Into the abyss

Holyrood has witnessed some unedifying sights in the ten years since the electorate chose to hand the reins of government to the SNP and the British parties responded by embarking on a petulant tantrum that continues to this day. It would be gratifying to think that the discordant crescendo of this hissy fit has reached its climax in the current two-day debate on a new independence referendum. But there is ever the suspicion that the unionist cabal has new depths of choleric bitterness yet to plumb.

It’s actually quite difficult to get a handle on what the ‘loyal opposition’ in the Scottish Parliament is doing right now. We have to keep reminding ourselves that these people were, by one means or another, elected to this Parliament. The Parliament of Scotland. The Parliament that is charged with a solemn duty to serve the people of Scotland. How would anyone know that from watching their faces contorted with hate, or listening to their voices dripping with contempt?

We are, of course, accustomed to these British politicians seeking to deprive Holyrood of powers which, by any accepted definition of democracy, rightfully belong with the democratically elected national Parliament. But they go further. Not only do they they refuse to recognise a mandate granted by Scotland’s voters, they deny the authority of the Scottish Parliament and would deprive the people of Scotland of their right of self-determination.

Of course, the leaders of the British parties would deny all of this. Particularly the latter. They would insist that they only oppose the people being permitted a voice at this time. But can anybody seriously imagine any of them admitting that the time is right for a new independence referendum? Does their present and past behaviour not indicate that they would be against a referendum at any time and in all circumstances? Is it not clear that they what they really want is for the constitutional question to just go away; and for Scotland to get back in its box?

We could spend some time cataloguing the logical contortions, the semantic acrobatics, the inconsistencies and contradictions that litter the British parties’ arguments. Let it be sufficient to note that the same people who lately sought to delegitimise the democratically elected Scottish Government by portraying Scotland as a ‘one-party state’, now insist that the SNP administration cannot be legitimate because it relies on the support of another party. Doublethink, anyone?

We should be cautious, however, about treating the British parties as a homogeneous entity. They may employ similar tactics and be all but indistinguishable in terms of their raging rhetoric, but it is important to understand the differences in motivation that lie behind the equally appalling behaviour.

It may surprise those who are familiar with my politics to find me saying that it is the Tories who hold the more honest and principled position. Let me make it clear from the outset that this is only relative to the totally dishonest and entirely unprincipled position adopted by British Labour in Scotland (BLiS).

The typical Scottish Tory may not actually think of Scotland as inferior, but they certainly hold the British state to be superior – in every regard and in all things. They genuinely believe that the Britain of their imagining is a wondrous thing and worth preserving at any cost. The needs, priorities and aspirations of the people of Scotland are not even a consideration. If Scotland’s interests must be sacrificed in the name of maintaining the established order, then it is a price worth paying. Ultimately, Scotland is compensated by being allowed to be part of ‘Great Britain’. We should accept this graciously proffered status as an adjunct to England.

We should reject the concept of Scotland as a nation, and regard it only as a marketing device – a brand wholly owned by the British state. We should adopt the identity, conform to the culture and embrace the ideology of One Nation British nationalism. We should eat our Great British Cereal – and be content.

British Labour in Scotland has a markedly different perspective. Where Tories serve the British state, Labour sees the British state as something that serves the party. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state are to be preserved because they form the environment in which Labour achieved status in the past. It is the only environment in which it can imagine regaining that status in the future.

British Labour in Scotland has no principled objection to Scotland’s independence being restored. The sole concern is that this will disadvantage the party. They have no real disagreement with the SNP in terms of their fundamental principles and their basic social and economic priorities. The enmity between the parties derives entirely from BLiS’s bitter resentment at having been deprived of a status to which they feel wholly entitled. And from BLiS’s frustration as their readiness to compromise those fundamental principles and basic priorities as they strive to restore their position only makes the prospect of recovery more remote.

The motivations may be different – blind ideological patriotism in the one case and dumb partisan self-interest in the other – but the outcome is the same. Both the main British parties at Holyrood (with the LibDems tagging along) descend ever further into a downward spiral of behaviour which is a disgrace to our Parliament, an affront to democracy and an insult to the people of Scotland. They now have no way out of this destructive vortex. If we let them, they will suck us all into the abyss.

