A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.— C.S. Lewis.
Beginning this year, we will see Nicola Sturgeon resume the enterprise she began in 2015. Here I am referring not to her perennial efforts break up Britain. I am referring to her party’s preferred method of doing so when no referendums are forthcoming: the deliberate disgracing of Scotland in the eyes of the rest of Britain with a view to eventually alienating the rest of Britain to the point of ejecting Scotland.
After losing the 2014 referendum, SNP politicians began dedicating themselves full-time to their secondary occupation of manufacturing an invidious narrative of false grievance that bears no analysis and has no basis in reality, a campaign of petulance so impertinent as to appear precisely calculated to earn the contempt of all mankind, although for their purposes all of Britain would suffice.
In this they were doubling down on a mode of politicking that went back decades, but which, for a while after 2015, was all they had left to do.
It was in 2007, during the first few months of the SNP’s incumbency in the Scottish Executive (as it was then called) that I first noticed that this was their way. I dimly remember Alex Salmond, the First Minister at the time, within a few days or weeks of his 2007 Holyrood election victory, announcing an executive act of government instructing that Scottish history be taught in Scottish schools. The response across the whole of the media was “Well it’s about time”, as if this was a long overdue reform and the very least the newly elected Executive should be doing.
I however was left wondering why nobody in politics or the media was pausing to consider whether Scottish history was already being taught in Scottish schools, and if it was, what was being introduced into the curriculum on top of it, and why?
For it is a fact of my lived experience, that between 1987 and 2001, Scottish history, Scottish literature, Scottish folk song, Scottish language and Scottish dialect were taught with palpable enthusiasm across many classes and across multiple state schools, of which I attended three during this 13-year period. The school assembly halls of the 1980s clanged with the metallic thunder of Scots Wha Hae on the piano. Hymns and prayers were interspersed with Burns songs and patriotic anthems such as Flower of Scotland. The literature being taught was Robert Louis Stevenson heavy, which dovetailed nicely with the history being taught, which was the Jacobite Rebellion (school trips to Culloden). And the ancient Caledonians. The half of my class which was not taught French, was taught Gaelic, and this was in West Lothian. The physical education included Scottish country dancing. In secondary school, the education was equally Scotland-centric, although broader in scope: the dark ages and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms with special case studies on the Edinburgh and Lothian region, the Viking invasions, the early Scottish monarchy and the Scottish Wars of Independence, then the British industrial revolution with a special emphasis on Scottish industry (trips to New Lanark), the urban extension and cleaning up of “Auld Reeky” in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so on. And I was almost an adult by the time I first heard the name Cromwell.
Most of this Scotland-centric education went on under the direct rule of the Tories: the SNP’s Great Satan, and there was no Holyrood. Scotland and England were constitutionally equal, or at least level, and almost seamless. Their education systems, like their churches, holidays and legal systems (but not their laws), were distinct, and had been since the year dot, but they were nonetheless harmonised by the British government, whose education policy self-evidently either allowed, encouraged or specified that education in Scotland be saturated with Scottish history and literature, albeit neatly contextualised in the wider British world. If there was anything left to do it would have been to ensure that English education also benefit from some of the same visibility on all things Scottish.
So what was I supposed to make of the SNP’s 2007 announcement that Scottish history was to be in-, yes, finally, at long last, in-troduced to Scottish schools?
I attempt no explanation for this kind of thing, nor for why false narratives such as this routinely pass unchallenged by the mainstream media — whom the SNP perceive as enemies but on whose indolence they rely.
I do not know whether, 13 years on from 2007, today’s pupils been led to believe, or gradually conditioned to assume, that they owe their current Scotland-heavy curriculum to the SNP or at least to the Holyrood executive. But I will say that redresses to nothing such as this, and falsification of modern history generally, seems to be what the SNP are all about, and it is quickly becoming the basis of an entire culture.
In 1999, just as I was finishing this Scotland-rich education, Holyrood was instituted. As always, the SNP didn’t miss this opportunity to mangle the historical record. Opening the Parliament’s first session, the 79-year-old SNP MSP Winnie Ewing proclaimed: “The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened.” Yet to this day, the seats from the Old Scottish Parliament still exist, and remain sovereign at Westminster where they were moved in 1707, their voting rights over the whole of the UK undiminished by devolution. Then in 1999 a thing called the Scottish Executive (later to be restyled the “Scottish Government”), a Continental-style, Scotland-wide mayoralty resembling the ones given to Greater London, Wales and Northern Ireland was plonked on top of the whole ancient edifice, as part of the same overall Blair-brained scheme of a Britain of devolved regions, put on hold in 2004 after the negative answer to the North East England devolution referendum. It was a fresh, virgin layer of government, one currently occupied by assemblies in Scotland, Greater Manchester, Northern Ireland, Wales and Greater London.
