Given the huge complexity of the role that relationships and emotions have in guiding electoral trends, trying to figure out what causes political paradigm shifts may seem akin to measuring and classifying chaos. Yet if you want to understand how people in Scotland will react to a hard Brexit and what it means for the constitutional question then there are key trends that you need to discern within the political turmoil. The biggest trend I can see is the loss of trust in the political elites and the parties of the establishment across the western world. The people who sold us trickle down economics, small government, laissez-faire regulation and global consumerism as the answer turned out to be one trick ponies. When the house came tumbling down in 2007 they played their one trick over and over again with the same inevitable results demonstrating that they have they have no answers to the new chaos in the world.
This forces voters to take a second look at the political fringes and ask; firstly, if the establishment have failed then do antiestablishment politicians have the answer? Secondly if the future looks risky then does the past hold the answer? Those of the left hark back to Marxism and old fashioned socialism, hence the appeal of Corbyn and Sanders and Syriza in Greece. Those of the right hark back to the days of pure neo-liberalism and even old fashioned fascism, for in chaos why wouldn’t authoritarian autocratic governance be the solution? Either way people who have lost confidence in the future seek comfort in a rose tinted views of the past – making America Great again or putting the Great back in Great Britain. Its an affliction called cognitive conservatism or to out it another way, its a society-wide inability to adapt to the challenges of future economics and politics.
It’s simple and comforting to find someone willing to say don’t worry it will be alright, we can just reset politics to a time before it all went wrong. It may be hard to understand why some people seem to think that supporting a right wing, isolationist, climate denying autocrat like Trump is comforting, but they do and that is how democracy works. The politically engaged read, research, criticise and vote and campaign on a detailed understanding of policy, the other 90% look for effortless comfort. Having a political elite that appears to know what they are doing is comfortable, having that elite offer you choices and calling it democracy even if the choices are shades of the same colour (Blairisim and Caring Conservatism) is comforting as it gives the illusion of involvement and power coming from the people. I am not criticising modern democracy, just observing that understanding trends within the political chaos are the key to winning elections and referenda in disjointed political eras such as at present.
For voters taking a step backwards from political chaos is comforting and easy and its a political rhetoric that will continue to appeal until someone has the nerve to create a competing, positive and inspiring vision of the future. The parties of the centre, the establishment and the political elite have lost the trust of the electorate who are voting for mavericks but only because no one credible has come up with a plan, a positive vision or a roadmap to shared prosperity with new ideas. This is why Independence can be the key to offering that brighter future, a clean start with fresh ideas proposed by a highly trusted Scottish Government, that although they govern Scotland is not seen as part of the failed establishment. The Scottish Governments Brexit plan is a good start, it is the first attempt to navigate the chaos, it shows that there is a still a party of Governance that knows what it is doing and it manoeuvres the opposition in to very difficult positions. Pro EU Scottish Labour called for Federalism and now the Brexit plan that calls for Federalism and failure to support it could end them.
The Scottish Tories have shown to be two faced, having made stark warnings about leaving the EU earlier in the year they are now trying to sell us a hard Brexit. The Tories in Westminster can’t do a special deal for Scotland and allow us to stay in the single market as the UK leaves, as watching Scotland use its new found economic advantage to massively boost exports, create jobs, steal finance sector jobs from London, raise our GDP and move towards a high paid surplus generating economy. As Scotland would effectively be independent, in all but name, the final step would be inevitable and widely supported as Westminster’s drain on our economy would become demonstrable. The Scottish Government has offered the Union a chance to save itself and its dammed if it takes it (within a decade) and its dammed if it doesn’t (within 2 years). The plan doesn’t, as some have said, show that the SNP is willing to drop independence, its simply a step in the journey towards indyref2 that had to be taken. Confusion and chaos, maybe, but it seems to me that all the players are bereft of choices, Nicola Sturgeon has no choice but to offer the Union one last chance to win over past No voters. Theresa May has no choice but to reject a special Scottish deal and to go for a hard Brexit cutting payments to the EU and lowering immigration. She has to stop her own party disintegrating and offering a way to power for UKiP. The EU has no choice but to punish the UK for leaving to hold the EU together and so by the end of 2017 our First Minster will have no choice but to call a second referendum which the Greens will have no choice but to (happily) vote through. The Scottish Government has no choice but to offer a new prospective for independence that is more radical and ambitious than the last.
Brexit changes everything, the economic opportunity is even greater now for Scotland and the people will want to see that positive vision for the future that no one else is offering. So the only people with some choice will be the Scottish voters in May 2018 (TBC) and if the situation evolves to offer Scotland access to the single market, whilst also protecting trade with the EU then that choice will be to get in the independence lifeboat or sink with the self destructing, clueless Westminster elite.