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7 thoughts on “Into the abyss

  1. TheStrach

    The Tories have now supplanted Labour as the opposition in Scotland. Labour seem incapable of halting their own self-destructive behaviour and are quickly becoming almost irrelevant. If they really wanted a future they’d support independence and re-build within the new Scotland which is coming soon. Instead, they are supporting a hard right Tory party which will cause enormous damage to Scotland if we don’t vote for independence.

    My guess, for what it’s worth, is that Labour in England will be out of power for at least a generation and that SLAB will continue to wither away. Hopefully some SLAB voters will migrate to the SNP and Greens rather than the Tories. This should be enough to get us over the line next time.

  2. bringiton

    Labour in Scotland hate “divisiveness” which is why they are now joined at the hip with the Tories,Better Together (in their opinion).
    Secondly,socialism and worker solidarity now stops at the English Channel for British Labour.
    They would rather see working people in Britain have their rights trashed by a reckless ideologically driven Tory government than retain those derived from European legislation.
    What does Labour now stand for,other than career self advancement for the faithful?

  3. David MacGille-Mhuire

    Whatever the raison d’etres behind their respective motivations – and one should not forget the Willie Rennie faction, either – they are coming perilously close to employing the universal language of rightist coup d’etatists across history and the globe.

  4. Scott Cameron

    Not forgetting that the largest constituent part of the “loyal opposition” campaigned against existence of the very institution in which they now choose to sit!

  5. Alex Beveridge

    “Their faces contorted with hate, or listening to their voices dripping with contempt”.

    For me, that phrase says it all Peter. While I can well understand the British State’s opposition to an independent Scotland, it’s the so-called “proud scots”, a fifth column in our midst, who seem to take great delight in denigrating, not just the S.N.P, but a huge swathe of our people, especially those working in our public services.
    Do they really believe that this rhetoric will endear them to the majority of the people of Scotland?
    It seems, as you explain for different reasons, these politicians are convinced that we should remain in thrall to Westminster for all time as, presumably, we are not capable of running our own affairs. Surely, with recent events, this can now be debunked as palpable nonsense to anyone with even a modicum of intelligence.
    Well no, and I speak from recent experience of speaking to people on their doorsteps. While in general feedback has been positive, there still remain a rump, getting smaller year by year I admit, of people who will never admit that both, we are a nation, and are more than able to govern ourselves, in its entirety.

  6. Graham Fae Fawkirk

    I don’t think you’re right about the Tories serving the state; they are serving the state up on a platter to others. They have been sent to dismantle the state, a la Trump and his nihilistic madness in America, for their corporate masters and backers, to destroy any future chance of regulation of their unbridled greed. They do not give a damn about England or Scotland or any area of the UK as historical entities. They only care about being self-serving and selling the country to the Americans and other oligarchs and corporate scum. Historical Britain as a concept means nothing to them except as a trope to use to get naive and uneducated people behind them in their nihilistic endeavours.

    And Labour are just utterly clueless, especially in Scotland. Never seen such shambolic idiocy from a party in my life. Sour dinosaurs lumbering towards the terminal existential tarpits, career politicians soon to be without careers. You wonder why they’re so angry? It’s very obvious. I do agree with you about them feeling entitled to power in Scotland, though. Their bitterness and hatred for it being taken away has driven their enraged, traitorous, vicious politics for far too long, like a partner obsessed with getting revenge on their ex for being jilted. It’s unbalanced, disturbing, pathetic, and disgusting in equal measure. And their party will soon no longer exist in Scotland. Their anger and despair and vitriol shows they know this fact very well. If you will allow a pun, they have tossed themselves into their own aBlis.

    Just my take on things.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I take your point. However, I don’t think the Tories actually make any distinction between the state as we conceive it and the thing they want to make it. while it is certainly true of some Tories that “they do not give a damn about England or Scotland or any area of the UK as historical entities”, many do. And those you refer to as wanting to “dismantle the state” don’t see this as an act of destruction. In their ideology, they are not eradicating the state in order to replace it with some alternative. Rather, they are correcting deficiencies in the state and improving it. It is in this sense that Tories serve the state. They serve the state as they conceive it.

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