Back from London now, where I was doing a talk for the London branch of the SNP. The talk went really well, I met some lovely people, and Ginger – as you can see – was resolutely unimpressed by a famous London landmark. That’s a photie of the Shard, in case you were wondering. I was only away a couple of days, and it’s a holiday week, but there have still been a couple of interesting developments.
Firstly, the Unionists’ favourite provider of graphs did a radio debate with a proper economist. The one whom you cannot mention in case he appears, somewhat like Betelgeuse, appeared on BBC radio Scotland debating with Prof. Richard Murphy. The Unionists’ favourite graph drawer didn’t come across well, snidey, sneery, and arrogantly trying to patronise someone who very clearly knew a great deal more about the topic at hand than he did. Which only goes to show that graphs aren’t a good medium for radio.
If you disagree with him, you are at best a “flat earther” and an outlier. At worst he’ll take to social media and assert to his followers that you deliberately invented lies. However the crux of the argument was that he who cannot be named seemingly claimed that there’s no need for better data on economic activity and tax take in Scotland, because we’re a part of the UK and should jolly well be grateful for what we’re given. Then having denied the need for better and more rigorous data sets he criticises everyone else who has the audacity to point out the shortcomings in his Holy Book of GERS. This is what makes him and his followers GERS fundamentalists.
The GERS figures were never intended to give a picture of the finances of an independent Scotland, yet this is precisely what he and his followers have been using them for for years. You cannot use a set of statistics which have known shortcomings for a purpose for which they were never intended in the first place, while ignoring and dismissing their shortcomings and refusing to concede that the data is inadequate, and still claim that you’re following a solid scientific procedure.
While some of us on the independence side of the debate may have been incorrect in certain details, he’s wrong about the entire premise of his argument – a point he was forced to admit when he conceded that the GERS figures don’t actually tell you anything about the economy of a future independent Scotland, remarks which will most certainly return to haunt him. Because we’ll make sure that they do. And if you’ve conceded that the data set you use can’t tell you about the economy of an independent Scotland, it does beg the question of what the hell you’ve been up to for the past four years when you’ve been doing precisely that.
But he’s moving on to other things and this week it was announced that he’s involved in setting up a new Unionist think tank with TV historians Tom Holland and Dan Snow. Doubtless it will tell us why we shouldn’t vote for independence because of WW1 and the Industrial Revolution, forgetting that the main motivation for most of us in seeking independence is because we’d like to live in a country that looks to the future, and not one that obsessed about the past. Isn’t backward looking romantic nationalism what Unionists were supposed to be accusing independence supporters of?
The new think tank will probably round up a lot of TV celebrities like they did last time to put their names to a letter supporting the Union. Dan Snow is opposed to Scottish independence because his late father-in-law owned a holiday property in the Highlands that’s the size of West Lothian. Other celebs that were rounded up in support have reasons of their own. David Starkey is opposed to Scottish independence because he needs someone to feel superior to. Ben Fogle is opposed to Scottish independence because he thinks he’s a mountain in Argyll.
But it’s not just the prominent amateurs on the Unionist side who’ve been having a tough time this week, one of their most prominent professionals has been having an even worse time of it. Ruth Davidson’s carefully cultivated public persona as a cheeky and approachable compassionate conservative was stripped away to reveal the nasty and begrudging apologist for evil who was lurking underneath all along. Ruth defended the rape clause, a truly horrific provision in the new social security provisions which strips child support from third and subsequent children unless their mother can demonstrate that the child was the product of rape. It is unconscionably abhorrent to force a woman to relive a horrific and traumatic experience or be faced with the prospect of not being able to feed her children, and remember that by definition she will be a woman who is struggling to ensure that she has enough of an income to feed her family.
It’s bad enough that the mother has to go into the details of her sexual assault with an untrained and potentially unsympathetic DWP staff member, but she also has to put on official record that her child is a product of rape, meaning that at some point in the future it becomes more likely that the child will accidentally discover the truth about its origins when it gets a bit older. “Mum, why did you get child support for me even though you were only supposed to get child support for my older brother and sister?”
Ruth Davidson thinks that this is the most compassionate way of dealing with this issue. The most compassionate way would be not to put a woman through the ordeal in the first place, all for the sake of saving £13 quid a week, a sum that wouldn’t even pay for your average Tory MP’s lunch expenses. Make Google or Facebook or the oil giants or all those rich oligarchs who have investment properties in London pay some bloody taxes, then perhaps you wouldn’t have to put women through a horrendous ordeal in the first place. That would be a whole lot more compassionate.
However the real person who should be criticised in all this, at least according to Ruth Davidson, is Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish government could make up the difference, pouted Ruth and went on to accuse them of “gross hypocrisy”. Because when you’ve cheered on your pals for bullying and abusing vulnerable people, the real person who deserves criticism is the person who calls you out on it, because they could put a plaster on the wounds that you’ve caused. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Ruth Davidson that the people deserving of condemnation are those who bullied in the first place. And that, pretty much, is the definition of a Tory.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-14th-april-2017
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