The author hears Sir John Sawers, ex-MI6 chief, tell a Harvard audience how Scottish independence won’t happen even though the UK will be diminished by Brexit – and that includes its voice in Washington.
‘Corbyn’s speech is most important for its opening up a clear policy divide – 20 months after the Brexit vote – between Labour and Tories. That should make for an opposition starting to hold the government more to account. Whether it will result in the torpedoing of May’s Brexit strategy or even in an early election are the big questions that lie ahead.
‘I hope the parties do split. This is a time when the country needs some people prepared to step out of the shadows and offer leadership, and a vision that moderates from both sides could share. It could be the best thing for Britain and Europe…’
‘The Westminster system is, for now, failing. So what the EU faces is not just a huge challenge in getting to a Brexit deal with the UK. The EU also has to face the fact that one of its most important neighbours (as the UK is becoming) – its former partner, one of the largest European economies, one of the stronger foreign policy players, and an important democracy – is politically adrift.’
‘To argue for the UK to stay in the EU’s single market and customs union is to argue to stay as close to the status quo as possible while giving up vote, voice and a seat at the table. Faced with a more damaging type of Brexit, it sounds sensible – until you look at the democratic cost. Compared to being an EU member state it is surely absurd’.
‘It remains to be seen whether or not the UK government will invest in the future of the Highlands to the level the EU has done. If it doesn’t, it seems likely that many will leave in search of opportunities elsewhere – a scenario with a long and regrettable history in the Highlands.’
‘Throughout my life those Anglo-Scots-Irish links have pulled complicated strands of loyalty, plucking a confusion of romantic emotional responses. Who the hell am I?’
‘ I would advise any Scottish government to aim broadly to balance the budget. At present, without support from Westminster, Scotland would be running a large deficit. If the proponents of independence want to increase their economic credibility, now is the time to start setting out how that deficit could be closed’.
“…we are faced with the extraordinary prospect of less cooperation with our immediate neighbours, even a situation where borders are restored within an island – now referred, even by English politicians, to the ‘island of Ireland’ – divided many years ago by a cowardly British establishment”.
‘The purpose of such devolution would be to ensure that Scotland’s particular demographic challenges, which differ significantly from those elsewhere in the UK, can be met by the public authorities responsible for implementing immigration policy.’