Well there’s a surprise, if you define ‘suprise’ as being something that you could see coming from a mile away and were entirely expecting. The Conservative government of the performance artiste known as Boris Johnson has refused the official request from the Scottish Government for extra borrowing powers in order to help the Scottish economy recover from the effects of the pandemic.
On a flying visit to Edinburgh Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, officially turned down the request from Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes which had been made a few weeks ago. There’s another example of Conservative politicians that Scotland didn’t vote for dropping into Scotland to tell us that we can’t be trusted with grown up things. The Tories are ensuring that Scotland is to be kept dependent on the UK treasury so that they can tell us that Scotland couldn’t cope with independence because we’re dependent upon the UK treasury.
Telling Scotland that independence means we’d be a fiscal basket case is after all the sole remaining argument that the British nationalists have got left, so it’s scarcely surprising that the Conservatives don’t wish to allow Scotland the ability to exercise even a limited degree of fiscal independence within the UK. Essentially the argument of British nationalism that Scotland depends financially on the British Government is not an argument about money, it’s an argument about power. Naturally a Scotland which is a part of a UK where the UK Treasury jealously guards all the purse strings and ensures that Scotland must rely upon what it pleases Westminster to call a block grant is a Scotland which relies on the UK financially. That’s how it’s designed to work. It’s a bit like yer maw demanding that you hand over your pay packet and doling out whatever she fits to you, and then telling you that you can’t leave home because you’re financially dependent on her. The difference is that yer maw probably loves you and has your best interests at heart. The only interests that the Tories take to heart are their own.
We’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing over the coming months as the British Government attempts to respond to the new reality of a Scotland where there are regular and consistent majorities for independence. It’s likely that support for independence is only going to grow after December when the UK exits the EU transitional period and the reality of Brexit is properly felt. The Tories, and British nationalism in general, have no answer to the rise in support for Scottish independence. They only have some short term tactics. And in many cases their tactics are not remotely convincing.
Just think of all those people you know who saw that photo of Johnson standing on the quayside at Stromness holding two crabs and thought, “Well that’s me convinced. It’s the UK for me.” Although it’s fair to say that his trip convinced a lot of people of something. Just not what Johnson was hoping for. It was a trip carried out by a Downing Street which doesn’t have the foggiest notion of how it’s perceived in Scotland, and more importantly, doesn’t care.
The notable thing here is that it’s not as if the Conservatives couldn’t have foreseen what was going to happen in Scotland if they pursued a hard line Brexit without taking a Scotland where a substantial majority voted to remain into account. Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a much larger margin than it voted against independence – in an independence referendum campaign where the issue of staying in the EU was one of the most salient debating points. The Tories knew what the response in Scotland was going to be. They just didn’t care. They had already decided that they were going to employ their English majority to ram through whatever they wanted and force the rest of the UK to comply. And then they have the utter gall to preach about a union.
A union is not sustainable when one member is larger than all the others combined and the ruling party doesn’t even think it need to make even a pretence of consulting the smaller member nations and keeping them on board. The so-called union was not sustainable in the long term when there was a solid bloc of 45% of Scottish voters who were determined to seek independence. It’s even less sustainable now that that 45% is 54% – and likely to rise even higher. The long standing trope of British nationalism that their union is founded upon consent and the voluntary membership of its constituent parts will be tested to destruction. The Conservatives could get away with arguing that Scotland’s membership of the UK was voluntary while at the same time refusing another referendum while only a minory, albeit a large minority, of the Scottish electorate supported independence. It’s a very different matter now that a majority of Scotland’s voters want independence. The problem for the Conservatives is that the longer they try to defy the will of a majority of the people of Scotland the more people in Scotland will come to the conclusion that the Tories are lying about the nature of this so-called union and will move to support independence as a result. The Tories’ own delaying tactic of refusing a referendum merely makes it all the more likely that Scotland’s support for the UK will wither and die.
Meanwhile Layla Moran, no I hadn’t heard of her either, is one of the leadership contenders for the Lib Dems. Yes, the Lib Dems are still a thing. Anyway, Layla wants to make an “emotional” case for keeping Scotland in the UK. Although you could be forgiven for thinking that was what we were already getting, what with the temper tantrums of being told that we’d be nothing without Westminster alternating with unconvincing pleas that we’re loved and wanted.
That’s all that the British nationalists have got left, denying democracy and making the kind of emotional romantic pleas that they once accused independence supporters of peddling. But despite their best efforts, more and more the veil is falling from Scotland’s eyes and we are seeing this UK for what it really is, a massive con trick. This isn’t a union at all. It’s a hostile take-over by the Conservatives.
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