Brian Monteith: Losers must learn to take it on the chin

Although the political landscapes of the UK and US are very different, the seismic shocks of the Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump have many similarities. Not least among these is the inability of the losers of the respective electoral contests to accept the democratic outcome.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 27th January 2017, 9:00 am
Protesters seem unable to accept that Donald Trump enjoyed a clear, democratic victory. Picture: AFP/Getty
Protesters seem unable to accept that Donald Trump enjoyed a clear, democratic victory. Picture: AFP/Getty

Some have taken the hump and seen their defeat as a grievance to be nursed, in an attempt to overturn the result or make it meaningless. Both political events had established democratic processes and they are explicitly clear.

In the United States people are complaining about the victory of Trump. Some go so far as to complain that Hilary Clinton won more votes than Trump and the result is perverse.

Unfortunately for them, the US system is not a popular vote for the best candidate but a contest to see who can win a majority in an electoral college of state representatives. Clinton and Trump knew this when the election campaign started and Trump won a very clear victory.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

For a referendum the question is deliberated over, tested to see it is understood, a consultation is held and then agreed. In our recent example the question was: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”.

Note how it asks what the United Kingdom as an indivisible entity should do – not what Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, or England for that matter, should do.

It is the UK that is a member of the EU and the question put to us was about the UK. That some parts of the country, such as Scotland or Northern Ireland, took a different view from others such as Wales or England is completely immaterial.

In a simple take-it-or-leave-it question there can only be one decision, not four or more decisions. Being half in and half out of the EU is like being a part-time virgin. It is just not possible.

Furthermore, when a Scottish political figure, and there is no such figure who is bigger and more important than our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, goes around the rest of the UK and appears on British platforms and in British TV studios, she has endorsed that it is a UK debate and that the question is for the UK to decide – not about Scotland for itself.

So Scotland is not being dragged out of the EU against its will, the question was not put to Scotland alone, it is not even a member of the EU. Scotland decided in 2015 to stay in the UK in the common knowledge that David Cameron had said in 2013 that he would have a UK referendum on EU membership.

So challenging the outcome in the UK’s Supreme Court to obtain a Scottish Parliament veto over the UK referendum is not just a repudiation of the democratic process that Nicola Sturgeon previously embraced, it is a rejection of democracy itself. It is tantamount to saying I will only take part in a process if I can never lose, which is the same as Sturgeon saying she must win every time.

This is approach is not new of course, it is the same attitude she has taken to the Scottish people saying they want to stay in the UK – a decision she has never respected and continually works to subvert.

Our Supreme Court was unanimous in rejecting Nicol Sturgeon’s temper tantrum. It’s a pity it could not tell her to accept the independence referendum and get on with her day job of saving our education, health and justice services she has full responsibility for.

Howard’s way is the right one

IN the 2005 general election Tory leader Michael Howard won the popular vote in England but Tony Blair won the most constituency seats.

Howard never complained he should have won the most MPs. He accepted with good grace he had lost under the rules he had previously accepted.

On other occasions general elections have gone against the will of the English people but there are no marches or protests declaring England should have a veto over UK governments.

When Edinburgh votes for its council, residents of one neighbourhood must accept the views of the whole City. It’s called democracy.

Sturgeon backs the wrong horse

New Scottish Government statistics came out this week about our exports in goods and services for 2015 and their timing could not be worse for Nicola Sturgeon because they show how wrong her priorities are.

Scottish exports to the European Union were estimated at £12.3 billion, behind our exports to the rest of the world at £16.4bn and, not surprisingly, way behind Scottish exports to the rest of the UK, which came highest at £49.8bn.

It is official and beyond dispute Scotland’s most important market – by far – is the rest of the UK, next biggest is the rest of the world outside the EU, and last is the EU.

So, First Minister, if leaving the EU is an economic catastrophe for Scotland, by your own logic what does leaving the UK mean for us when its market is four times the size of the EU?

Kids’ sport can get your vote

I see Edinburgh council is in the dock for charging kids for after-school sporting activities.

The council puts the cost at half a million a year, small potatoes compared with the cost of the trams.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, or sports coaching, but in the end what a council decides to make “free” or subsidise all comes down to priorities. This May you can seek to influence your council’s priorities when the local elections are held. It is an opportunity not to be missed.