The problem with Holyrood

This year the Scottish Parliament becomes 20 years old. For the past 20 years Scotland has had a forum to express its national will, we have seen a parliament restored to our capital city and for the first time in the history of this ancient nation the people have enjoyed the exercise of mass democracy. Scotland has discovered that it is exceptionally good at the democratic process, that our democratic instincts run strong and deep. After all, this is a land which is able to conduct a debate about independence, a debate which in most countries is conducted with violence, states of emergency, disappearances, and bombs and bullets. Yet the complaints in Scotland centre largely on people being unpleasant to one another on social media.

In normal countries the anniversary of the re-establishment of the national parliament would be the occasion for celebration, for a spot of pride, for a little bit of back patting. But this is Scotland. Cue a predictable series of articles from British nationalist commentators about the problem with the Scottish Parliament, and that problem, they all agree, is the SNP.

The SNP, they claim, has used the Scottish Parliament as a platform from which to propagate invented and spurious complaints about a British state that’s only ever concerned itself with altruism and to fall over itself to bestow gifts and presents upon a Scottish populace. Scotland would tug its collective forelock in gratitude if it weren’t for that pesky SNP and its insistence on pointing out that being grudgingly granted a few more crumbs still doesn’t address the unfairness of not having a seat at the table. Look, you’ve got some more crumbs Scotland. Eat them and rejoice at the munificence.

A quick search on Google for the phrase “SNP grievance” returns thousands of results from anti-independence politicians and newspapers. The phrase implies that there’s not really anything for Scotland to get upset about, it’s all manufactured and invented. What they never do is to acknowledge that the reason why the SNP’s grievances gain traction with the electorate is because they’re justified. It’s not unreasonable to complain about a wrong. It’s unreasonable not to. Anyone can monger a grievance, but unless others agree with you, you’re going to be mongering alone. The repeated electoral success of the SNP proves that the shortcomings and failures of the British state which the party points out to the voters of Scotland have a basis in reality.

What the British nationalist apologists are really upset about is that for the first time in Scottish history there is an institution and a forum for highlighting the shortcomings of the British state and this pretendy Union that’s not really a Union. For decades, indeed hundreds of years, those shortcomings and failures were firmly shut inside the shortbread tin. Devolution shone a light on them. Devolution gave Scotland a wee taster of what it might be like to be a normal country, instead of being just the idea of a country comforting itself with the myth that it was a partner in the UK.

This is a Union in which one partner gets its way by virtue of its size and population, and the smaller partners have to suck it up without possessing any formal mechanisms to limit or constrain the actions of the largest partner irrespective of the negative effects upon them. Scotland could pretend to itself that it was in a genuine union as long as Scotland and England were politically on the same page, and following the post-war settlement they were. At least until Thatcher came along and cracked the facade. Brexit has brought the entire edifice tumbling down. Without devolution, Scotland would have had no political platform to highlight the myth of the British unitary state. Naturally British nationalists don’t like that. Naturally they’re going to complain about grievance mongering, because those who are always quickest to claim victim status are those who feel that their privileges are under threat. In their eyes it’s a greater wrong to highlight the myth of union than it is to propagate the lie in the first place.

But even most apologists for the British state can’t ignore the reality that while devolution has brought about greater participation in democracy within Scotland, that in Holyrood we have a Parliament which strives for modern standards and practices, imperfect as it may be, the devolution experiment takes place within a Britain which has stubbornly refused to reform the Westminster Parliament itself.

Those who seek to retain Scotland within the UK have no remedy for this. All they have is the fantasy of the federalism fairy, who will wave her magic wand and make everything equitable and just again. Then Scotland will once again return to the magic land beloved of British nationalists, when Scotland was content in its status as a part of the UK and that nasty SNP was no longer the dominant player on the political scene. The fairy made her most recent outing in an article in the Herald today. But the federalism fairy is a creature of the myth of union, it’s a fiction, a character in a story that British nationalists in Scotland tell themselves in order to square the circle of Scotland being a nation that’s not a nation, a country that’s not allowed to act like a country.

