Michael Forsyth has a seat in the House of Lords and influences Scots laws and policy despite the fact that he’s so much of a loser that the English rugby team look down on him. Forsyth lost his seat in the Commons in 1997 when he was the leader of the Scottish Tories. He didn’t just lose his own seat, he lost every single Tory seat in Scotland. In any other line of work there are consequences for such devastating failure. If he was a doctor he’d have killed all his patients and would be struck off. If he was a teacher all his pupils would be unemployed drug addicts and the parents would have got a court order banning him from approaching 300 metres of a school. If he was a bungee jump operator he’d have been slung off a cliff with a snapped elastic. But he’s a Westminster politician, and Westminster rewards political death with a seat in the Lords. It’s the zombie plague of politics.
2. Elective dictatorships
The first past the post system of voting produces huge majorities for parties which achieve just 36% of the votes cast. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair never secured a majority of votes cast, but they ruled for decades with massive majorities – the result was the devastation of industrial communities, wars, privatisation, and the enrichment of a tiny minority. But that’s exactly what the first past the post system is designed for, not to reflect the votes of the people, but to produce a “strong” government – which is Westminster code for a government that can do what it wants and not what the people want. The UK isn’t a democracy, it’s an elective dictatorship.
3. Sovereignty of parliament
Under the Westminster system, the people are not sovereign, the parliament is. In normal democracies, the people are the ultimate authority, in the UK it’s the Westminster parliament. This means that the British state isn’t run for the benefit of its people, but for the benefit of its political establishment. Westminster is the fount of all power, and it’s not keen on sharing it. It’s the myth of the sovereignty of parliament which means that real devo max or full fiscal autonomy is a non-starter, even though this is probably the constitutional settlement which most Scots could support. Under proper devo max, Scotland would be responsible for all its own income and expenditure, and would transfer an agreed amount to Westminster for shared UK responsibilities in defence and foreign affairs. But this would mean that Scotland held the power in relationships between Holyrood and Westminster, not the Westminster parliament, because Scotland could decide – for example – it wasn’t going to transfer funds to Westminster to pay for one of the many wars that Westminster is prone to going off on. Scotland isn’t going to get devo max or a federal settlement because it’s a direct challenge to the sovereignty of Westminster. Westminster isn’t going to let that happen.
4. Duck moats and posh boys
Ducks are cute. Tory politicians with duck moats aren’t cute. Tory politicians who expect the public to pay for their duck moats are taking the duck pee. Screwing expenses is a Westminster sport, as is leaving politics and sailing into well paid consultancies and directorships on the back of the contacts politicians made while in office. There’s no come back, there’s no oversight, because the people doing the oversight are other politicians from the same narrow social group playing the exact same game. It’s not against the rules, they bleat, because they’ve written the rules in order to benefit themselves. A lack of accountability breeds arrogance and incompetence, and those are the only two qualities which Westminster has in abundance.
We spend far too much time bewailing Tories, moaning about Tories, railing furiously at Tories, and hating Tories. In a normal country, the Tories would be marginal figures of fun whose extremist views were derided and mocked by the mainstream. But although Tories are derided and mocked by the mainstream of the public in Scotland, they’re not marginal in political or media influence because we don’t live in a normal country. We live in a country where the government is elected by the neighbours, and far too many of the neighbours like voting Tory. Because of the Tory hold on the neighbours, Scotland is blessed with a media where the number of Tory voices is ridiculously disproportionate to the number of Tories in the general population. Scotland doesn’t have a dialogue with itself, there’s a monologue from the bar bore next door and our interjections are rarely heard.
6. The British Parliamentary Road to Socialism
The most pernicious myth of British politics is the foundation myth of the Labour party which believes that if only a socialist party can gain control of the British state by achieving an absolute majority in the House of Commons, then all wrongs will be righted, all ills cured, and no one would ever have to see Katie Hopkins ever again. 100 years and counting on from the foundation of the Labour party, it has enjoyed several decades in power, and we’re no closer to the end of the journey on the British Parliamentary Road to Socialism. Meanwhile the road has turned into an overgrown dirt track covered in undergrowth in which lurk Blairite monsters. Jeremy Corbyn has promised to attack the undergrowth with machetes, but he’s already got stuck in the potholes of petulance from the Blairite faction. His chances of making progress and pretty much zero. The truth is that for the left in Scotland, the Corbyn project is a distraction, the only way we’ll make real progress is through independence.
A power devolved is a power retained. The word devolution was invented by Westminster politicians because it implies the opposite of evolution. In their infinite kindness, they were prepared to loan Scotland some of Westminster’s powers, but the term devolution makes it plain that the ultimate power remains with Westminster and they can take back the devolved powers whenever they please. Westminster begrudges any loss of power, even a “loan”, and fights tooth and nail to preserve its overweening influence and control. Even when faced with an existential threat in the form of a Scottish independence referendum, Westminster still couldn’t bring itself to offer the Scottish people meaningful and substantial self-government. All we got was control of road signs and some half-arsed tax and social security powers which are designed to aid the Tories politically, not to answer Scotland’s needs. The devolution of broadcasting – an essential prerequisite for any self-governing territory or nation – isn’t even on the table. The Westminster parties use devolution as a political tool with which to beat up the SNP and each other. Scotland gets sidelined and ignored. Real self-government and self-determination comes from the people, not from politicians. We’re never going to get that from Westminster.
8. Doing whatever the establishment wants
Britain has no written constitution. What we do have is a load of practices, customs, and laws scattered about in various statutes, and what passes for a constitution means that the British establishment can do what it pleases. Customs and practices don’t spring into being because the constitution fairy waved her magic wand, they arose because a previous government did it and got away with it. Modern governments make up their own customs, practices, and establish their own precedents in the British Doing Whatever the Establishment Wants. These never further democracy. What we’ve ended up with is no separation of powers between branches of the government, giving the Prime Minister effective control of everything. The two main parties show no inclination to change things because they’re holding out for their turn in charge. The result is stagnation and decline and it’s never going to get any better. The only way to get a proper written constitution which spells out the powers and responsibilities of government, and the people’s means of gaining redress, is Scottish independence.
9. The moronisation of politics
Watching Prime Minister’s Questions is like sticking your genitals into a food processor because someone told you it was juicy. You can actually feel your neural synapses give up the ghost and die when you watch a debate in Westminster. It’s a guarantee that the MP for Safeseatshire will pop up and ask an entirely irrelevant question, especially when Scotland is the topic. Although to be fair when Scotland is the topic the Tory and Labour benches are usually empty, except when a vote is called when the Dishonourable and Disreputable Members ooze out of the bars and into the voting lobbies. Let’s be honest here, backbench MPs are not there to debate or to get to the bottom of complex issues on behalf of the people. They’re not elected to think, they’re unthinking lobby fodder for the party whip. We’re governed by morons who know nothing about us and care even less.
10. The Long Goodbye
Scotland is leaving the UK. That’s a prediction, an inevitability, a certainty. It’s not a question of if, but of when. In the meantime we’ve got to put up with all this asinine crap while we wait for No voters to realise that the promises they were made are as worthless as an intervention in a Scotland Bill debate from an inbred Tory posh boy. But the penny is slowy dropping. Scotland will get nothing from Westminster, and Westminster will never change.
The only consolation is that we at least have an escape route.
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