Let me immediately answer my own question. Alister Jack is almost certainly sane and in full control of his faculties and emotions. How then could someone of sanity claim Scotland has no wish to rejoin the European Union? The answer is that Mr Jack has adopted one of the most used techniques of populism. It is to simply deny established fact.
Alister Jack has now under two years to go before he quits democratic politics for a seat in the Lords. Between now and then he has one job to do for Rishi Sunak. It is to bash the Scottish independence movement at every opportunity and while doing that, deny that the EU has any traction in Scotland.
Lacking a coherent case for Brexit or union, Jack is now telling us day is night, dark is light, rain is dry, cloud is sun. The idea is not to stimulate a more informed debate. It is to undermine the very idea of rational argument.
It is impossible to have reasoned, structured, thoughtful dialogue with an opponent who simply won’t engage on sensible terms. We have seen the technique practiced successfully by Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro and the UK’s very own Boris Johnson.
Let’s reprise the situation. Let’s see if there are any grounds whatsoever for Jack’s claim there is no desire for EU membership in Scotland.
The numbers tell the truth
It is an undeniable fact that in 2016 Scotland voted by a majority of 62%, to remain in the EU. Indeed, every local authority area in the country voted the same way. It was a rare, perhaps unique, electoral exercise that saw all of Scotland healthily vote for the same political end. No division between Highland and Lowland. No east/west split. No material gap between city and country. Scotland spoke unequivocally, firmly and decisively.
Since that momentous vote on 23 June 2016, Scotland’s desire to be in the EU has not waned. In fact, it has grown stronger. In August last year, a Panelbase survey found that 72% of Scots said they would vote remain if there was to be another referendum. 69% said they would vote to reverse Brexit.
The Daily Express – a paper that ranks high in the Brexit-loving media hierarchy – said when the survey was released, “Support for rejoining the EU surges in Scotland”.
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the position has materially changed since August last year. Given that recent UK-wide polling reveals the majority of voters across the UK now see Brexit as a mistake, it is safely logical to conclude that now even more people in the Scotland would elect to be back in the EU.
Facts don’t matter to populists. Jack claims that when Scots seriously analyse the competing claims of the UK and the EU, they will see that being in the UK beats the EU hands down. This is wonderfully patronising of Jack. Voters in Scotland closely examined the case for and against Scotland in Europe at the 2014 independence referendum, at the 2016 Brexit referendum and at the general elections of 2015, 2017 and 2019. In every single case they made clear their preference for being in the EU.
Who can forget how pivotal EU membership was in the 2014 referendum campaign. The forces of union held up the EU as the most precious benefit that Scotland stood to lose by opting for independence. Now, those same forces want us to believe the EU is a second-rate prize compared with being in the UK.
That will be the same UK that has seen poverty surge, food banks become ubiquitous and real wages fall for millions. Trade with our biggest and nearest export market has fallen off a cliff, regional development funds have fallen far short of pre-Brexit levels, and millions of UK citizens have missed out on the huge benefits of freedom of movement.
Alister Jack is talking nonsense. Even he probably knows that. But nonsense sometimes triumphs, how else did we get Liz Truss? So, lest Farmer Jack’s utterings influence anyone, I pledge to go on carrying a campaigning torch for the EU cause in Scotland. If you’re not already part of the family please do join up. There are pro-EU groups across the land. You’ll be very welcome.
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