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.Views: 5071
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