Jack McConnell wants us to vote No in order to preserve “Home Rule”. That would be the home rule that doesn’t give you control over your own home, the home rule that lumbers you with a Trident lodger you can’t evict even though it spews radioactive waste all over your Firth of Clyde patio and pisses plutonium particles in your petunia bed. You still get sent to bed while the grown ups from the EU come to visit, you’re certainly not allowed out on the international stage yourself – they’re keeping your passport.
Scotland still won’t get enough home rule to prevent one fifth of its citizens from living in relative poverty. Supervision isn’t cheap you know, someone’s got to pay. But we have to keep the rich sweet. London needs to be a global city or there’s no home rule for you, and London needs a shiny new train set so the big boys will come to play. You pay trains, they play trains. That’s home rule.
Jack is in favour of the home rule that tells you you don’t control your home’s finances, but you can live on some pocket money while the grown ups in Westminster make all big decisions for you and control all the pursestrings. They’ll decide how much pocket money you’ll get. You don’t rule the earnings of your own labour, Labour does.
You’re allowed to decide what wallpaper you want for your bedroom, but Westminster will keep its paws firmly on the TV remote control. You’re not grown up enough to home rule the telly. And no, you can’t get one for your bedroom. You might break it. You’re too wee, and you’re not responsible enough, not like the grown ups who jealously guard all the power and lecture you on democratic representation from the House of Lords.
They might consent to giving you a loan of a little bit of power. But if you don’t behave, the big boys and girls can take away your home rule privileges whenever they see fit. That’s why they call it devolution, because they see it as the opposite of evolution. Or at least a 19th century understanding of evolution, because that’s about as modern as Westminster science gets.
Westminster sees devolution as a reversal of the onward march to ever more intelligent and civilised life, an unfortunate kink in the chain of being which ends with them and their godlike power. It’s evolution in reverse. In the minds of the Westminster parties, it’s a process which can only start with cavemen and work its way back to primordial slime. But that’s happening to them anyway, they descended into sleaze a very long time ago. If Westminster loses any more of its authority they’re afraid they’ll devolve so much they’ll no longer be capable of tying their own shoe laces. It is a justified fear.
Devolution is a hiccup in the path to progress of an ever more perfect Westminster. They’re still a long way short of that and getting further from it with every passing day without any assistance from Scotland, so you can understand why they’re not so keen to give any of their authority away to uppity Caledonians with the notion that they can do the job better by themselves. Face it, it would be harder to do any worse, we’re talking about a low bar here.
The United Kingdom is one of the least equal countries in the developed world, the inequalities are only getting wider. Low paid jobs on short contracts have become the norm. People in full time paid work still qualify for benefits. Our governments subsidise employers to create jobs which can’t pay a living wage. Trickle down economics, the only trickle is the sweat on the brow of the woman faced with a choice of feeding her kids or switching off the heating in a cold November. And Labour politicians tell us that people need to be motivated to find work by stripping them of what dignity they have left.
The UK is the most centralised state in Europe. Scotland has greater control over her own affairs than other parts of the UK, but devolution gives Holyrood fewer tax raising powers than the average municipality in other countries. Scotland has no control over its own resources, and is the only oil producing country in the world without an oil fund – except Iraq. We get 30 minutes of Jackie Bird, stories about cattle that fell in the watter and had to get shot and a whole load of stuff about people playing games, like Jim Murphy the professional monkey poo thrower. It’s what passes for news in devoland. There’s lots of fitba at the end too for sports fans. Catalonia has a 24 hour news channel and five TV channels of its own. And the Trident lodger is staying put.
The UK has put all its economic eggs into the basket of the global finance centre of London. All else in the UK exists only to serve the goal of global player worldstage strutting. Devolution won’t change any of that.
So Jack McConnell and Jim Murphy had a great idea. Let’s call it home rule instead. Let’s resucitate an old slogan from the dusty shelves of history, because everyone who knew what it meant is deid. Then Jack and Jim can tell us what it means. It’s One Nation Labour’s new trick, reviving slogans from the 19th century. That’s progressive politics Labour style. Scotland can swap its sovereignty for a snappy Victorian soundbite.
But we already know what Jack McConnell’s home rule means, it’s teenage life with a tagging order. There may be a parole hearing, sometime after the next General Election, and they’ll decide whether to allow you a little bit more freedom. But nae promises. Only the Yes campaign is expected to provide certainties. Scotland is on probation until we stop thinking about absconding from the sludge that successive UK governments have created.
It’s for the people of Scotland to decide what we want out of this Union or whether we want out of it. Jack and Jim want us not to think about it, until they can tell us what to think. Further devolution is a conversation we need to have with the whole of the UK, say Jack and Jim. That’s why you can’t have a vote on it. But the real reason is that they don’t want us to state what we want to say before the conversation starts. Then they’d be obliged, and that would never do. You can’t be having power coming from the people. That’s not the devolved way.
We’ve been here before. Not once. Not even twice. We’ve seen this continually over the past 40 years as our faith in the willingness of Westminster parties to devolve has devolved even quicker. We were promised something better in 1979 and got Maggie Thatcher and 18 years of pain. Labour promised a parliament with real tax raising powers so Scotland would never again be dependent on the whims of Westminster. We got a parlie but the tax raising powers were designed to be unusable, and have remained unused. Which proves they’re working. Just not for Scotland. Scotland gets pocket money instead. And a civic civil nationalism that devolution didn’t kill stone dead.
We were promised more powers with Calman, but discovered that a Calman was the name of a fish dish that was gutted, filleted, and had its bones and flesh consumed in Commons committees. Scotland got left with a greased soaked newspaper.
Now we’re told they’ll devolve home rule, which is suitably vague and encompasses everything that it might be fondly imagined to be from Unionists who believe in federalism fairies, to those who want to kill nationalism stone dead. Even Michael Forsyth, once Tory handbagger in chief in Scotland, is keen to offer us new toys. Small toys, not a train set. Perhaps a Kinder surprise egg’s worth of devolution. He’s changed his tune. But we’re assured the conversion is sincere, if unexplained.
It’s too little too late. Scotland’s faith in Westminster’s ability to deliver has devolved into a pool of raw materials awaiting the spark of a Yes vote for it to spring into life.
And something is stirring in the Scottish soup. The amino acids of activism are forming protein chains of ideas. Links are forming, bonds being created. Self sustaining actions and reactions are taking place. People are thinking things they never thought before. Seeing things in new ways. Things like – this isn’t about Alicsammin at all. It’s about me. It’s about my family. It’s about my friends.
We’re too evolved for devolution. We can walk upright. We can think for ourselves. We can evict the Trident lodger, get the TV remote control and decide for ourselves what sort of country we want to live in.
Scotland’s political life is evolving into sentience. People are having intelligent conversations about possibilities and the kind of Scotland that could evolve into being. They’ve already realised that Scotland doesn’t have to live in the slime. It can be a fairer place, a more just place. It can be a place of dignity, where mothers’ brows only sweat with worry because weans are weans and dae schtupit things. But their tea is always on the table, and the hoose is always warm on a cold winter’s night. That’s the kind of country that Scotland can only evolve into with a Yes vote in September.
¡Viva la evolución escocesa!