As a consequence, in the early 2000s, Scotland, even more than “Planet London”, began degenerating into an insular, assembly-dominated political fishbowl, and with every passing year its cultural, social, political and institutional life grew less congruent with the rest of the UK. What was special about Scotland relative to other devolved administrations such as Greater London was that it contained a political party that wilfully exacerbated this very process. Holyrood had been created by the Blair government in order to inoculate against the SNP, and like everything Blair did, it backfired. In fact, it was a downright foot-bullet. Everything about devolution was done perfectly wrongly for the purpose of preempting the SNP. Holyrood was endowed with precisely the powers the SNP would later rely on in order to make Scots feel remote from the rest of the island and indebted to the Party, such as education and the ability to rebrand and restructure organisations, as well as a rule that said powers were devolved by default rather than reserved, so that any new function of government the SNP could dream up, however un-British it may seem, could become a reality.
As an example of this “fishbowl” effect, remember how before 1999 Scotland used to be included in UK-wide high-stakes debates about British education? Whether you agree that British education was well governed or not, the fact remains that the issue at hand in these debates was the education of a global power, and consequently even Scottish education was dealt with as if it were actually one of the pillars of civilisation on which the sanity of the planet partly depended.
But how many Scots nowadays have ever found themselves on the edge of their seats over a Holyrood education debate?
When in 1999 Scottish educators were suddenly placed under separate governance from the rest of the UK, they found themselves operating on an awkward order of magnitude, trying to differentiate Scottish education from the English while also sharing staff and materials with England, preparing Scottish pupils for English universities, on this small island of English speakers, which is also a global power, but a global power which those governing Scottish education want to dissolve. These confusing circumstances make the teleology of education in Scotland too ambiguous for us to even rate it without talking at cross purposes. E.g. Through education are we trying to create good Britons, or aren’t we?
It was under these circumstances that Scotland’s world-class education system was degraded by 7 years of Scottish Labour and then killed off and co-opted by the SNP, repurposed as a mind factory for the Party to manufacture future participants in endless future referendums.
In the mid-2010s, the “IndyRef” era came and went, a period celebrated for a degree of peace and civility historically unusual for struggles over national sovereignty, but otherwise characterised by acrimony, pedantry and mass self-derangement. Language was abused, priorities were skewed, history was falsified, and dormant misconceived grudges were reawakened. Britain was discussed not as an irreducibly complex machine requiring a certain territorial integrity in order to function, but as something that could be diced like a cabbage and still work just fine. Those who objected to this framing were accused of making “negative arguments” based on a negative value system of “fear” rather than “hope”. Absent from this cultish rhetoric was any real appreciation of the fact that for the majority of Scots, regardless of their hopes and fears, serious separatism had appeared bamboozlingly out of nowhere in about 2013, and their immediate reaction to it said little about them one way or another.
“Freedom” was frequently cited as a reason for independence. Alex Salmond promised that Scotland would become a “liberal beacon”, setting a good example for what remained of the UK. And when the separatists lost, Glasgow’s George Square was informally renamed “Freedom Square” by the losers, in honour of its erstwhile function as a rallying point for the separatist side, the side that purported to be pro-freedom.
Was this “freedom”, as in “Liberty”?
As in “Statue of”?
As in “Why not, it’s a free country?”
Was the Scottish nationalist political establishment seriously claiming to be so conscientiously committed to the orderly curtailment of state jurisdiction, constitutional checks and balances, the sanctity of private life and of family life, free speech, and the idea that a citizen should be able to call his soul his own, that they felt the need to cut loose from the existing regime altogether, in order to show the rest of the world how these things are done?
If so, where is the evidence for this commitment?