From a Scottish “Unionist” perspective, Brexit has made reform of the UK an imperative. It’s the only way that they can perpetuate their beloved myth. The truth is that Westminster will not reform itself because Scotland wants it to, and Scotland has no means of forcing it to. So instead we see blame being cast at the SNP. We see threats and scare stories about how dreadful independence would be. What we signally fail to see from supporters of the British state is any realistic prospectus or plan to improve Scotland’s lot within the UK. They can’t offer any such plan, because to do so runs straight into the central weakness of their position. Scotland isn’t a partner in a union at all, because the union is a fairy story. Within the UK Scotland gets what is in Westminster’s interests, not Scotland’s.

The problem with Holyrood isn’t the SNP, it’s the British state and the Westminster Parliament. There’s only one way to remedy that. It’s to make sure that by the time that the Scottish Parliament reaches its 21st birthday, it’s the grown up adult parliament of an independent nation.

My piece in today’s The National, about how the election of Jeremy Corbyn didn’t bring a fundamental change in the Labour party.  It just gave them a new way to lie.

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42 comments on “The problem with Holyrood

  1. cubby says:

    Excellent post as ever.

  2. Stan Wilson says:

    Och Paul, disnae the truth ow wit ye ‘rite jist stick in the “Imperialist” craws….. (smiley thingy).

  3. deelsdugs says:


  4. Diogenes says:

    excellent I like this quote because those who are always quickest to claim victim status are those who feel that their privileges are under threat.

  5. Molly McC says:

    And with its 21st Birthday…the Keys to the Door!

  6. […] via The problem with Holyrood […]

  7. Andy Anderson says:

    I will be happy if we are just in an Indy campaign this time next year with a win before the end of 2020. Then if They say “now is not the time” we hold a parliamentary election to get a second Yes vote and if they still say No then LDI. LDI being a legal Declaration of Independence as they have broken the 1707 treaty.

    I know many want things to move faster but we need to take people with us and get the numbers up.

    Having said all that if it is a No Deal Brexit in March then Yes will come much sooner. To me that could be the end of this year.

    Your truth about our naff Union is spot on Paul.

  8. […] Wee Ginger Dug The problem with Holyrood This year the Scottish Parliament becomes 20 years old. For the past 20 years Scotland […]

  9. Brian Mckenna says:

    Excellent as usual

  10. The Treaty of Union will not stand up in any court today as it is a rant against the Catholic religion. The 25 articles of the treaty, which allows the English majority Westminster Government to alter the original treaty as it wishes. They did this within months of the signing of the treaty up to the present time. Bought and sold for ENGLISH gold.

  11. Macart says:

    Well said Paul. 🙂

    To me, true union is about the whole being made better from the sum of different parts. It’s about equality. It’s about come and go. It’s about equal partners accepting each other’s differences, but making and working toward something better because they choose to. It’s about care. You care. I care. We care. About each other and what we’re trying to achieve together. It’s about like minds working as one.

    It’s not about one big partner telling the others to get in line because reasons. It’s not about intimidation and undermining trust and confidence. It’s not about beating or misleading your partner into submission or compliance. It’s not about exceptionalism, or dominance. It’s not about force or hatred. It doesn’t patronise or condescend. Those things aren’t unity. They’re institutionalized and systemic abuse.

    The former, I’d say is the civic nationalism promoted by Scotland’s government and the YES movement. The latter, is the nationalism promoted by Westminster government.

    Scotland’s population is due and needs something worth celebrating. Coming of age and taking responsibility for our own governance should make a beaut of an excuse for a partaaay. 😎

  12. M boyd says:

    The problem with Holyrood is Sturgeon. After the Salmondgate stitch up she has to resign.

    • John Boyd says:

      Misses the point. People, Events, Ideas. Which is the constant?

