland out of the EU with the rest of us. If we are a party of Unionism we are a party of Remain in pro-leave England and a party of Leave in pro-remain Scotland. This is not a principled stand. It is either a contrarian position, or precisely the type of “have your cake and eat it” fantasy we scorn the Brexiteers for.
We should take the principled position. If Scotland must leave the UK to stay in the EU then Scotland must leave the UK.
* Tony Lloyd is a member in Lewisham Liberal Democrats, an accountant and so pro European that he insisted on the European national anthem at his wedding.