Decision time Dugdale: will it be the EU or the UK? | Autonomy Scotland

Decision time Dugdale: will it be the EU or the UK?


A good leader must make tough decisions.

Of the many emotions I have felt this week, the one I expected least was a sense of compassion for the plight of unionists. However, the UK voting to take me out of the EU against my will has brought with it a sense of anxiety about the future. A sense of dread about my country moving in a direction I abhor and believe will be damaging to the majority of us, which is exactly what I now realise most no voters would have been feeling if we had won the 2014 independence referendum. After all, most of them wanted to stay in the UK for the same valid reasons that I wanted to remain in the EU. They thought it was the best thing for the nation, their families and friends and their own well-being.

However, many no voters also voted to remain in the EU which means current circumstances are going to put them in a position where they will have to choose between the two unions that they feel part of. There is little chance that they can avoid feeling separation anxiety as they are going to have to let go of one of them. That said, listening to Kezia Dugdale’s passionate speech in the Scottish Parliament post Brexit debate it was clear she is in denial about this. In the most rousing oratory I have heard a Scottish Labour leader deliver for some time, a shocked and angered Dugdale lashed out at the Tories for getting us into this mess. However, perhaps due to divided loyalties or wishful thinking Dugdale promoted a federal solution to the problem whereby Scotland and Northern Ireland would somehow get to remain in the EU as well as a post Brexit UK.

However, yesterday it became clear that this is not an option. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon flew to Brussels and she found out what we already knew: the EU only does business with sovereign states. They will not negotiate with Scotland while we remain a part of the United Kingdom. 

As Jean-Claude Junker, president of the EU commission said:

I will listen carefully to what the first minister will tell me but we don’t have the intention, neither Donald [Tusk, president of the European council,] nor myself, to interfere in the British process. That is not our job.

In the words of the French president, Francois Hollande:

The negotiations will be conducted with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom

And it will come as no surprise to anyone the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy said:

I want to be very clear: Scotland does not have the competence to negotiate with the European Union. Spain opposes any negotiation by anyone other than the government of the United Kingdom

The only option for the type of federal system that Dugdale envisions is if the UK negotiates it on Scotland’s behalf, and with the best will in the world this is not going to happen.

UK or EU? You can't have both.

UK or EU? You can’t have both.

No doubt Dugdale will faff about for a bit to see the lay of the land. There is still a chance events outwith her control may prevent her from having to choose between the two Unions she loves. However, deep down she must know the likelihood of getting off the hook is slim and a decision will need to be made.

In the Scottish parliament debate she showed us a glimpse of what a good passionate leader she could potentially be. However, one of the most important aspects of leadership is decisiveness. It is an easy attribute for Sturgeon whose followers care little about being part of the UK. It is easy for Davidson who would support the union regardless of how odious it became. It is difficult for Dugdale, a conflicted leader of a conflicted and longtime directionless party.

Dugdale is torn and the decision she will soon make will be career defining and could affect the course of Scottish history. Will she decide that Scotland’s future is more secure as a sovereign nation within the EU? Or will she choose to accept that our sovereignty is worth giving up in order to maintain our place in the UK? The anxiety of this week has made me appreciate the angst she must be feeling.

I hope that she chooses a sovereign Scotland within the EU. And I hope she joins us to fight for that with the passion she displayed in the chamber this week.

Join the debate below.

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Gregor McKelvie (@gregormckelvie)

I think you are too pessimistic on the EU and Scotland. Did anyone expect the EU to come out and say “we’ll accept you Scotland” on the first meeting? At least Sturgeon got in there for “introductory” meetings as she put it. If (and it’s a big if) article 50 gets invoked then I’d expect there will be more discussions with the EU, but I don’t ever think they will publicly announce that we can stay and leave the UK because that would likely trigger a guaranteed Yes vote for independence (causing problems for the likes of Spain). However, over… Read more »

7 years ago

A lot of people thought that we might be able to stay in the EU and the UK even if the UK left. Dugdale is one of them and at one point I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But it now seems clear we can only get in if we are independent. And if there is any hope of staying in we need to get independent quickly. Or else we would need to apply again which can take 5 years.

There does seem to be some informal negotiations going on regarding fast-tracking.

Gregor McKelvie (@gregormckelvie)

Fast-tracking seems logical given that we are already in the EU and pass many of the tests. I think that Sturgeon will need to make the idea of adopting the Euro public sooner rather than later to let the public get used to it (I don’t think we’ll get in the EU if we say we want to use the pound). It’s clear cut IMO – we embrace whatever union the public votes for. If it’s the EU then it’s the Euro and the case needs to be put forward for that. If it’s the UK then it’s acceptance that… Read more »

7 years ago

If article 50 isn’t put in motion then she gets off the hook. But I can’t see a situation where you can have both EU and UK otherwise. A UK gov is not going to lobby the EU for Scotland to stay in both. So, while she has some time to sit on the fence while the dust settles. She may have to make a decision soon. And I hope she listens to her dad.

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