There’s a lot of talk about what this election is about. It’s about Brexit. It’s about an independence referendum. It’s about protecting the NHS. It’s about poverty and inequality. It’s about holding power to account. It’s about the lies and deceit of Boris Johnson. It’s about austerity. It’s about access to affordable housing. The truth is that it is about all these things. This General Election is about the state we’re in. The state we’re in is a desperate state, a decrepit state, a declining state. The state we’re in is the disUnited Kingdom, dysfunctional, and disgraceful, unthinking dumb.
Walk along any high street, and you’re confronted by homeless people huddling in doorways, trying to find what little shelter they can. They’re in every town, in every main street. Many are young, some are disabled. We walk by, because not even the kindest and most generous amongst us can help them every single one of them. Homelessness on this scale isn’t inevitable. It’s a product of political choices. It’s a product of a social security system that long since stopped being a safety net for those in need and instead turned into a lash to castigate and punish them for the crime of being poor. It doesn’t have to be this way. But this is the state we’re in.
In every supermarket there’s a basket asking for donations for your local foodbank. There’s always a local foodbank. There’s always people who rely on charity in order to feed themselves, in one of the richest countries in the world. They’re everwhere. They’re your neighbours, your friend, your relatives. It’s estimated that one third of children in the UK are being brought up in poverty, kids for whom a trip to the foodbank is normal. Well it’s not bloody normal. It’s a result of a government that decided to make the poor pay for the sins of the rich. It’s a result of political choices, political choices that Scotland never made, never supported, never wanted.
In every doctor’s surgery, in every local hospital, people are waiting, waiting, hoping for the best while they wait for their tests. The waits get longer, the pressures on staff grow like a cancer, the tumour of creeping privatisation that eats away at the soul of universal provision. This is happening because of choices that are forced upon us by people whose only prescription is I’m alright Jack. Scotland does better than the rest of the UK, but only because the Scottish Government is forced to make cuts elsewhere in order to prop up a system that’s dying from lack of care. It’s only going to get worse as the Borises and Jacobs and the Nigels look greedily upon their bank balances and the business opportunities that open up to them by opening up the NHS to US health companies. Boris Johnson says that he’s got no intention at all of privatising the NHS, but he also said he was going to die in a ditch. We’re still waiting, Boris, waiting. It doesn’t have to be this way, but this is the state we’re in.
This election might be the last hurrah of Nigel Farage, but although he’s lost his personal battle to get himself into power, he has won the war. He has transformed the Conservative party into his image. The extreme right has become the right. The Brexit party and Ukip have become an irrelevance because the Tories have turned into them. Brexit is now defined as the most extreme, the most estranged, the most divorced state possible. Just a few years ago those supporting Brexit said that they’d be happy with a situation like Norway’s, out of the EU but accepting freedom of movement and the customs union and single market. Now they tell us that’s not Brexit at all, and the Conservatives enthusiastically agree. It doesn’t have to be this way, but this is the state we’re in.
The devolution settlement that Scotland fought long and hard for in the teeth of opposition from decades of Tory rule is at threat like never before, because only some people’s will needs to be respected. The Conservatives are using the EU referendum as an excuse to undermine the will of the Scottish people to have stronger safer devolution, everything that they promised us in 2014, and now they tell us that we can’t complain. It was a once in a generation vote, they crow, telling Scotland that it has no right to hold them to account for their failure to honour their promises. Only some referendums need to be respected, those whose result suits the Tories. They tell us that it doesn’t matter how Scotland votes in December, it doesn’t matter how Scotland votes in 2021. It doesn’t matter how Scotland ever votes. We have no right to decide the future of our own country, we only have the right to sit in silence as our future is chosen for us by the Borises and the Jacobs and the Nigels. It doesn’t have to be this way, but this is the state that we are in.
Boris laughs and tells his weak jokes for the fourteenth time. He blusters, he fnaughs. Democracy in the UK is an after dinner speech for the East Surrey Conservative Association. He chortles as he breaks the law. His party takes money from Russian oligarchs and practises the dark arts of digital manipulation. Move along now, there’s nothing to see here, only the studied distractions of a man who has learned how high a dead cat can bounce. Even senior figures in his own party, former Chancellors, former cabinet ministers, warn about the dangers of allowing the dissembler in chief to have a majority in Parliament. He says he’ll get Brexit done, but he’s lying. What he means is that Brexit will be done to you and me. The Conservatives don’t want to leave the EU in order to turn the UK into a paradise of employment and social rights. They don’t want to leave the EU because they have a deep concern for the poor, the marginalised, and the vulnerable. They want to leave the EU because once the UK is no longer subject to EU rules and regulations it will be so much easier to screw us all over. It doesn’t have to be this way, but this is the state we are in.
This is the time to say no to Tories who don’t listen. Tories who are terrified of democracy. Tories who despise the people of Scotland and refuse to allow us a say in this supposedly precious union. Just today Boris Johnson referred to the UK as the most successful union of nations – successful for who? Because it’s not looking too successful for a Scotland that wants to strengthen its ties to the rest of the world and to Europe but which is being dragged out against its will into a low wage low tax low protection economy where the rich will get ever richer but there will be more kids begging on our streets, more mothers waiting for medical tests, more cold people trudging to a food bank in the rain because they can’t afford the bus fare. This is the state we are in.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have a choice. We have a voice, and we can use it to say loud and clear that Scotland doesn’t agree, that this land of ours demands the right to decide that path that it takes. We will decide what state we are in, and we choose a Scottish state that respects the dignity of all.
I’d just like to say thank you to all the lovely people at Yes Caithness, and especially to Darren and Jim, for all their kindness and hospitality when I visited on Saturday. The dug and I had a great time, and thanks to Yes Caithness the evening was a huge success. All the best to Karl Rosie, the local SNP candidate in the General Election. I would have included a link to his crowdfunder, but he doesn’t appear to have one!
Crowdfunder for Brendan O’Hara
Brendan is campaigning to keep the Argyll & Bute seat for the SNP. He’s a tireless campaigner for local issues – and originally from the East End of Glasgow. So all round good guy in my book.
Crowdfunder for Kirsten Oswald
Kirsten is hoping to take East Renfrewshire back from the Tories. 74% of local people voted to remain in the EU, yet the Tories are hell bent on taking us all out of it. Let’s not make it easy for them. Every Tory MP we can defeat makes it harder for Boris Johnson to steamroller us.
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My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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