Scotland is the part of Britain where the police have the freest reign, where the justice system is the most simplistic yet the sentences most elaborate, where it is the hardest to sue the government and where politicians routinely support incursions into areas of life that ought to remain terra nullius: exotic ad hoc sectarian speech laws, the Named Person scheme, and the “Nazi Pug Dog” conviction and precedent, whereby a guileless person engaged in Pythonesque humour is vulnerable to prosecution, context and intent having been openly and formally ruled as irrelevant by Scottish judges. Scottish authorities instinctively seek solutions for maximising the amount of monitoring, judging, and censoring that goes on, and it came as no surprise to me when I heard of recent plans to replace short prison terms with long probation periods. To Scottish authorities, there was always going to be something unsatisfactory about simple chastisement with no questions asked, or any form of criminal justice which doesn’t involve weirdly educated coonsil employees trying to worm their way into their clients’ brains. If I had to name one quintessentially Scottish occupation, it would be social worker. Scotland is the political culture that produced the Blair\New Labour establishment, the “Caledonian mafia” and the overweening attitudes that gave us the push for ID cards, ASBOs and Britain’s first speech laws. If anything Scotland is a source of British authoritarianism, not a refuge from it. Scotland’s recent influence on world politics would have been among the reasons why that phrase from my childhood, “it’s a free country”, which used to refer to an intelligible set of principles, seemed to vanish from the Earth as a household phrase after the 90s. Out of all the English-speaking peoples throughout history, 21st century Scots are probably the most indifferent — not even hostile, just indifferent — to the ideal of liberty as a virtue in itself. And yet in 2014 I was being told this political culture must be given a chance to express itself for the sake of liberty, not just in law but in a new constitution, one which would be good enough for Scots and yet somehow too good for the rest of Britain.
A year later came the 2015 general election. Seeds of madness planted in 2014 came to fruition in this period. Two details from this stand out as particularly mad.
The first was some scandal over the fact that Scottish Labour’s leaflets had been printed in England. Not having my finger on the pulse of the new zany zeitgeist, I was unable to intuit why this was a bad thing. But I’ve been told that it is.
Another was a press interview with Alex Salmond, in which Salmond claimed that the role model for his career had been Nelson Mandela. This makes me wonder if Salmond had read Mandela’s biography backwards, as Salmond seems to be living the same career in reverse. Mandela began by spending 27 years in jail, and then sought to bury hatchets, end the culture wars, paper over ethnic differences, and do his utmost to unite various peoples under a stable and inclusive regime. Salmond began by doing his utmost to balkanise a stable and inclusive regime, exacerbate ancient ethnic differences, start a culture war over nothing, dig up old hatchets, and now faces 27 years in jail.
The Labour Party committed suicide in this election. Asked repeatedly to rule out a deal with the SNP in the event of a hung parliament, the Labour leader Ed Miliband responded every time with the thoughtful donkey face. Thus the Labour Party became a useless tool both for those seeking independence and those seeking to kill off the independence movement. It haemorrhaged votes and lost them all but one of its Scottish seats.
It resulted in the SNP gaining 56 out of 59 Scottish seats at Westminster, a victory of sorts, at least by their own yardstick. One might equally well say that the resulting electoral map, a yellow Scotland against a blue England, was an artefact of the SNP refusing to field candidates in England with an appropriate manifesto. In the absence of a hung parliament, it had no intrinsic significance and was purely symbolic. But as usual the media cooperated in assigning this event whatever symbolic significance the SNP bestowed upon it.
On the morning after this success, Sturgeon posed with her new MPs in front of the Forth Rail Bridge, using the photo opportunity to proclaim that the days of Scotland being “sidelined and ignored” were over.
“Too often in the past, Scotland has been sidelined and ignored in the Westminster corridors of power, but that doesn’t have to be the case anymore.”
That incident remained scorched on my memory as it caused me to seriously fear for Scotland’s dignity.
Sidelined and ignored? Talk sense! Did Sturgeon want more devolution or less? Was not the whole point of devolution that Scotland should be ignored, at least in part? In the 1997 devolution referendum, the Scots instructed Westminster to begin ignoring Scottish health, policing, education, and university tuition, among other things. Denied access to central policy areas such as these, a holistic plan for Scotland has been impossible for Westminster ever since. Abolish Holyrood, and for better or for worse Scotland would automatically be re-included in whatever cathedral thinking from Westminster Sturgeon believed Scotland was being sidelined away from.
If this was obvious to a Scottish “no” voter like me it would be obvious to the rest of Britain, in which case they would see moments like this and most likely write off the Scots as being lost in a spiritual sewer of fake, unconditional grievance.
