Current Affairs Politics

Playing With The Numbers – Or How To Subvert Democracy In Scotland

British Nationalists have been twisting themselves up in knots lately over the not-too-distant referendum on Scottish independence with more (and sometimes unexpected) voices echoing Scottish Nationalist opinion. Some of the scare tactics we saw earlier in the year are beginning to emerge again as some Unionists embrace the politics of fear in an attempt to prop up support for an increasingly fractured Union.

In that light there comes a rather disjointed article in the Daily Telegraph from Seán Mac Tiarnáin John McTernan (former British Labour Party wheeler-dealer) where he issues a rallying cry to English nationalists, calling upon them to make known their opinion on Scotland’s constitutional future:

‘What does it take to make the people of England angry? As a Scot who has spent half his life in London, the unflappable amiability of the English is something for which I have endless admiration. But when it comes to their appallingly apologetic attitude towards my homeland, I find myself longing for them to get properly riled.’

Lovely. Nothing like calling hellfire and damnation upon your own nation in the interest of another– even one you’ve lived half your life in. Okay, maybe it’s not as dramatic as that but it still doesn’t make for pleasant reading. McTernan goes on:

‘This is the first dirty secret of Scottish politics: that Scotland is doing very well, thank you. When it comes to public spending, it is a mendicant nation, always looking for more. Yet before the credit crunch, Scotland had enjoyed unbroken economic growth since 1980. Yes, there was mass unemployment as old industries closed, but new strengths emerged in banking, biosciences, computer games and energy, whether oil, gas or wind. You wouldn’t know it from the way that Scottish politicians – of all parties – talk, nor from the behaviour of successive British governments.

The result is the situation that we have today, where Scottish politicians take almost a perverse pride in claiming – in the face of any evidence to the contrary – that their nation is not just poor, but hard done by. And this debilitating strain of victimhood has not only survived devolution, but has thrived.’

Really? So Scotland, it seems, is doing well under the so-called Union, very well indeed if we are to believe McTernan. In fact it is positively flowing with riches and the Scots are just playing at an béal bocht to get even more (the ungrateful buggers).

‘…the second dirty secret of Scottish politics – that extra money isn’t buying better services.

Yes, there’s free this and free that, but schools where spending is a third higher than in England are delivering lower exam results. Despite health spending that’s up to a fifth higher, waiting times are longer. In addition, there are around a quarter fewer police officers per head of population. In short, the lack of any overwhelming English resentment of Scotland almost certainly reflects a knowledge that Scots don’t inhabit a land of milk and honey. It is instead a country that combines a model 21st-century economy with a corporatist public sector straight out of the mid-Seventies.’

Er… I think I might be getting a wee bit confused here. Centuries of British rule have left Scotland prosperous while simultaneously giving it deplorable public services, including education, health, and policing? Is that not somewhat contradictory? And if state services in Scotland are in such a poor condition who is to blame? Is it not successive British governments and the British state itself? Aren’t they the ones holding all the strings? Purse strings included?

So what does it say about that malformed political entity, the Union, that two centuries of its existence have left Scotland as a schizophrenic socio-economic mess? It doesn’t exactly speak glowingly of the benefits of Unionism or London-rule. In fact, considering that devolution has only been in place for less than two decades, it sort of boosts the argument for even more it. But don’t worry; John McTernan has an answer to solve all these concerns come referendum day:

‘What does this mean when it comes to the great question of the day – the future of the Union? Salmond has promised a referendum within his ministerial term, but only in Scotland. Yet there is a strong case for a referendum in England as well. The Union took two nations to create, and should rightly take two to dissolve. It is certainly wrong that Scots face the prospect of a gerrymandered referendum, in which the SNP government sets the questions (they favour a multiple choice), define the rules (it would be without the scrutiny of the Electoral Commission), and decide the electorate (they plan to extend the vote to under-16s).

The involvement of English voters would reintroduce a sense of fair play, by setting the same question north and south of the border. All the signs are that the English have yet to be swayed by the cowardice of their leaders in London, or the antagonism of nationalists in Edinburgh. Yes, a majority would like the chance to vote on Scottish independence – but, like the Scots themselves, they would also vote against it.

It is a measure of the strong emotional as well as economic ties that bind Great Britain together that support for the Union runs so high on both sides of the border. But Britain’s politicians need to be willing to tell the truth about Scotland. That it is wealthy not by chance, but thanks to the hard work of Scots, and the policies of successive Tory and Labour governments. That it is vital to the very nature of Britain – and that the rest of Britain wants it to remain so. That it is doing well – and that it might be time to give something back. After all, the McChattering classes pride themselves on living in a generous, social democratic nation. So why should redistribution keep going to Scotland when needs are greater elsewhere? Time, surely, for Scotland to help out south Wales…  or even the east Midlands.’

So the answer to long-standing Scottish concerns about Scotland being dominated and exploited in the UK by England is to give English voters a built-in veto over Scotland’s political future? (Hmmm… that sounds familiar)

And then, to make matters worse, a demand that resources in Scotland to be stripped away and reallocated to elsewhere in Britain after the vote? Well, that’s a British Unionist program sure to appeal to the Scottish people. Vote No to an independent Scotland and the English will take money off you to spend in England.

Actually, now that I think about: are we sure John McTernan hasn’t joined the SNP?

%d bloggers like this: