Current Affairs Politics

The Death Spasms Of L’Ancien Régime Anglais

It’s interesting to read the Wall Street Journal’s take on the contest over Scotland’s political future that is being played out between the main Scottish Nationalist party in the form of the SNP and their British Nationalist opponents in the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

‘The British government has ramped up its campaign against Scottish independence, with Chief Secretary of the Treasury Danny Alexander arguing that Scotland’s financial position would be far worse if it were to leave the U.K.

Mr. Alexander… said Thursday that if Scotland became independent it would have one of the largest deficits in Europe.

Treasury calculations show that on a population basis, Scotland’s share of the U.K.’s national debt would have been around £65 billion ($106 billion) in the 2009-2010 financial year. Mr. Alexander said that figure didn’t include the huge cost of recapitalizing Edinburgh-headquartered lenders HBOS PLC and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC.

The issue of Scottish independence was thrust to the fore in May after the Scottish National Party won a parliamentary majority in Scottish Parliament elections. The SNP—which has formed the first majority government since Scotland gained devolved powers from London in 1999—has promised to hold a referendum on independence within the next five years.

A Scottish government spokesman said that despite the worst global recession in almost a century, Scotland has now been in a stronger position than the U.K. as a whole for each of the last five years.

The spokesman added, “The suggestion that Westminster’s record debt is an argument against Scottish independence is a ridiculous one which flies in the face of reality.”

The government this week decided to escalate its campaign against Scottish independence after Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting on the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore, and Mr. Alexander all attended the meeting.

The new tactic was first illustrated on Wednesday when Mr. Moore gave a speech in Edinburgh in which he said the SNP had failed to provide Scots with the true facts of what independence would mean for their everyday lives.

Mr. Moore said the SNP needs to spell out how separation would work before the referendum takes place. In particular, he said, the party needs to answer questions on how independence would impact on matter such as currency, membership in the European Union, banking regulation and defence.’

In the last year both Tory and Labour party bigwigs have been stoking fears in the United States about the prospects of an independent Scotland, spreading rumours and allegations far and wide. Some have been straightforward misrepresentations of the facts surrounding the release of Al Maghrabi and his return to pre-revolutionary Libya, others have been scare stories based upon a supposed left wing and socialist Scotland emerging from any move to independence.

The renewed focus on the fanciful dire consequences for Scotland should the Scottish people vote for their freedom from Greater England Great Britain is once again the main news for Unionist diehards, though with little more validity than it had before. In fact one might pose the question: of what benefit has the so-called Union been to Scotland over the last two centuries when the nation still remains, it would seem, an economic basket case, reliant on England and the English economy to survive? Is that what being part of the UK has done for Scotland? Left it so broken, so lacking it its own indigenous industries and economic base that it would simply collapse without outside subvention?

It is hardly an argument to base the benefits of Unionism upon. If anything it is an argument for even greater devolution and ultimately complete separation. Who can fix the Scottish economy if not the Scots? The English British have singularly failed to do so – and they have had centuries to do it.

So, on to the leadership contest for the Conservative Party in Scotland, the right wing of the British Unionist axis that has the Labour Party at the other end (and the Lib Dems somewhere in the middle – if there was enough of them to see). According to an AP report would-be Tory head honcho Murdo Fraser has vowed to ‘break the SNP’, in the sort of language we would expect in the politics of the Balkans in the 1990s not Scotland in the 2010s. But then again maybe this is the direction that the Unionist axis wishes to head in, such is its desperation these days.

‘Mr Fraser will begin his bid to replace current leader Annabel Goldie by outlining his vision of “New Unionism”.

He is expected to say: “If Alex Salmond really believed in his own message, he would put his money where his mouth is and have a single-question referendum. No second question. No Salmond cop-out. Separation, yes or no.

“Then we can move on. We can be positive about Scotland and positive about the United Kingdom. We can kill independence. And break the SNP.”

Mr Fraser will state his support for a “new form of Unionism” which will provide greater financial devolution.

However, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell warned: “Before he continues with his campaign Mr Fraser might want to reconsider his language. The last politician to threaten to kill nationalism saw his party lose at this year’s elections and the public back a majority SNP government.”’

The bellicose tones emerging from British Nationalists of all stripes bode ill for the future at a time when the Scottish people have the right to expect more from those who proclaim themselves the ‘defenders of the Union’. Or perhaps, like any dying beast, bellicosity is all that is left?

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