I don’t do Twitter and am the world’s most reluctant Facebooker, being far too anti-social for social media. I’ve got a PhD in time-wasting as it is. Getting into Facebook or Twitter would be like persuading an alkie of the benefits of heroin. But people who do use Twitter report that David Torrance, subject of yesterday’s och-whit-ur-you-like, has been complaining about the low standards of the debate in the Scottish independence referendum. He’s not the only Unionist to voice similar complaints.
It’s likely that wee Davie’s beef is really that Scotland isn’t having the debate that he wants us to be having. We’re discussing independence. We’re discussing the fact that the Westminster system is a rank and rancid Victorian gentlemens’ club that’s still suffering a hangover from the heady days of Empire. We’re discussing getting rid of Trident, building a commonweal, and creating a land that has the powers and the will to confront its own problems. But we’re not discussing Davie’s pet Unionist project, the one that’s going to take a wave of the sparkly wand of the federalism fairy to magic into existence.
We’re not discussing lots of things. We need to up our game. No one has written a serious and intelligent report with footnotes on how the constitutional debate is affecting Scotland’s loch monsters, banshees, kelpies, selkies or little folk. Do we really want to throw away all that mythology in order to become a modern 21st century nation? No one wants to talk about the brownies though, especially not Labour.
What about the pixies and elves of England – not to mention the gnomes of the City of London and the mental dwarfs of Westminster – should we not show solidarity with them? Why has no one mentioned Shrek? Will the M6 take us to the Magic Kingdom, or is London too far far away? These are serious questions that only the federalism fairy can answer.
Federalism in the UK isn’t going to happen. Not now. Not ever. There is no will for it amongst the federalism fairies. Like the charming and suspiciously kitsch Edwardian fairies of Cottingley dancing in the rose garden in the sepia images, they were revealed as a hoax when Nick Clegg went into coalition with Davie Cameron in the rose garden at Downing Street. Ming Campbell took the photies for that too.
The Lib Dems are the only UK party to advocate federalism. They like advocating it so much they’ve been advocating it for over 100 years without ever managing to do anything about it. It’s their version of Labour’s Parliamentary Road to Socialism, which comes complete with its own little solidarity selkie. It makes plaintive noises and offers a nirvana of redistribution, only to drag you to your death in the deep dark watery gloom.
Tories don’t really have a Scottish fantasy creature, since having one depends on being in touch with Scottish reality in the first place. They’re just the ugly duckling that grew up to be an ugly duck. One that paddles in a moat you can get cleaned on Westminster expenses.
And then there are the zombies. You can’t kill off a Westminster politician’s career by voting him or her out of office. They’ll just come back from the political grave and eat the brains out of Scottish devolution legislation in House of Lords committees.
So it is actually vital that we discuss the role of fantasy creatures in the independence debate, because from here it’s looking like they’ve been the heart of UK government for decades. Could be that’s the problem.
However on Tuesday we did discover that one particular fantasy creature is real. A Labour MP who takes a principled stand for fairness in the Scottish independence debate. One exists, there’s even better photies than there are for Nessie. Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Maverickshire, according to Sevvie in the Guardian, was spotted on camera telling off a Commons Committee for a cheap stunt designed to embarrass the Scottish Parliament and preventing a proper investigation into whether Alistair Darling’s pal Nick MacPherson had broken civil service rules on political impartiality. It was very easy not to mistake Paul for a dead log floating aimlessly, because that’s what the rest of the room was doing. He was walking out in disgust. Pity he’s not a Scottish MP, but that’s probably asking for a bit much. If ‘bit’ is defined as ‘bigger than the UK’s national debt’.
Meanwhile in the Guardian there was also an article about the political uncertainties faced by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, and their respective bands of austerity munchkins. The article discussed the possibility that electoral plans might have to change if there’s a yes vote in September. An anonymous MP admitted that the Better Together campaign was worse than crap. He bewailed:
“The Better Together campaign is just ramshackle. It would not matter if it was just crap, but it is nasty. All the threatening from Whitehall has been counterproductive.”
In Scotland, at least amongst supporters of the yes, undecided voters, and quite a few who are leaning towards no – in other words anyone who isn’t a member of a Unionist party leadership, channelling Alan Cochrane, or wishing upon a federalism fairy – this is a political insight up there with the realisation that Jeremy Kyle is only pretending to be a social worker.
This article also repeated the assertion previously made by Benedict Brogan at the Telegraph that a yes vote in September would certainly force Cameron to resign. Westminster’s dylithium crystals cannae take the loss of Scotland. So voting yes is looking increasingly like the only sure fire method of getting rid of Davie Cameron. The Guardian was also of the view that Miliband would have to resign too, since Labour would be seen to share equally in the culpability. That’s what independence supporters would call a hatrick.
And this within 24 hours of yet another Unionist commentator complaining that they are unhappy with the standard of the debate in the referendum campaign. It’s no bloody wonder there’s a low standard when one side of the debate is doing its utmost to prevent a proper debate taking place. Their jobs, careers, and reputations depend on it. Sometime in the future there’s going to be an robot copy of David Starkey presenting a sneery history 3D live streaming about crappy prime ministers of English history. Davie’s name will figure prominently. And there’s another reason for a yes vote – it might one day produce a David Starkey history programme that’s worth watching.
When the Westminster parties refused to consider any form of enhanced devolution as an option on the ballot for September – an option which would probably have secured a handsome majority and enabled them to avoid the issue of Scottish independence until they’d all safely retired – they all sneezed at once and finally killed the federalism fairy. Instead we got the cartoon monsters of Project Fear, and the realisation that Scotland is more likely to get devo-max or federalism or whatever devo tweak you like from Santa than we are from the Westminster parliament.
We’re all up for a serious debate. But first the fairy stories have to be put to bed.