Where was the sidelining and ignoring taking place? The SNP’s latest bugbear at the time had been a thing called “EVEL”, which they seemed to be regarding as a some kind of slap in the face to Scotland (although they are bound by strategy to react to all events in British history as a slap in the face to Scotland).
EVEL, technically I will grant, is a form of sidelining. Is that what she meant by her remark?
EVEL – English Votes for English Laws – is a redress to the West Lothian Question. The West Lothian Question is a constitutional privilege accidentally bestowed on Scotland, a side-benefit of Scottish devolution, whereby Scottish MPs remain able to vote on matters affecting only England (in as much as England lacks devolution) , while Scottish devolution prevents English MPs from voting on matters affecting only Scotland. EVEL, a simple reform to flexible parliamentary procedures prohibiting Scottish MPs from voting on England-only matters, is supposed to be a quick, easy and cheap way of fixing this imbalance without the complications or expenses of an English Parliament.
It is worth mentioning briefly that some unionists oppose EVEL because the case for it involves conceding too many principles to Scottish nationalists. The case for EVEL relies on the idea that Scots living in Scotland don’t stray into English territory often enough, and are too unaffected by events in England to have a direct political interest in what happens there. This is a weak premise. Why for example would Scots not care about the state of English education, which provides Scotland much of its talent, and which influences the culture of the whole island – its broadcast media for example? Why would Scots not care about English marital law, for obvious reasons? Is not any English law also a law for many Scots in the habit of travelling more than 50 miles overland? And just on a simplistic level, don’t Scots have a direct interest in the politics of a major global power which they are destined to abut forever? These ideas of Scotland and England’s irrelevance to each other that are used to justify EVEL, also contradict the unionist premise that there exists a tight-knit high-functioning British community, in effect a British nation.
David Cameron in 2015 had no such qualms. In his speech on the morning after the 2014 referendum, in which he had reaffirmed his commitment to greater devolution for Scotland, he had also mentioned in passing that EVEL would also be implemented.
The speech began by assuring everyone that “there would be no reruns” of the referendum, then announced that there would soon be further devolution to Scotland, in keeping with an earlier promise that had become known as “The Vow”. The previous week, panicking at the narrowing polls as the referendum day approached, the leaders of the three main parties, Cameron among them, had leapt simultaneously to remind Scottish voters of the further devolution to Scotland that each of them had planned, should Scotland remain in Britain. They promised to implement these changes, and these promises were then consolidated into a single statement by the Daily Record and presented on its front page against a mock-vellum background, reimagined as a joint declaration with three signatories, under the heading “The Vow”. “The Vow” in this respect was a gimmick by a newspaper, and research since the referendum have shown that neither The Vow nor its assurances had any effect on the referendum result. But however superfluous The Vow may have been, Cameron nonetheless chose to reiterate his commitment to it in this morning after speech.
He then added, by way of parenthesis, that the further devolution of “the vow” would be implemented “in tandem” with the implementation of EVEL. In his own mind, he was doing Scotland a favour by sparing them the envy of the English, emphatically putting an end to a prolonged period of perceived pandering to Scotland. To Cameron, it would have felt self-evident that the West Lothian Question could not be allowed to grow if the union was to be preserved, and that Britain could not muster yet more devolution to Scotland without it being balanced by some basic devolution to England, or some equivalent measures. For this reason, EVEL must have seemed unobjectionable to Cameron at the time.
Alistair Darling (in one of his final acts as No campaign leader) has since claimed that he actually phoned Cameron earlier that morning to warn him not to use this occasion to announce EVEL. Cameron rejected his advice. Not having grown up surrounded by the “petulant noise of Scottish nationalism”, Cameron, unlike Darling, could not have anticipated that in 2015 the whole of Britain would be treated to the perverse spectacle of Scottish Nationalist MPs who were already beneficiaries of the West Lothian Question, and who were hoping to one day relinquish all jurisdiction over England, raging about being rendered “2nd class citizens” by EVEL, a change totally compatible with their final vision.
Reflect on this for a moment.
Seeing themselves as others see them, even Scottish nationalists should have been troubled by this. A paranoid delusion or a persecution complex can become a half-truth. A vain, histrionic person who, without justification, accuses others of treating him with contempt, will eventually wear down the patience of the others and earn their very real contempt. In one state or two, the Scots and the English will have to share this island until the crack of doom. Bearing this in mind, do ScotNats really want Scotland to actually earn the kind of contempt from the rest of Britain that previously was only a figment of their own paranoid propaganda?
