Tomorrow, Monday, there’s a vote in the House of Commons on the expansion of Heathrow airport. Until recently the measure was going to be backed by the SNP because even though it’s a Conservative government measure, it was going to come with promises attached that should the SNP vote in favour, then Heathrow Airport Ltd and the UK government would back certain vague and unsubstantiated measures to support Prestwick airport and other equally vague economic gains for Scotland. The press was certain that the SNP was going to back the measure, that Heathrow airport expansion would be passed by Westminster, and Theresa May’s minority government could chalk up another victory.
Aviation is a reserved issue, which is why the SNP can vote on the expansion of an airport in England. Flights to Heathrow have consequences for Scotland, not the least of which is that Heathrow is a major aviation hub for Scotland. It might be better for Scotland to develop its own aviation hubs, but that’s a matter for after independence. As part of the UK Scotland is going to have to rely on Heathrow. However the exansion plans did come with a promise that, amongst other things, Prestwick would be used as a logistics hub during the construction work. We’re told that there would be lower landing charges for planes flying from Scotland and there would be more flights from Scottish airports to Heathrow. There are promises that the expansion of Heathrow and the building of a third runway would lead to the creation of 16,000 jobs in Scotland. However there’s a remarkable lack of detail on how that would happen.
However the agreement with the SNP was reached several years ago, back in a distant age when the British government could still lay claim to a fig leaf of honesty and honourability, or at least when it was still pretending that it could. That fig leaf was stripped off and doused with paraquat during the EU Exit Bill debate when the British government revealed that it regards Scotland with contempt. It revealed the ugly truth. There is no respect. There is no equality. There is nothing but contempt and disdain and the dead and shrivelled claim of the British government to represent all parts of the UK equally.
So bugger Heathrow for a gemme o sodgies. The behaviour of the British government over the far more important issue of Brexit and their shameful betrayal of the devolution settlement means that no Scottish MP should back any measures brought in by Theresa May. No Scottish MP should cooperate in any shape or form with anything that allows Theresa May and her bunch of constitutional vandals to crow about any victory whatsoever. The SNP should tell Theresa, you’ll have had yer Heathrow expansion. You can’t do deals with people who can’t be trusted, and the only thing that Scotland can trust in Theresa May’s government is the knowledge that it can’t be trusted.
After the barefaced lies told by representatives of the British government during the EU Exit bill debates, after the way in which they have reneged on their promises to Scotland, after the way in which all the promises and commitments made to the people of Scotland by the anti-independence parties have been broken, exactly how can we trust anything that they tell us at all? Vague promises of unsubstantiated economic advantages for Scotland should the SNP support Heathrow expansion are not enough. Even a written promise signed in blood would not be enough. The British government has proven that it does not see itself as being bound by any promise that it makes to Scotland or to the people of Scotland, no matter how solemnly it is vowed.
Why should Scotland believe in the promises of the British government that if the SNP backs Heathrow expansion then the British government will help to ensure that there are some vague and unspecified economic advantages for Scotland in the deal? We remember that they promised us that if Scotland voted no in 2014 there would be massive investment in the Scottish renewable energy industry. That didn’t happen, and now renewable energy companies are taking the expertise they’ve developed in Scotland abroad. We remember that we were told that jobs in Scotland would be safe if Scotland voted against independence, yet those jobs are at risk now with Brexit.
Time after time after time, the British government has demonstrated that once it has secured whatever it was seeking to secure, then it no longer feels any need to fulfil the promises it made in order to secure it. This isn’t a one off lapse. This hasn’t even happened on a mere handful of occasions. It happens time after time. The betrayal of a Westminster promise to Scotland is the norm, not the exception. Why should the promises made to Scotland in order to secure the support of Scottish MPs for Heathrow expansion be any different? All the more so since the promises made to Scotland about Heathrow are vague and uncertain.
Over this weekend, there are hints in the press that the SNP is getting cold on the idea of supporting Heathrow expansion. There is not enough detail about how benefits to Scotland would be delivered. That’s code for the British government giving itself a get out clause the width of the space between Ross Thomson’s ears. We have that infamous Vow as the classic example of what happens when Scotland allows itself to be persuaded by vague and uncertain promises made by Westminster.
It’s not just Scotland that the British government is lying to about Heathrow. The claim that Heathrow expansion can be delivered within the UK’s international carbon reduction commitments looks highly unlikely. And let us not forget that the same government which is claiming to deliver a third runway within its environmental and carbon reduction commitments has recently proven itself to be unwilling to develop and invest in Scotland’s renewable energy industries.
You don’t do deals with liars. The only thing you can do is to demonstrate to them that there are consequences, and one of those consequences is to cease to cooperate with them. The SNP should not just refuse to support the bill allowing expansion of Heathrow to go ahead, it should actively oppose. Scotland should not be in the business of facilitating any victories for Theresa May and her band of constitutional vandals. The SNP should bring them down to earth.
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