Three things Scotland must consider in its response to the Ukraine invasion
The First Minister’s description last year of Scotland as a “nation in waiting” produced the inevitable hysterical reaction from Unionist media and commentators – but it was an accurate one.
Those words describe a state that is not static but progressive, slowly but surely recovering the normality that other countries take for granted.
One of those normal attributes is the ability and right to take a distinctive world view, bearing in mind shared values as well as national interests.
Another is the making of alliances and the active expression of solidarity when support is needed.
That is what we have seen this week across the globe as governments and peoples of all political hues rally to the cause of a normal, free and sovereign Ukraine.
St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh illuminated in the colours of the Ukraine flag : 🇺🇦 : #StandWithUkriane pic.twitter.com/bIdAbuw66W
— Jane Barlow (@belperbarlow) February 25, 2022
Of course, Westminster has always refused even to think about the views of each part of this island when such serious issues arise while, in response, it is fair to say, some in Scotland have on occasion reacted by taking a contrary position without thinking it through.
It is therefore a sign of political maturity that the very few voices in Scotland refusing to utterly and completely condemn the invasion of Ukraine have been on the outermost fringes of our national life and the unanimity of the Scottish Parliament on the issue on Thursday was similarly encouraging and significant.
Scotland’s position on such matters can no longer be taken to be merely echoing and identical acquiescence with whatever the UK Government of the day believes to be true. Nor can it be seen as a litmus test of loyalty to the Union, a stance which is still alas in evidence in the House of Commons.
Instead it must be expressed – and taken – on its own terms and that is particularly true with regard to some key issues that arise when considering a response to Russia.
Firstly, it must be shorn of jingoism. The search for “traitors” that some Tory MPs are demanding is as out of place as UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s daft remark about “kicking the backside of the Tsar” which harks back to an imperial past, the mindset of which underlies today’s crisis.
Secondly, it must be vigorous in the absolute and consistent defence of self determination. Ireland’s Taoiseach made the point well by drawing attention to the need for small nations to be particularly active in that regard.
The right of people to choose how they are governed and by whom is an absolute and must be universally applied, respecting each and every democratic mandate.
Nor can that right be circumscribed by history – just because something was, doesn’t mean it will always continue to be so whether that be rule from Moscow, or the result of an eight-year-old referendum.
Thirdly, we need to speak out clearly about the power of money in politics and demand honesty from all involved.
👇 US think tank Centre for American Progress reports “close ties” between Russian dark money and the UK Tory Party.
💷 Russian-linked donors have given over £2m to Tories since Boris Johnson came to power. Boris Johnson must clean up Russian dark money littering his own party. pic.twitter.com/d3HL1XxWhR
— The SNP (@theSNP) February 23, 2022
The modern Tory Party has been contaminated by dirty cash, obtained by theft and other criminality and washed by hordes of London accountants, lawyers and so-called “wealth managers”.
Shady individuals have bought, among many other things, political influence and must be shorn of it without any further delay or dissembling no matter what it takes.
There is little doubt that some of that money was used against Scotland in the 2014 referendum and it has certainly financed collective and individual Tory election victories.
It has also been used to fund disinformation in both mainstream and social media and even those who believed they were editorially independent were in fact often being used – wittingly or unwittingly – only as shields or smokescreens.
Finally, we need to continue to speak out about both Brexit as a symptom of successful Russian financial and political interference as a policy objective and as an inhibitor of the UK’s ability to take effective action now.
This will reveal the truth about the current Russian leadership which is now involved in a much more visible and much more brutal, illegal assault on another nation.
It has been clear from the voices refusing to condemn Russia this week that the far right in both the UK and the US are sunk in a toxic swamp of anti-democratic and anti-equality prejudice.
But let’s not forget that these people were also the key cheerleaders at home and abroad for Brexit, with admitted contact between Johnson and Rees-Mogg and Bannon and with Farage sucking up to Trump (as was Michael Gove) while there were a slew of meetings between Russian representatives and various Leave campaign activists.
Those facts alone demonstrate not just how corrupt the Brexit process was, but also the utter idiocy of both Labour and the Liberals in now accepting it as a fait accompli.
They have been suckered into a crooked self-harming sham which has delighted the Kremlin and the right-wing crazy gang but impoverished the rest of us.
If we had still been an EU member, the UK would have achieved more, and moved more rapidly. That will remain the case as Johnson perpetually plays third country catch up to both the EU and the US over the coming weeks and months.
Over to you @ukhomeoffice 🇺🇦 https://t.co/xckTjJqWxb
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 27, 2022
It is good that we can make common cause with so many – including the UK Government – on what needs to be done to isolate and turn back the Russian war machine.
David Pratt has made some sensible suggestions about actual things the Scottish Government could do, and we must also back to the hilt UK, EU and US actions taking every possible step to increase their effectiveness and making sure there are no Scottish loopholes.
We will be all the more effective in doing so if we base our actions on our own values, as well as appreciating those of all the other similarly concerned normal independent and self-determining nations showing solidarity with Ukraine.