Wrong target II

Once again, I find myself unable to be shocked by this ‘revelation’. I, and many others, were warning well ahead of polling in the 2014 referendum that one obvious consequence of a No vote would be increased, and more brazenly invasive, efforts to bypass and undermine the Scottish Parliament.

Holyrood’s fate was sealed in 2007 when voters ended the British parties’ domination by electing an SNP government. The British state’s imperative to rein in Scotland’s democracy was made all the more urgent when, in 2011, the Scottish electorate casually broke the system which had been designed to ensure that the Scottish Parliament would always be under the control of one or more of the British establishment parties.

The enthusiasm of British Labour in Scotland for devolution was almost entirely a function of their belief that this would guarantee them a permanent power-base in Scotland. Their Tory partners were prepared to tolerate devolution only because they were confident that, whatever power the Scottish Parliament might afford British Labour, it would always be insufficient to pose a threat to a Tory government in Westminster. And, of course, because they were assured that the Union would never be compromised. For all the rhetoric, when it comes to keeping Scotland in check, British Labour is considered a safe pair of hands by the British establishment.

No voters handed the British political elite a licence to dispose of Scotland as they pleased. Did hose No voters seriously imagine the British political elite wouldn’t use that licence to the full? What was it about the history of the British state and its treatment of Scotland which led them to this staggeringly naive belief?

For those of us not afflicted by this credulousness, it comes as no surprise whatever to find British politicians conspiring to emasculate Scotland’s only democratically legitimate parliament. The Union requires this. The fact that the Scottish Parliament represents a form of democracy which cannot be managed by the apparatus of the British state means that it must be crippled or destroyed. No challenge to established power can be tolerated. Any moves towards restoring to the people of Scotland the sovereignty which is theirs by absolute right must be thwarted. Dissent must be rendered manageable. Distinctiveness must be wholly eradicated. All in the name of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

What is disappointing – if not, in the light of late experience, surprising – is to find SNP politicians presenting this assault on Scotland’s democracy as exclusively, or even particularly, a Tory project. This implies a disturbing failure to recognise the nature of Scotland’s predicament. A predicament which cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of democratic principles simply by a change of government at Westminster, or the installation of a new British Prime Minister in Downing Street.

Correspondence, both private and public, with others in the Yes movement leads me to the certainty that I am not alone in the fervent wish that SNP politicians would desist from treating Scotland’s cause as a mere party political contest with the British Tories and afford that cause its deserved status as a battle for the integrity of Scotland’s democracy.



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Of divides and loyalties

SNP depute leader Keith Brown says the poll showed Labour could not stop the Tories in Scotland. But, in truth, British Labour in Scotland has no real interest in stopping the Tories in Scotland. Their imperatives are –

  • to punish the SNP and anybody who votes for them
  • to regain the status they consider theirs by right
  • to reassert the British parties’ control of the Scottish Parliament

The first imperative is spiteful. The second is self-serving. The third is treacherous. Petty, partisan and perfidious. We could be describing any of the British parties currently squatting in Scotland’s Parliament.

The problem for British pollsters and the British analysts who analyse their polls and the British commentators who comment on both the polls and the analysis, is that the British two-party context is no longer relevant in Scotland. Regarding Scotland’s politics through the prism of the British political system became inappropriate in 1999, when the Scottish Parliament reconvened. Increasingly so ever since. But British pundits don’t seem to have realised this yet. And the British media, for the most part, stubbornly denies that there is a distinctive Scottish politics.

British chatterers’ and British scribblers’ first instinct is to regard Labour/Left versus Tory/Right as the default divide in all ‘domestic’ politics. I’m not sure to what extent this is even true in England these days. It certainly isn’t applicable in Scotland. The defining divide in Scottish politics is constitutional. It is Nationalist versus Unionist.

Not that this excludes or ignores the many other divisions in society which are supposed to be managed by the democratic process. It’s just that the constitutional divide has come to encompass things like class and ideology. In one sense, this makes Scottish politics simpler – because, crudely speaking, everything ultimately boils down the constitutional issue. In another sense, it makes Scottish politics more complicated because the constitutional issue is an additional element which must be considered. Or should be considered.

All too often, it isn’t. Analysts and commentators coming at Scotland’s politics from within the bubble of the metropolitan cosy consensus inevitably find it difficult to take account of the fact that what they regard as ‘the Labour vote’ is at least as likely to be the ‘Tory vote’ on account of the constitutional divide. They find it difficult to take account of this only if they even realise that it is a real phenomenon.

And where these British analysts and commentators do acknowledge that the dividing line between British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) and the British Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) is somewhat blurred, they tend to talk in terms of ‘tactical voting’. It is NOT tactical voting.

When BLiS voters put their cross next to a BCUPS candidate or party – or, to a lesser extent, vice versa – they like to call it ‘tactical voting’ because this puts a sheen of rationality on a choice made solely on the basis of emotional and often fervent loyalty. Loyalty to the British state. Fealty to the British ruling elites. Devotion to the emblem of British Nationalism.

All of which can be a cause of confusion and consternation to those British pollsters and British analysts and British commentators who share these loyalties so innately and deeply that it is extremely problematic for them to conceive of their being alternative loyalties and a defining political divide between the two.

We have all heard British pundits react with incomprehension when confronted by Scotland’s independence movement. They simply can’t grasp; or can’t take seriously, the proposition that there may be significant numbers of people in their imagined British nation who owe their loyalty to something other than the British state, the British ruling elites and the Union flag.

They simply don’t get that British Labour in Scotland has no real interest in stopping the Tories because they share a loyalty that overrides mere partisan interest. They don’t fully understand that politics in Scotland is an existential battle. Either Scotland survives, or the British establishment prevails. Those are the options. That is the choice facing Scotland’s people. It is my passionate hope that most voters will choose Scotland.


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Disaffected Tories need a home

Ashley GraczykMichael Fry unabashedly entertains the notion that removing or reducing extraordinary impediments that limit ability to fully participate in the democratic process amounts to having the state “select for its favours one particular category of person”, and that this presages total state selection of candidates for elected office. But that may not be the worst of the silliness on display here.

Mr Fry’s account of Ashley Graczyk’s “conversion” is woefully misguided. Her every comment on the matter indicates that she was not so much won over to the SNP and convinced by the case for independence as driven to abandon the Tories and reject the Union. Her conversion is attributable less to a glorious epiphany about the merits of the SNP and the benefits of independence and more to a grim realisation of how appalling the present-day Tory party is and recognition of the fact that the Union is irreparably broken and increasingly deleterious to Scotland.

This throws a very different light on the vocal condemnation of the Tories which Michael Fry finds distasteful and considers counter-productive. While it may be reasonable to have some qualms about the manner in which execration of the Tories is sometimes expressed, the example of Ashley Graczyk strongly suggests that we should doing much more to encourage Conservatives – and conservatives – in Scotland to question their allegiance to a party which bears little relation to the one which enjoyed such massive support in 1955. And which suffers fatally by comparison.

By the same token, the manner of Ms Graczyk’s conversion implies that, at least as much as we try to win we should Tories over to the idea of independence, we should be urging them to question their assumptions and preconceptions regarding the Union. We should be doing all we can to induce them to take a long hard look at what the Union actually means for Scotland.

Of course, the SNP must always strive to be the natural home for all who put the welfare of Scotland’s people before the dubious interests of the British state. It is, after all, the national party of Scotland. The party of the entire nation. But there can be nothing wrong with pointing out to genuinely Scottish Tories that they are in the wrong place.


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