You’ll have had your vow then Scotland. On Tuesday the UK and Scottish governments finally reached an agreement on the fiscal settlement underpinning the Scotland Bill, bringing to a conclusion the exercise in misbegotten mendacity begun by Gordie Broon with his front page spread in the Daily Record. The image of Gordie spreading is enough to make anyone ill, but extracting the commitments which the Unionist parties solemnly swore to deliver has been a process of enscunnerment guaranteed to sicken even the strongest of stomachs.
We started off with a commitment to full fat federalism, which we were promised would give us Home Rule, the most devoey maxiest Holyrood this side of Reporting Scotland, all your self-governing eggs in a basket wrapped up in a union fleg bow. Then there was the Smith Commission and the Unionist parties smashed each egg one after the other until all that was left was the union fleg bow with which they hoped to strangle Scottish self-determination. Then as the remnants of Scotland’s expectations passed through the bowels of Westminster they were stained and soiled and every amendment proposed by the SNP was thrown up and thrown back in our faces.
The Tory Government made no bones about how it was constructing a trap for Scotland and wasn’t even pretending to answer the demand for substantial home rule. They didn’t want to make the Scottish Parliament permanent, they looked askance when we asked if we could get the TV remote control. Away to your bedroom Scotland, you can watch what you’re told to and don’t dare get ideas above your TV station. We’re introducing EVEL because the real lesson from the independence campaign is all about England, just like the current referendum is all about England too. Now off to bed Jockish persons, your masters will inform you when a decision has been reached. You’ll be told about it somewhere between the murrdurrs, the cute kittens and the fitba on the news where power isn’t.
Westminster decided that in return for its begrudging powers that were designed to be unusable, that it hoped would be a trap to destroy the SNP, that Scotland was going to have to pay £7 billion in a Better Together Levy. Their best of both worlds means paying for nothing twice.
The Tories not only sought to use the devolution process for their own short term party political gain, they wanted Scottish workers to pay for it and Labour was perfectly happy with that. They were determined to extract their own political advantage from your granny’s care provision, from your library services, from your child’s education. That’s your no-detriment there they smugged, no detriment to the UK Treasury and we can give Google a tax deal. They hoped in vain there would be no detriment to Labour’s chances of avoiding extinction. Fat chance of that.
Even when faced with almost half of Scotland, and a majority in the country’s largest city, being so fed up and pissed off with the Westminster system that they supported independence from the UK, the Unionist parties couldn’t help themselves. We thought they were getting a warning shot across the bows, they thought they’d dodged the bullet and could go on keeping dodging it indefinitely. They’re never going to change.
When you have to fight tooth and nail for things that you’ve already been promised in a solemn vow and you still only manage to extract less than a half of what was pledged, there is no respect agenda and there never was. That ought to be clear even to the most obtuse voter by now. The only thing that Westminster respects is the threat of another independence referendum. The only way to make Westminster respect Scotland will be to deal with it as an independent power. Bullingdon boys don’t respect the lower classes, and as long as Scotland remains a part of this Union that’s what we’re going to be.
It was only by threatening to bring the entire sorry process of the Scotland Bill to a shuddering halt that the Scottish Government was able to reduce the Better Together Levy to £2.5 billion, and then to zero. Or more exactly, they were able to defer Westminster screwing us over for five years. This is Westminster’s definition of no detriment to Scotland. They’re still planning to screw us over, but they’re kicking it into the long grass for five years in the hope that there will be a Unionist party in power in Holyrood by then.
Westminster doesn’t comprehend no-detriment as far as Scotland is concerned, because as far as Westminster is concerned Scotland exists to do as it’s told. Scotland’s role in the Union is to supply labour, resources, and the supranational window dressing that allows British nationalists to pretend that their nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. We’re the sub-state of Ruth Davidson’s imagination, a state of nuclear submarines that we didn’t ask for, that we don’t want, and that we can’t get rid of.
Och those Scots and their grievance culture, whine the Unionist parties. Grievance means pointing out the hypocrisy of Westminster, grievance means resisting policies we don’t want from parties we didn’t vote for, grievance means demanding the Unionist parties fulfil their promises and keep their word. We’ll be keeping on grievancing until Westminster tells the truth, until Scotland gets the settlement that the Scottish people want, and not the settlement that the Unionist parties deign to give us.
The vow has been delivered my arse. It’s a strange definition of delivery, but then we live in a country where we have a goverment that got the support of less than 15% of voters and has just one MP and an unelected second chamber stuffed with party donors and superannuated politicians. Then the same goverment’s supporters complain that they want out of the EU because it’s not fair that a country can’t vote out those who govern it.
It’s not so much that the vow has been delivered as the Scottish Government has finally ripped half of a Christmas cracker out of the cold dead claws of the corpse of the British state. We’ve managed to get a plastic toy of powers that are effectively unusable, and a bad joke of a settlement. The best that can be said for it is at least it won’t do any harm.
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