The United Kingdom is an island state off the coast of Europe, which the Conservative party treats as though it were one of those huge Highland estates owned by one of their wealthy donors who like Jacob Rees Mogg is self-isolating in the 18th century. The inhabitants of these islands are regarded as so many estate workers, whose sole purpose is to enrich their masters, and who can be disposed of should they prove to be an inconvenience to their laird’s accumulation of greater wealth.
The economy of the UK is dependent upon the service sector, staffed by a so-called flexible labour force, the modern equivalent of dockworkers touting for a job every morning and those who were unlucky and were not picked go home with no pay. A large and ever increasing proportion of the UK labour force is shackled to zero hours contracts, to self-employment that’s self-employment in name only so that their bosses don’t have to pay holidays, sick pay, or recognise any employment rights. Millions are reduced to scraping by on low wages and have little to look forward to except an increasingly uncertain future. This is the normal that the Conservatives want us all to get back to as soon as possible. They clap for care workers and the NHS while plotting how to cut wages and remove employment rights. Clapping is cheap and doesn’t cut into the profits of the laird.
The current crisis has cruelly exposed the inqualities and inequities of the UK. Despite the rhetoric we are not all in this together. We desperately need to build a better future, yet the dead weight of the Conservatives who will be in power for years to come stifle any realistic possibility of it happening in the UK.
In the podcasts which this blog hosts weekly, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry spoke about the importance of ordinary SNP members using this time in lockdown to think about the future, to formulate and develop policies which point to a better country. She specifically mentioned the universal basic income scheme as a way to ensure that everyone in the country has the security of a basic level of income. Of course by itself UBI would not be enough, but it’s a concrete example of how things can be done differently in a way which challenges and starts to overcome the immense inequality that the UK has bequeathed us. After this crisis is over, the political initiative will be with those who have a thought out plan to change this country for the better, because there will be a huge public appetite for change. The public will not want to have seen the deaths of so many, the destruction of so many jobs and livelihoods, so much discomfort, only for it all to have been for naught.
What we can be sure of is that the change which we so desperately need will not come about within the strictures of the British state. It’s going to take Scottish independence to bring about the changes that we so desperately need. So we must think now about the kind of Scotland that we want, and how to build it.
The Conservatives enjoy a massive majority in the Commons. There will not be another General Election until 2024. There are calls for a public inquiry into the British Government’s lamentable mishandling of the epidemic, by the time that another General Election is due the Tories will have buried the outcome of a whitewashing public inquiry which is very much in the British tradition.
Scotland cannot look to the Labour party to save it. The Labour party in Scotland is obsessed with scoring party political points against its hated enemy the SNP. The Tories get a free pass. The overriding importance to the faction which has control of Labour in Scotland is to preserve the UK at all costs.
Ian Murray, Labour in Scotland’s champion of hindsight, appeared on Sky News to condemn the Scottish Government for not imposing lockdown two weeks earlier than it did. Ian seems to think that Nicola Sturgeon is in possession of a time machine which allows her to use legislation to enable a lockdown which was passed at the end of March in order to impose a lockdown at the beginning of March. He did so without once condemning the British Government for allowing the Cheltenham races to go ahead, and without displaying the slightest admission that had the Scottish Government attempted to impose lockdown weeks ahead of the rest of the UK, Ian would have been at the forefront of those attacking them for creating divisions within the UK’s united response to the virus. Can you please let us know when you first called for a lockdown in Scotland Ian? Asking for a friend in a care home.
I pointed out in this blog just a few short days ago that Ian Murray’s job is supposedly shadowing Alister Jack as Scotland Secretary. He is in theory supposed to be holding the British Government to account for its policies in Scotland. Yet instead Ian spends all his time and energy attacking Holyrood. He’s little more than the Conservatives’ little helper. If Keir Starmer believes that this is how he’s going to restore the fortunes of the Labour party in Scotland, he’s in for a big disappointment.
The Sky News presenter casually mentioned that the rate of deaths in care homes in Scotland is twice what it is in England, without bothering to give the caveat that the number of deaths in English care homes is a matter of some dispute and there is good reason to believe that it is considerably higher than the figure that the British Government admits to. Just five days ago the Guardian newspaper published the results of a study which shows that the true extent of deaths in care homes in England and Wales is likely to much higher than the official figures. The study from the London School of Economics found that the true figure is likely to be around 22,000, almost three times the officially acknowledged figure of 8,314 deaths due to coronavirus in care homes in England and Wales as of 8 May. By way of comparison, statistics from the National Records for Scotland state that 1,434 people have died in care homes in Scotland as of 10 May. (See here : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/13/coronavirus-real-care-home-death-toll-double-official-figure-study-says)
Ian readily agreed. Naturally Ian didn’t admit to the existence of the LSE study, despite the fact that it was published in a newspaper which is to all intents and purposes the house journal of the British Labour party. It beggars belief that Ian was unaware of it. If he was unaware of it he has no business pontificating about deaths in care homes in the first place. So he either knew that the death rate in Scottish care homes is not really twice what it is in England in which case he was attempting to deliberately mislead the public in pursuit of a party political point, or he didn’t know in which case he has failed to do the most elementary research on a topic which he is insisting on holding the Scottish Government to account on. After all, why let accuracy get in the way of making an SNPbad point? This, all by itself, is proof that Ian Murray is not interested in what’s best for Scotland. He’s only interested in leveraging party political points. Ian Murray and his reflexively British nationalist Labour party in Scotland is not the solution to all that ails Scotland, he’s part of the problem.
The solution to Scotland’s problems lies in the hands of the people of Scotland. But in order to use those hands to create that better Scotland, we must free ourselves from Westminster’s handcuffs.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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