It’s possible they are already achieving this. Recent polls paint a picture of an English slowly washing their hands of Scotland, one even suggesting English voters would rather lose Scotland than Gibraltar, and another reporting that 76% of Tory Leave voters in England care more about achieving Brexit than keeping Scotland in Britain. All very superficial sentiments no doubt, a mixture of Brexit fatigue(“let’s get it done”) and ScotNat-whinging fatigue(“what do they want now?”), but it is a marked change from attitudes on display in the first half of 2014.
And with characteristic perversity, the “English shrug” brought about by ScotNats has since been cited by ScotNats as evidence of the sham nature of the national marriage.
This success in driving an unnatural wedge between peoples raises the question: Is it deliberate? Is deliberately earning the contempt of the rest of Britain in the hope of being ejected from the kingdom actually the SNP’s Plan C for independence, after plan A) referendums, and Plan B) continuous devolution to the point of separation? Such a strategy would be well in line with the SNP’s playbook to date, which includes repeating the following 2-step manoeuvre:
Step 1: Use politics and governance to make a mess of constitutional or societal relations.
Step 2: Cite the mess as grounds for divorce, or claim that further devolution would tidy it up.
ScotNats should ask themselves whether these particular means are worth their end.
New nation states take inspiration and a sense of direction from their founding myths, foundational texts, and tales of liberation struggles. How keen are ScotNats really to live in a Republic of Scotland whose foundational text (its “Magna Carta”) is a Daily Record front page, and whose foundation myth is a sorry saga of needless crises orchestrated by the constitutional bunny boiler Sturgeon to break up the British marriage?
The “vow” and EVEL, sadly, were both implemented, the SNP empowered and the Lion and Unicorn further estranged.
But maybe “sidelined and ignored” referred to something else. Some sort of long term abuse? Scotland sidelined and ignored generally?
In which case, have Sturgeon and I been growing up on the same island?
As far as I can make out, for most of my and Sturgeon’s adulthood, Scotland has been the special little project of successive British governments, in stark contrast to the economically similar north of England. Not always in a good way, in my opinion, and there are times when I’d rather Scotland had been ignored and left alone.
But in order to make her point about Scotland having been “sidelined and ignored”, Sturgeon chose to stand in front of the Forth Rail Bridge. Did she think the government bill for its construction on 19th May 1882 was passed by Holyrood MSPs? Do I really have to state the obvious? Whether it’s the Forth Rail Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge, the Edinburgh New Town, the New Towns of Livingston, Glenrothes and Cumbernauld, the M8 and M9 motorways or Holyrood itself, much of the Scotland we recognise by sight today is a grand project of the UK government. In fact, almost the entire built environment of Scotland that stands, ranging from public toilets, to petrol stations, to university campuses, to law courts, to churches, to royal palaces, and even the largest parts of some castles — anything built between 1707 and 1999 was constructed under either the direct instruction or the direct protection of the British state.
Sidelined and ignored? Like most Scots who were more or less grown up by 1997, I lived to witness the “Caledonian Mafia” become a thing. I watched Scotland resume its on-and-off role as Prussia to England’s Bavaria: a source of Britain’s governing, administrating and media elites, spies and soldiers and civil servants.
Then again I also watched devolved Scottish governments, the SNP among them, making Scotland irrelevant. Scottish journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil saw what I saw when he opined that Scotland’s iron grip on Britain’s politics, media and business had been “irrevocably weakened by the dumbing down of the Scottish education system” since devolution.
By “sidelined and ignored”, perhaps Sturgeon was alluding to the imaginary insult against Scotland dreamed up by her own party, that Scotland was “too wee, too poor, and too stupid” to self-govern.
Here I was, wondering why the Scots, having previously governed a quarter of the globe, had suddenly ceased to govern themselves effectively. And there was the self-styled “Scottish Government”, defiantly insisting (defying whom I’m not sure) that Scots were not “too wee, too poor, too stupid” to self-govern, while governing Scotland in such a way as to actually impoverish and stupefy the Scottish people and shrink their influence.
It was enough to drive a patriot insane.
What are the brave new grievances of the future? Since the 2016 referendum and the 2019 Tory general election victory, we have seen Sturgeon testing the water with the following 2 fake grievance claims:
Fake Grievance #1: Scotland “voted to remain in the EU” in 2016, and this, being at odds with the collective decision of the UK, throws into question the legitimacy of the 2014 IndyRef a mere 4 years earlier, and is therefore an excuse for “IndyRef2″. Moreover, a separatist victory in IndyRef2 should allow Scotland to slip back into the EU overnight during some transitional phase of Brexit, perhaps using some procedure analogous to whatever allowed East Germans to become EEC citizens overnight without a fuss.