    • Eckle Fechan says:

      The problem with that statement is it’s a loadaypish. Nicola Sturgeon is, IMHO, quite possibly the most important woman in Scottish history for 450 odd years and the establishment fear her as much as they did Mary. Have faith that her fate and legacy be much different but as marked for future generations and respectable historians to admire. Faith. Hope. Love.

    • You’ll never get this pointless 12 seconds clacking nonsense back again, ‘M boyd’.

    • cubby says:

      Yes and Nelson Mandela was a secret white supremacist. More nonsense from M Boyd.

    • If only Scotland wasn’t cursed with damned oil, Sam.
      Our time has come.

      • Macart says:

        It’s the first of the three big lies Jack. Too poor.

        When examined objectively, I think folk’ll find that for a nation of five and half million we’re actually fabulously wealthy. Scotland is uniquely blessed with an abundance of natural resources. The hydrocarbons are a nice bonus tbs, but they’re a bonus.

        Too wee? Only exists in the mind of the British nationalist ideologue. Too stupid? Weeelllll? Ignorance, or rather being kept in ignorance, isn’t stupidity. It’s the absence of knowledge. As Thepnr below points out, when you are supplied with that knowledge you can form an entirely different world view in pretty rapid order. 🙂

        • This time, we flood the media with Truth, debunk the lies, and provide assurance for those less informed that Scotland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, in every sense.
          It’s out of control now. They cannot stop us.

          • Molly McC says:

            This came to mind Jack,,reading your last sentence.

            • She Who Lights Up My Life With Each Passing Day treated me to Rod’s concert opening the Hydro.
              Pure magic for us ol’rockers.
              They can’t stop us now, Molly.
              The UK is finished, and sadly, I suspect that WM doesn’t give a damn, as long as England ‘takes back control’, whatever that means.
              Hugs ‘n’ stuff.

  13. Alice Sharp says:

    Newsnight tonight blatant link with far right activists and the egg throwing event at J Murphy during Indy Ref 1

    They must be preparing the ground for an all out propaganda attack on Scotland.

    • We’re ready, Alice.
      The farcical argument that because Brexit is such a disastrophe, Scotland quitting the UK would be ten times worse because we trade 4 times as much with England than the EU, is gathering momentum; they’ve even have a name for it:- ‘Scexit’.
      And that’s all they’ve got.
      When Scotland opts for Self Determination (which is inevitable now), initially as the continuer EU member state when EngWaland slips its moorings and drifts off onto the Free Market World of dodgy deals bartering Kendal Mint for Argentinian Corned Beef, our neighbours to the South will be begging for our produce as part of their No Deal/Norway Plus/Canada Plus Plus Deal with our European Union.
      Our voice within the EU will be as powerful as the other 27 member states, and WM will at last be held accountable to Scotland for its actions over the past 300 years.
      Always one with the eye for a bargain, Alice, I bought my desert boots at the open air market in Doncaster 25 years ago, a bargain.
      Our Parliament is only 20 years old, a pup, in political terms, but a healthy robust wee terrier, growing in stature with each passing year.

      I am not a member of the EssEnnPee, and fully expect the Party to wind down during the first term of New Scotland’s Parliament, or perhaps over the first decade of Independence.I blame the EssEnnPee for many things.
      How dare they not ‘open up our NHS to the market’?
      How dare they mitigate the Bedroom Tax
      How dare they not charge to travel across our bridges and along our highways?
      How dare they save a fortune in nugatory administration costs by not charging for prescriptions?
      How dare they not charge tuition fess?
      How dare they devise a Social Security and Welfare system that outlaws ATOS sanctions to starve claimants into penury and slow death?
      How dare they condemn our beloved Trident?
      How dare they not ‘blame the victim’ by grilling rapes victims because in Fascist Britain the ‘poor’ are limited to two children, in work or out?
      How dare they pump millions into ‘joined up’ Health Care and rolling out a programme of LA’s and NHS working in partnership?
      How dare they build bridges and stuff?
      How dare they argue that Scotland is a nation in its own right?
      How dare they put the hopes, needs, and welfare of the citizens of Scotland first?

