The Prime Minister explained yesterday that she will not allow the Scottish people to hold a legally-binding referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. At least, not in the near future. Her rationale was that, until the UK has agreed a Brexit deal with the European Union, the Scottish people would not know what they were voting for or against.
That seems sensible enough to me. After all, you can’t present people with two choices but only tell them what one of the choices actually is. Unless, of course, you’re on some weird daytime quiz show. Which we’re not, even if it feels at times like we might have stumbled onto one by mistake.
Now, it’s clearly not up to me to tell the Scottish people whether or not they should stay part of the United Kingdom. But it does make much more sense to be able to present them with actual facts about what the future could look like, rather than rhetoric. And for that, we need to know what things in the UK would look like when we’re no longer part of the European Union.
(For anyone who is concerned at this point that I appear to be agreeing with the Prime Minister, by the way, don’t panic. I do have a point and I’ll be getting to it shortly.)
For an example of why the Prime Minister’s argument makes sense, think back to our own referendum last year on whether we should remain in the European Union or leave. We didn’t really know for sure what staying in would look like and our only vision of what leaving would entail came from the xenophobic rantings of a faux working class muppet or whatever random thought happened to flash through Boris Johnson’s mind when someone shoved a microphone in his face.
So while a majority (just) of the people who voted in the referendum expressed their desire to leave the European Union, it was far from clear what they actually expected leaving to look like. And so here we are, heading for a ‘hard’ Brexit and with our country’s future almost entirely in the hands of the bureaucrats of the European Union, the very people from whom we were, apparently, trying to ‘take back control’.
So you can see why I think the Prime Minister is right in insisting that the Scottish people have all the facts about their future options before they’re asked to choose what they want that future to be.
And so to my point. I promised you one, so here it is.
Why, I would ask, is this such an important thing for any future Scottish referendum on independence from the UK, when it wasn’t at all important, it would appear, for our own UK-wide vote on our membership of the European Union?
Why is it so imperative that the Scots have all the facts, when we were forced to make a similarly momentous decision on the basis of the demented warblings of a Tory leadership wannabe (take your pick), a blatant lie scrawled on the side of a bus and a ramshackle armada on the Thames that could have been seen off easily by a Beefeater on a lilo?
The only logical way to go with this is to say that the British people, too, should be allowed to make their choice when in possession of the full facts about what leaving the European Union would look like.
Which means a new referendum once the final Brexit deal has been agreed. A proper referendum. Legally binding. Giving people the opportunity for an informed choice.
So why is this not happening? Why is the Prime Minister so quick to castigate anyone who dares suggest such a reasonable course of action? Why is she so scared of allowing us to vote on the deal that she is supposed to be negotiating on our behalf?
Why is it so important that the Scottish people have all the facts before they vote on their future, when the British people were denied these facts when voting on theirs?