Scotland did not vote to remain in the EU.
No Scotland is currently a signatory to this treaty-based organisation.
Scots voted on whether the UK should remain in the EU.
The question that appeared on ballot papers in the 2016 referendum was:
” Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? “
No equivalent poll pertaining to a hypothetical independent Scotland has ever taken place. Sturgeon intends to deny Scots a vote on this question, and drag a newly minted independent Scotland into the EU for the first time against its will.
This is not splitting hairs. The two debates — what the UK ought to do, and what “iScotland” ought to do — are apples and oranges. A decision regarding the actions of a known, large nuclear global power such as the UK, has a totally different geopolitical significance from a decision regarding the actions of a hypothetical small republic (or however we might classify iScotland). It doesn’t follow that because Scots and English disagree (slightly) about what Britain ought to do on one occasion, that Scotland ought to separate from Britain in order to behave the way they would have made Britain behave (disfiguring Britain in the process).
Scots would not be restoring the global order they voted for in 2016 (UK in EU) by having a newly minted Scottish republic join the EU. Doing so would be an answer to a question that was never asked.
Brexit was never more than 2014’s “No” voters bargained for.
The 2016 Brexit referendum was first announced in January 2013. The 2014 Scottish “IndyRef” took place a year later with this announcement still fresh in everyone’s minds, with the 2016 Brexit referendum only 2 years after that. The 2014 IndyRef took place in full light of the possibility that the UK may leave the EU that same decade. Scots voting in the 2014 referendum were acutely aware that the UK’s position in the EU was insecure.
Abiding by the 2016 result come what may is the very least no-voting Scots were agreeing to in 2014.
It was not smallprint. It was the whole point. Going along with the UK’s international treaties come what may is the very least Scotland is agreeing to by agreeing to remain in the UK. It may not mean a commitment to abiding by the same laws, or the same tax rates, or the same benefits, or the same education system, etc etc etc, because devolution is a thing. The one thing it does entail, and would always have entailed, ipso facto, is abiding by the same international treaties.
East Germany was never accepted into the EU\EEC.
In 1990, East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) dissolved, and East German citizens became instant immigrants into West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany), which was already a member of the EEC. Or to put it another way, West Germany expanded eastward over the heads of the East Germans, accepting them as citizens unconditionally, and restyled itself “Germany” (still the Federal Republic of Germany to this day). That is how former East Germans became German\EU citizens. West Germany, already belonging to the EEC, survived. East Germany did not. Nothing in this story is of any help to ScotNats seeking to “slip into” the EU in the midst of Brexit.
Fake Grievance #2 : The British government is “refusing to allow” another Scottish independence referendum. This is undemocratic and arrogant and “keeps Scotland prisoner”.
It is not a question of permission.
The UK government is not refusing to allow a referendum. It is simply declining to undertake a referendum. A legally binding referendum on whether Britain should relinquish all jurisdiction over Scotland would by its nature be a UK government initiative and enterprise, and an expensive one at that, as was Indyref1.
There is no spiteful little rule anywhere forbidding an Indyref2. Rather, that IndyRef2 must be a British operation is a de facto logical necessity, inherent in the fact that Holyrood itself only exists in the eyes of the British government (it is an organised delegation of British power).
IndyRef1 was the UK Government’s official reaction to the symbolic significance of an SNP majority at Holyrood. And for Nicola Sturgeon to request a second referendum would be an unofficial lobbying activity by a single British individual.
The British government is still busy obeying IndyRef1.
Indyref2 would be a betrayal of the Peepuluscoatlun.
Frequent repeated referendums on the exact same topic are not a continued exercise in democracy or of self-determination.
Going into 2020, now would be a good time to keep in mind Lewis’ quote.
It would indeed be “fatal cowardice” to ignore the SNP. But this “new and deadly disease” has now become a kind of political sleep deprivation. Either Scotland will be killed in its sleep, or the mental and physical health of the nation (its institutions and its people) will continue to fray under the constant vigilance. For Scotland to be itself again it will take an opposition at Holyrood hungry for the food of good governance, rather than the false medicines and the poisons of endless constitutional reform.