      Alice, Murphy got whacked by an egg.
      It didn’t all kick off then.

      120,000 UK citizens died because of Willie Rennie’s and Danny Alexander’s Collusion with the Blue Tories since 2010.
      The UN Report reveals that 15 million Brits live in poverty and 1.5 million in destitution.
      There is blood on their well paid hands.

      We are about to run out of medicine and French plonk.
      We are at war with WM.
      A war of ideals, ideas, and words.
      We are demanding ‘ Self Determination’, we are not ‘nationalists’.
      The very idea that the RH Member for Solihull or Surbiton controls Scotland from April onwards is absurd and an abomination which I and millions of us will resist and quite frankly ignore.
      In any future debate on TV or Radio, the questions must be asked of Mundell Leonard or Rennie.
      Are you a Scottish citizen? Is Scotland a nation in its own right?
      We must frame the debate from now on in.
      No more Glenn Campbell nonsense that we start any debate from the given that Scotland is a vanquished nation and that our future depends on London’s ‘permission’ for what we do.
      I ask no one’s permission to be a freeman, in my country, Scotland.
      Great to have you back, Paul.
      We are on a war footing now, on so many levels.
      The Union is ‘a fairy story’.
      Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

      • diabloandco says:

        I have one correction for you Jack – Murphy far from being ‘whacked’ by an egg had it gently placed on his shirt and squished .
        “Whacking’ did not come into it!

        Welcome home Paul , I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and new year.

        • I resort to the harsher onomatopoeia ‘whacked’ as hyperbole to emphasise the ridiculous notion that Murphy being ‘attacked’ by the Egg Assassin was as dangerous and vicious as cracking an egg and ‘plopping; it into a frying pan.
          Yet it is muttered in the same breath as the murder of Jo Cox Down There.
          The Scottish Blue Tories, Ruth Davidson’s Party, the Dirty Mundell Baker’s Dozen,betrayed all of Scotland yesterday by voting with May to finance a No Deal scenario despite Scotland voting Remain; they serve themselves and their English Masters, not the people of Scotland.
          Of course the fact that the Government was defeated on Finance legislation to allocate funds for a No Deal outcome, with 20 senior Blue Tory MP’s, most ex Cabinet Members, voting with the Opposition, was buried on TV news this morning.
          Black Ops sent a drone into the skies above Heathrow..hold the front page! Some passengers had their flights delayed by nearly an hour!
          In London, a 14 year old boy was stabbed to death by 3 men when his moped collided with their car.
          England has lost its head, yet this atrocity only makes second item on the BBC Brexit News this morning.
          The Ministry of Truth in full flow.
          London will erupt in flames soon; of that I have no doubt.
          But you are correct, diabloandco. Inadvertantly I lend credence to the nonsense being peddled by the Brit Nat Media that Scotland was a bloodbath during Indyref1.
          Murphy, where is he now?
          Signing on?
          I, Daniel Blake?

          • Robert Harrison says:

            So England has finally self destructed well when claiming your so superior and ignoring problems when they was small theye just get bigger untill something breaks this has been coming and honestly the kid me would of rubbed this in the Englanders faces with constant I told you so but as an adult all I can do is be angry how stupid and deluded England was to be so uncaring about politics and supremacist jerks they allowed this level of bad to happen.

    • cubby says:

      How often will the BBC show that clip of Murphy. Murphy will now be best known for getting egged. What a legacy.

      In Murphy’s clarkston constituency during indyref1 a large number of independence supporters held a rally at Clarkston toll. During the rally the police came and told them that their cars had all been vandalised in the nearby car park if they had a yes sticker on them. This did not even make the local newspapers. Balanced reporting – no chance at all.

