A guest post by Samuel Miller
When I sat down to have my final rant before our host gets back, I had this idea of highlighting and talking about of the latest dubious Labour and Conservative press releases on the Scottish budget. Y’know, the ones where they claim that the Scottish Government has ripped £327 million away from local authorities and that a tax freeze has magically morphed into a tax hike, but I’m not going to do that. I’ll do exactly as I said I would in my last post and let the experts handle that one.
You see, when I sat down and started gathering the usual quotes and links and such, I started laughing. Couldn’t stop really. I simply marveled at the acres of hypocritical bullshittery a few simple clicks of your average pad or mouse could bring to your view. How impossible it is for the establishment parties to hide the latest policy reversal or a gaff in today’s modern communications and media environment.
The most prominent recent example of course, is the sheer acreage of column space devoted to the selling point of the ‘most powerful devolved parliament in the world’. A parly with the most sooperdooper raft of powers to fix everything from that annoying leak under your sink to the total reversal of Tory austerity policy and the economic omnishambles that is Brexitmageddon. Yet only recently we’ve been told by Labour in Scotland that what is really, really, really required is a really, real move toward a federal UK…REALLY!
We’re also well aware by this point of Mr Mundell’s often quoted sound bite on our current devolution settlement. “As a result, the Scottish Parliament will become one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.” David Mundell MP
Zattafac Mac? How does that statement measure up in practice when the constitutional and economic poop hits the fan, as it has over Brexit? Does the Scottish electorate have a powerful parly, which is regarded as an equal, valued and respected partner?
Not according to the case put forward by Lord Keen on behalf of the Westminster government in the Supreme Court just recently. He appeared quite certain of just what constitutional status and powers Scotland has within the better togetherest union in the history of unions. According to Mr Keen the Sewel convention is a mere serving suggestion and the Royal prerogative trumps any and all notion that the people of Scotland or their parly have a say in much of anything.
Or perhaps we could ask their gaffer, Prime Minister May and ask what she thinks about Scotland’s parliament, its powers, how its opinion may be regarded over important constitutional issues: “Because we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. There is no opt-out from Brexit. And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious Union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.” (‘divisive nationalists’ – EPIC LOL)
Maybe not, eh? Best leave it lie.
As I say, a few clicks and you are deluged by a flood of contradictory, misleading and oft times, just plain deliberately confusing bumf. So what powers do we have? Is there a line in the sand? Is the settlement THE settlement, or isn’t it? Is our parliament powerful and near autonomous in a union of equals, or powerless and requiring more powers to become more, but still not quite, equal? Not a week goes by without a U-turn (partial or full fat), a flip or a comical attempt to square a circle and shoe horn one ill-fitting narrative onto another. If you didn’t laugh at the day-to-day of ‘politics as it is practised’ you’d burst into tears of frustration.
Just to be absolutely clear though, a quick recap of the general thrust. We have the most powerful devolved parliament in the world, which is part of the oldest, most successful political union and ‘family’ of nations ever. Righto then.
It may be helpful however, if someone in heid office W1 could please explain a few things, because the mixed messages we’re getting from your branch offices and the meeja aren’t terribly clear. Ta much.
Whilst they’re at it, if we are an equal nation partner, maybe they could clear up just why a nation doesn’t get to freely set its own fiscal policy in its entirety, have its own broadcast media, choose its own foreign policy? Why can’t it freely decide which unions and treaties it prefers to keep, or how they choose to keep and honour those treaties? ‘Cause, y’know, that’s what an empowered parliament, an empowered government and an empowered people get to do. I mean we saw only recently (see under EU referendum), a parliament freely decide to hold a referendum on significant constitutional change and I don’t recall them asking the EU for special permission. Just a thought.
Common sense should at this point tell the reader exactly just how ’empowered’ Holyrood really is. In the face of the constitutional and economic challenges thrown up by the political upheavals of 2016, it appears oor parly is perhaps looking decidedly under powered and constrained at this point. The queries above are rhetorical to be fair, for the answers are out there and easily accessible to all.
That is the power of modern communication though, isn’t it? It’s why people don’t have to simply take for granted an unquestioned narrative spoon fed to them through, let’s face it, a fairly corporately and politically invested mainstream media anymore. When a story appears, a world of knowledge is merely a click or two away. The basis for a story can be examined, along with facts, figures, context, extenuating circumstances and either confirmed or ruled out. A policy wonk’s nightmare.
There is of course another aspect of modern communication which is particularly unhelpful to those and such as those. Near instant communication between people.
In other words, you lot being chatty!
You and how you communicate with others make the real difference. Access to a library of facts and opinion coupled with an active and engaged population who can instantly disseminate what they find in equally rapid fashion. Indeed it’s not uncommon these days to find stories can literally be verified or debunked before the ink is dry on the hard copy publication. You can chat across the interwebby, social meeja, yer soopersmertphone thingies in a heartbeat. You even discovered that it was possible to come together and create a new media which reflects your opinion and gives you access to the wealth of expertise, talent and life experience of others.
Who knew that people being curious, interested and engaged could effect so much change? People willing to reach out, sharing ideas and opinion… talking.
As I said above, this will be my last post before our host returns. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank readers for their visits and their kind comments. I’d also like to take the opportunity to wish everyone the very best for the festive period. A Merry Christmas and Happy New year one and all.