Wednesday, 14 June 2017

On the state of Scottish Nationalism and the SNP

I wrote this as a response to the large amount of negative comments I received on my Facebook campaigns page from SNP supporters during the 2017 Spring election campaign.

The problem with the SNP is their agenda is both popularist and regressive. How can this be? The popularise bit is easy: free tuition fees, free proscriptions, opposition to London. Regressive insofar the government is purposely not using available powers to change the Westminster (Conservative) agenda. Sure, the SNP will block the bedroom tax (good) and not hand on the tax cut to higher earners (okay) but will not actually make profound changes. Ah, one might say, Barnett does not allow for Scotland to earn more that the given share. That is true, but it is totally possible to re-jig the tax system, with powers available, in order to put less of the burden on poorer tax payers and a higher burden on those richer. This is not being done nor is it likely to be. It is as if the SNP leadership are eager to pass on hardships while not using powers to ease the pressure on the people of Scotland. A cynic might say this is because that it would not be in their party interest to improve matter. Instead, the situation have to decline further in order to convince more people to vote Yes in the next referendum for independence. Consider the ongoing cuts, confirmed by such bodies as Audit Scotland for education but denied by supporters. The usual technique is to narrow the window of examination and thus present statistics in a narrow window that lets through the best possible light. Oil production is another such field were the larger picture is never presented.
Liberal Democrats support federalism. That is using devolved powers in order to improve things as close as possible to local communities. The SNP do not trust people. If they did, they would allow a diverse Scotland to emerge. Instead, we see a centralisation of power to a handful of minister in Holyrood. The police and emergency services are an obviously case. I shared a hustings stage with Kenny MacAskill in 2011 when he was musing why shouldn’t education be centralised? The popularist freezing of the council tax made councils more and more reliant upon funding by central government. Democracy has been slowly suffocated by the SNP and, while bemoaning the powers that Westminster have, power in Scotland has been increasingly sucked into Edinburgh.
Yet the SNP is not a party which encourages scrutiny and debate. It is a party of faith. Faith that only independence will solve our problems. If only we were independent, then we would be free to address the monumental issues that we all face. Those issues are not really discussed either. In 2014, such issues would be “the will of the Scottish people” following independence.
The SNP are serious about independence and they are in a hurry. Therefore any method is acceptable in order to get people to tick the Yes box the next time around. It is a bit of a reverse of 1745. In that campaign, Bonny Prince Charlie had to win every battle. A single defeat and the war would be lost. Now, the SNP can lose every battle until they win just one. It is their haste, combined with their conservative political strategy, that will be their downfall.
I am not a natural unionist. As a half-Irish Catholic, unionism isn’t a concept I am fond of. My concern over the course of Scottish independence is the effect of sudden independence will have on people. I questioned the economic basis of independence in 2014 and, come, 2019, things are not likely to improve. The glimmer of hope is that of Brexit.
Brexit might, just might, provide the shortcut that the SNP are hoping for. If the Conservatives win on Friday and pursue a hard Brexit (that is making the UK an offshore free-trade zone and basically making us into an mini-me version of the United States), then there is a case of bailing out in a hurry, whatever the economic cost. Both parties though play identity politics. If one is not a supporter of independence, one has to be a unionist. This is a false logic, for in ceding one’s identity, one hands over one’s critical faculties to others. Such-and-such is necessary in order to achieve the ultimate goal. All will be sorted out after victory.
So what must be done? The answer is simple if naïve: work for the good of people. Change society from what it is now. The SNP follow Westminster’s line in the hope that line will ultimately snap and with it the Union. Instead, we have powers, available now, to make a difference for good. If those powers were used and a track record achieved, this would result in one of two things. Either the rest of the UK would look to Scotland as a leading member of the Union and demand that they follow our example, or, they would continue to go their own way. If the latter, the case for Scottish independence would be made.
Neither course will suit the SNP though because it takes time, for it is the path of evolution rather than revolution. They want power and in a hurry, regardless of the effect upon us all. Instead of working to improve the prospects for the entire UK, they have given up on ever making a positive change and, instead, claim to just care about Scotland. If they really did care about us, then they know that improving the whole of the UK is just as important because, through simple geographical fact, there is no separating the reality of the links: cultural, scientific, economic. England will remain our largest trading partner, forever. Whatever happens in Westminster will always affect us here. So do we work together to overthrow the cycle of the two-party state or go it alone? The SNP has already answered that question: go it alone, regardless of consequences.

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