      • Robert Harrison says:

        Yet they claim independence supporters are voilent like I told one britnat troll on the national website you don’t start the fight then play the victim for any angry retaliation.

  14. Thepnr says:

    When we did get devolution I wasn’t that bothered and in fact voted against it because I listened to my old man. It was through total ignorance that I cast my vote the way I did, I simply couldn’t understand why we would need MP’s in Scotland and in Westminster and I really wasn’t that bothered.

    It was a mystery to have two MP’s but I had no idea what the Scottish parliament was about and no idea that it only looked after “devolved” powers and I’d no idea what devolved powers were.

    That was then and man have I changed and mainly because I’ve learned more. Not mainly but only because I know more now. All the way up until 2012 I would have opposed Independence, then I learned more and became unsure, I learned more and became convinced that Independence was the way to go.

    I think there are many still waiting to find out for themselves what I did and it’s our job to give them that.

    The BIG BIG difference between the last referendum and the next one is that we have never let up in the ,meantime and blogs like this and Wings keep providing the information people need to change their mind. Said often and it’s true, once your eyes are opened there is no going back.

    • cubby says:

      You’ ve come a long way. What I take from that story is that there was still a big vote for devolution in 1997 and with more people like yourself the potential vote for independence is in theory very large indeed. It’s only the corrupt media that is holding back the dam.

  15. susan says:

    One worry of mine is the influence of a potential fifth column – the British civil service – on Holyrood.

    • john burrows says:

      There is nothing “potential” about it Susan. The British Civil Service is an active opponent of Scottish independence. As it has been for all of its history. The stitch up of Alex Salmond is only their latest scheme.

      The FM has made a tactical error defending these Whitehall “candidates” for the SG. She should have asked for their resignation. By defending them, she has taken upon herself their mendacity. The Unionist parties and press, with their army of SIU trolls, are even now blaming the FM for the blundering incompetence and outright duplicity of Evens and McKinnon.

      As deflection is now their only defence against the absolute shit show that is the UK these days, Whitehall is no doubt very pleased with how things are operating smoothly on the Scottish front.

      I am an ardent admirer of Ms. Sturgeon but she has allowed herself to be manipulated. Given their working relationship, she would have found it hard to accept that Evens had betrayed her. Unfortunately the FM has demonstrated a particular weakness over the years she has helmed the party – throwing SNP elected MPs/MSPs under the bus if they bring the party into disrepute. Even when these have been contrived by her opponents.

      Our union foes have used this weakness to their advantage in this instance. The entire affair will lead the Unionist press here in Scotland to the exclusion of all else for the foreseeable future. Brexit, the most significant event in the history of these isles since the end of WWII, will be reduced to a side issue. For the Union, this is a made to order solution to the Scottish question.

    • Puzzled Puss says:

      If Fluffy’s civil servants have been misbehaving, surely Fluffy should resign.
      Oops! I forgot, Fluffy doesn’t do ‘resigning’.

  16. Lou Nisbet says:

    Part of the problem with Holyrood is that even the people who WORK in that house refuse (or worse don’t know) how to pronounce its name. The clue is in history and if you don’t know that then simply the SPELLING aught to tell you. It is Holy Rood NOT and never will be Holly rood. This is all
    attributed to the BBC and must be the best propaganda ploy they have ever made against Scotland’s parliament.
    Those in WasteMonster in the know must pee themselves laughing when anyone up to and including the First Minister of this country does not know how to pronounce the name of their own house.

  17. theshooglybard says:

    The reasons why ‘those shortcomings and failures were firmly shut inside the shortbread tin’ for so many decadesis two-fold: (1) within the general population there was very little nationist support, at most no support, until the last decades of the 20th century. Dividing lines were based on religion up until this point. (2) After the Act of the Union 1707 there was mass protest at the Union (AKA Jacobites) certainly wasn’t shut up.

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