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Well that must be a kick in the teeth, he tittered. It must be hard being a Scottish Tory. There you are, on your knees and faithfully licking the boots of the British Conservative establishment, and it only goes and kicks you in the gob. A poll of Conservative members carried out by YouGov has found that almost two thirds (63%) of Conservative party members would prefer to see Scotland become independent than for Brexit not to happen. Only 29% thought it was a price not worth paying for Brexit. If the don’t knows are removed a whopping 68.5% of Conservatives would prefer to give up on Scotland than to give up on Brexit. For all that the Tories in Scotland bang on about the precious union, it seems that a large majority of their pals in the rest of the UK are saying, “Precious doesn’t impress us.”
It must be even more galling for the Ruth Davidson acolytes to discover that Scotland is even less popular with Conservative members in the rest of the UK than Northern Ireland is. That’s Northern Ireland with its history of violence, bombings, kneecappings, and a far worse sectarianism than exists in Scotland. 59% of Conservative members would be happy for Northern Ireland to leave the UK in order to ensure that Brexit happened, significantly less than would be happy to see the back of Scotland. For all that the Tories and their Better Together pals harp on about the bonds that unite us, it seems that right wing voters in the rest of the UK don’t share the same sentiments. Scotland’s just too much hassle for them.
The same poll found that 26% of Conservative party members would be actively happy to see Scotland leave the UK, whereas only 20% expressed a similar sentiment about Northern Ireland. Ruth hen, they’re just not that into you. What this poll means is that a future Conservative PM could decide to cut his losses as far as Scotland is concerned, and not stand in the way of Scottish independence in order to boost the strength of the Conservatives in the rest of the UK – and crucially he wouldn’t suffer any negative consequences from his party’s supporters for doing so. The Conservative and Unionist Party isn’t the Conservative and Unionist Party after all, it’s the Conservative and English Nationalist Brexit Party.
The only thing that Conservative party members thought would be worse than Brexit not happening would be Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. That’s the only outcome that could result in a majority of Conservatives preferring Brexit not to take place. That’s how tribal, partisan, and short termist the Conservative party has become.
How can Ruth Davidson still claim that her party is the party to defend this so-called Union when her own party members are so willing to throw it under a bus in order to achieve the nakedly English nationalist goal of Brexit? She can no longer make a pitch to Scottish voters who still oppose independence that a vote for her party is a vote to strengthen the UK, when a large majority of her own party is ready to get rid of Scotland if it proves expedient.
This is the light that the Conservative leadership candidates’ statements about refusing to allow another independence referendum needs to be seen in. They’re only saying it because they seek the backing of Scottish Tory MPs. But after Scotland wipes out the Tories in the next Westminster election, which all the polls are pointing to, that will no longer be a consideration. It is now all the more important that the independence movement ensures that Scotland once again becomes a Tory free zone in Westminster elections.
Coming as it does on top of the unearthing of pronouncements from the leading candidate for the next Conservative Prime Minister that being Scottish should rule you out from ever being Prime Minister, this seriously undermines what’s left of Conservative arguments against independence.
But it gets worse. Today, another old newspaper column was unearthed by Wings Over Scotland, this time from Michael Gove – who said this week that under no circumstances would he facilitate another independence referendum. Yet in the 1990s he himself wrote about the bankruptcy of arguments for the union. He thinks that there is no argument for the union, but he’s still determined to prevent Scotland having a say on deciding its own future. That puts his hypocrisy on the drug issue into the shade.
The Scottish Tories only have themselves to blame of course. For decades their strategy for fending off the independence movement has relied upon negativity. The core of this strategy has been telling Scots that our country is poor and it relies upon English subsidies. The GERS figures were introduced in the 1990s precisely in order to make that argument to the electorate in Scotland. It was a means to fend off demands for devolution. The same exercise in miserablism has repeated itself on a loop ever since, reaching a crescendo during the independence referendum campaign when serried ranks of anti-independence campaigners lined up to lecture us about the fiscal transfer. We were expected to believe that Scotland is the only impoverished entity in the universe which Conservatives throw billions of pounds at out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. Because willingly giving away free money to poor people is totally in character for them.
Not everyone in Scotland was convinced, but plenty in England were. There were and are many Scottish independence supporters arguing that Scotland is perfectly viable financially, indeed that this country would be better off managing its own resources. But that’s a message that rarely broke through into the traditional media, certainly not in the rest of the UK. Somehow the Scottish Tories seem to have thought that voters in England wouldn’t notice their insistent message that Scotland is ripping England off and that Scotland should shut up and be grateful. But they did. How could they not?
The Scottish Conservatives could have spent the past couple of decades building a positive case for the UK, but all that their relentless negativity has produced is a deep well of resentment in England. Now they’re seeing the consequences. They’re reduced to professing their love to a UK that doesn’t love them back. It’s like one of those songs that moody teenagers mope to in their bedrooms, only the video stars Ross Thomson and David Mundell. Which is just disturbing.
Scotland needs to ask itself what it is doing in a so-called Union with another country which is happy to dispose of us if Scotland stands in the way of an English nationalist wet dream. It tells us not only that Scotland is not valued, more importantly it tells us that the people who are about to choose the next Prime Minister of the UK do not want Scotland to have any say, any influence, or any effect, on the shaping of Brexit. In their eyes the UK is not a partnership of nations. It’s England and its appurtenances. Scotland’s role is to make English nationalists feel that they’re not really nationalists at all. We’re just a bit of colourful tartan decoration, and we can be got rid of if we start to insist on having some political substance.
I don’t want to live in an appurtenance, I want to live in a country that shapes its own destiny. The union is already dead. We’re just haggling over the funeral arrangements.