The cost of Union is £2 billion, at least that’s the cost in cash. The cost in self respect is incalculable. According to the think tank IPPR Scotland that’s the amount that the Scottish budget will be cut by over the next few years due to the policies of a Tory government that Scotland didn’t vote for. Increasing austerity is Scotland’s reward for voting to stay a part of the UK. Punishing the poor and the low paid, rewarding the rich and big corporations. It’s the British way that means that public services will be slashed to balance the books that were unbalanced by bankers betting our houses on profits that could never materialise. So Scotland faces cuts, increasing poverty, and a widening chasm between rich and poor.
Everywhere else in the UK the Labour party campaigns against Tory budget cuts, but in Scotland Labour talks only about SNP cuts. Search amongst the press releases of the Labour party in Scotland for condemnation of Tory cuts, and you’ll find only the tumbleweed between the ears of James Kelly MSP. This is that Labour party, remember, which wants to sell itself as Scotland’s best defence against the Tories. The same Labour party that abstained on Tory austerity.
Cuts are on the way, imposed by a Tory government and these cuts will of course be presented to the Scottish public by the Unionist media as SNP cuts, eager as the Tory boys are to boost the Labour party in Scotland as their only hope of avoiding the inevitable slide towards independence. It’s one of the strange ironies of Scottish life that the Unionist media which campaigned so bitterly and fervently for Scotland to remain a part of the UK treats Scotland’s finances as though we were already independent. They never look to London when the topic of discussion is the Scottish budget, blame starts and ends in Edinburgh. The Scottish budget is determined in a vacuum, this time one which isn’t between James Kelly’s ears.
The only thing that Scotland’s Unionist parties are interested in is what the Scottish Government can do to ameliorate the policies of the Westminster Government. Never mind the mad Tory axeman chasing Scotland’s public services with a hatchet, the only important point is how many plasters Holyrood is going to put on the wounds. You might have though that devolution meant Scotland having the ability to make its own way within the UK, but apparently it means Scotland getting the ability to raise its taxes or axe its public services in order to deal with cuts that Westminster makes. Westminster’s still going to punish us, Scotland gets to choose the between the methods of punishment. But we shouldn’t complain about Westminster’s generosity, every new power for Scotland comes with a free gift of handcuffs and a muzzle.
It’s not so much devolution as it is 50 Shade of Grey as a constitutional principle. Scotland only gets to decide whether it wants George Osborne to whip us or whether we’ll suffer the cuts. Either way we’re still in shackles, still on a lead. Apparently this is the home rule that they promised us, a dog on a slightly longer leash that still doesn’t run free. Holyrood can still be called to Westminster’s heel any time the Tories or their Labour enablers choose.
I’m fed up with this. Fed up with Scotland’s legitimate desire for self-government being used as a plaything by Westminster parties and a means to beat up the SNP. Fed up of waking up of a morning and turning on the news only to learn of another way in which the rich and powerful and well connected are screwing over the weak and the poor. All they ever do is to take the piss.
The settled will of the Scottish people means nothing, it’s all just fuel for a game between rich men in a pretendy parlie far away, where invented traditions and fancy costumes act to disguise the naked power grab of an elite that’s accountable to no one. It’s the mother of parliaments, the great parade of British democracy, the pretence that your vote makes a difference. Clean for the Queen while the rich clean up and you’re left in the gutter.
Here we are, a few weeks out from a Scottish Parliament election, and the press is obsessed with a turf war between two cheeks of a Tory arse. It’s the Dave and Boris show, two spoiled rich kids using the future of you and me to settle a teenage argument. A century ago British politics revolved around the interests of the landed gentry, 100 years on and nothing has changed. A century ago Scotland was promised home rule, 100 years on and we still don’t have it. A century ago the Labour party promised to abolish the House of Lords, 100 years on and it’s stuffed full of Labour peers. Do you need any more proof that the British state is incapable of reforming itself?
And the price tag for the privilege of our domicile in this dysfunctional disaster of Downton politics is a cut of £2 billion to the Scottish budget. Here’s your real choice, you can tug your forelock, defer to your betters. Accept the future that Dave and Boris decide for us. Swallow the swill and smile gratefullly. Down in the garbage there’s a place for you. Just don’t get ideas above your station, don’t imagine that this land that is yours is run for your benefit. And don’t think that it’s going to be any better for your children, who’ll be born into debt and remain indebted for the whole of their lives. The payday loan and the student debt are the slave collars of the 21st century.
Or you can say screw this for a gemme o sodgies. There’s got to be a better way, and there is a better way. The better way is to shake of the powerlessness of union and take the future into Scotland’s hands. In May you can vote for a party that won’t play by Westminster’s rules. Vote to break the shackles. Vote to empower yourself. Vote Scottish.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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