Gordie Broon’s promise of mair powers for Holyrood if we vote naw signals that the Labour party is getting serious about the constitutional debate, at least according to highly paid politics analysts on the telly. Course, independent art house movies are dead serious too, but they’re still works of fiction, and often just as badly acted. Having said that, even 145 minutes of existentialist angst in Romanian with Italian subtitles is more comprehensible than a speech by Gordie endogenous growth Broon. And invariably more entertaining.
Ming Campbell has been getting serious about more powers for Holyrood too. At least if you’re to believe Ming. There’s lots of things I’m serious about as well, like removing those annoying hairs that grow out of your ears, and understanding the difference between a commitment to do something from a person who actually has the ability and will to make it happen and a party which changes its mind as soon as someone calls out “ministerial motor for Danny Alexander”.
Neither man is in any position to make their suggestions come to pass, neither has a firm timetable for bringing them about, and both are faced with entrenched opposition from within their own party ranks. The saccharine jam substitutes of Gordiedevo and Mingindevo are not going to happen. Any new constitutional proposal is going to have to gain the support of an electorate south of the border which has been fed on a diet of deep fried subsidy junky myths. It will be bye bye Barnett and hello budget cuts.
Both Scotland’s leading representatives of the zombie community spoke of the need for a new UK constitutional settlement. And that’s the worrying bit. A new UK constitutional settlement means only one thing when it’s uttered by people who have spent their Scottish political careers in a tribal spat with the SNP, and who want it to be introduced in the aftermath of a no vote in the referendum. It means a new Union created by an Act of the Westminster Parliament. You know, that body that claims it is the sole repository of sovereignty. A no vote gives it the chance to having another go at killing Scottish nationalism stone dead.
Irrespective of your opinion of the SNP, it is a fact of Scottish politics that Scotland’s constitutional concerns are only addressed when Westminster is in a panic about the forces of Eckness. The rest of the time, Scotland’s on mute while Gordon Brown played Angry Birds on his Nokia.
Gordie Broon spent 11 years playing at being chancellor of the exchequer while not busy with his full time job of plotting to get Tony Blair’s job, followed by a few dismal years when he’d got Tony’s job only for it to become apparent to one and all that he didn’t have a scooby what to do now he’d got there. Throughout all that time, when he actually had power and influence, and not a clue what to do with it, he was even less interested in addressing Scotland’s demand for greater home rule than he was in pretending he loved the Arctic Monkeys. The SNP did not have a majority in Holyrood, there wasn’t going to be a referendum. Gordie could safely file it under ignore and make like the North Briton.
And that’s what he did, apart from that time that Wendy Alexander told Eck to “bring it on”, and Gordie had to slap her down, aided and abetted by her brother. Gordie wanted Scotland to remain filed under ignore. There was his big chance at a lasting legacy, and he didn’t notice until it was far too late. Story of his life eh. Now he’s stuck with the legacy of the bust he said he’d abolished.
Ming’s no better. He’s the man who told Tavish not to countenance going into coalition with the SNP after the 2007 elections, he’s the guy who sat down with Donald Dewar to design a voting system for Holyrood that would ensure Labour and Lib Dem coalitions in perpetuity. Neutering the threat posed by the SNP is as high on his agenda as it is on Gordon Brown’s. The pair have previous for choreographed attempts to do down the SNP.
Now all of a sudden it’s vitally important to the pair of them that the UK finds a new constitutional settlement. Nothing to do with there being an independence referendum then and the SNP posing a bigger threat to their personal careers, their parties, and their parliament than ever before. They see no distinction between the demands of Scotland as a nation, and the demands of the SNP. That’s a major reason they keep calling it Alicsammin’sreferendum. In the aftermath of a no vote, they will do their utmost to ensure that Scotland can be kept filed under ignore forever. They won’t see it as anti-Scottish. To them it’s just party politics, and they want to get back to playing it their own way.
You can be quite certain that any new Act of Union devised by the Westminster parties will define the United Kingdom as a single nation. It’s the inclusive and British thing to do after all. And you can be even more certain that the new constitutional arrangements will ensure that Holyrood can’t go scaring Westminster with independence referendums. Westminster will be the sole sovereign body. We’ve already seen that they don’t like sharing. So no doubt there will be some provision saying something to the effect that any future changes to this new constitutional settlement must be put to a referendum of the British nation as a whole. Because that’s terribly British and inclusive. And is just another way of saying – you’ll not be having any more of those Scottish independence referendums.
“The strict logic is on Sir Menzies’s side, but Britain’s asymmetric devolution is not unique. Structures for Catalonia and the Basque Country likewise sacrifice a tidy constitutional organogram to political realities.”
I thought an organogram was what Hannibal Lector got as a surprise during his birthday party, a combination of entertainment and takeaway meal in one singing package dressed up as a sexy cop. Somehow I get the feeling that Westminster wants to be the birthday boy and dine on Holyrood’s beating heart. I wouldn’t put that past Michael Forsyth.
As stupid suggestions go, few can beat the Guardian’s idea that constitutional arrangements in Spain are somehow a model we should copy. It’s way up there with “Hey, Scottish people will start voting Conservative again if we introduce the poll tax a year early.”
They can’t have noticed that Catalonia is pressing hard for its own indy referendum, is going to vote yes when the vote comes, and the Basque Country won’t be far behind. The pressure has only increased because of Spain’s constitutional ban on independence referendums, the debate is more fraught, the risks far higher. That’s not a model anyone sensible should want to adopt. Sadly, “sensible” has little to do with the electoral calculations of Westminster politicians.
Brown and Campbell did not actually come out and say that it should be illegal for Scotland to hold an independence referendum. But it is a view widely expressed in the Unionist camp, by the likes of Michael Forsyth, and yer man Aidan O’Neill QC who’s now saying it’s illegal not to allow Scots outside of Scotland to vote in the vote he thought was illegal to begin with. Oh and Michael Moore in January 2012, who was at the time the Secretary of State for Scotland and was expressing the view of the UK government to the House of Commons. And just about every other Unionist politician at the time.
The job of Gordie and Ming is to promise some diversionary jam. With a no vote, Scotland will get stuck back in the dusty filing cabinet under i. Only this time they’ll lock the drawer.