It didn’t take long at all for the Scottish Conservatives’ hypocrisy about the COP26 conference to be exposed. But then, it never does. The Scottish Conservatives hide their hypocrisy in much the same way that a puppy thinks that by burying its nose under a cushion it becomes invisible even though its body is still in plain sight. And while no one would confuse the Scottish Tories for a cute puppy, both urinate and crap all over the place and expect the rest us to deal with the mess.
It’s ironic that a conference aimed at striking a deal to limit and reverse global warming should be led by a British Government from a party which permanently has steam coming out of its ears as it finds yet another manufactured outrage to fuel the fires of British nationalist exceptionalist ire, all the better to distract from the daily calamities that pass for the governance of the UK.
Tuesday’s two-faced Tory pearl clutching comes in the shape of their plastic anger at newspaper adverts in the weekend press paid for by the SNP – not, note, by the Scottish Government. The adverts welcomed those attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow with some words from the First Minister, who said : “A nation in waiting welcomes the nations of the world. And added: “While not yet an independent nation, we’re more than ready and able to play our part on the global stage at COP26.”
How very dare Nicola Sturgeon remind delegates to COP26 that they are coming to a country where the issue of independence is very much a live one, and that many in Scotland want independence because they are convinced that an independent Scotland with its vast potential for renewable green energy could be an example to the rest of the world on how to create a modern sustainable net-zero economy capable of providing world class public services and a high standard of living for its citizens. It might encourage them to look into the issue for themselves, and that terrifies the Conservatives, who clearly have no confidence in the strength of their own arguments.
The Tories have responded with their entirely predictable pettit lippery, complaining that the Scottish Government was using COP26 to highlight the issue of independence. How very dare they, harrumphed the Tories and the other usual suspects, like the Scottish Lib Dem ego-in-chief Alex Cole-Hamilton, who’s a major source of hot air all by himself. This is a conference about tackling climate change, not the constitution, they fulminated.
Funny how none of them were overly exercised about bringing Scotland’s constitutional debate into the proceedings when Boris Johnson announced that he wanted to keep Nicola Sturgeon well away from the conference and that he intended to ensure that the venue would be festooned with union flags. Neither were they too fussed when the Scottish Tories tweeted a graphic proclaiming that COP26 was only coming to Glasgow thanks to the British Government – which might not be unrelated to the fact that Scotland is not yet an independent state with its own membership of the UN – and insisted that “together we can fight climate change, with the clear and false implication that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to take measures to tackle climate change.
Meanwhile as attention is focused on proceedings in Glasgow, another example of Tory hypocritical double dealing came to light. The decision of the Conservative Government to by-pass Holyrood and use its so-called Levelling Up fund to spend directly in Scotland and Wales on devolved issues is absolutely a bad thing. It should be the democratically elected Welsh and Scottish Parliaments which make decisions about how such funding is spent in Scotland and Wales, not a Conservative party in Westminster which has not won an election in Scotland since 1955.
Even if the Westminster Government disbursed these funds with due and proper consideration of the interests of Scotland and Wales, it would still be a bad thing as it represents a unilateral change to and weakening of the devolution settlement, a change for which the Conservatives have no democratic mandate, a development which runs directly contrary to the promises that the Conservatives made to the people of Scotland in 2014 in order to secure a No vote in that year’s referendum.
However what makes this assault on Scottish democracy and the devolution settlement even more of an outrage is that the Conservatives do not disburse UK Government funds fairly, equitably, and with proper consideration of local needs. They use it to spend in areas where they need votes in order to bolster their electoral support at the expense of areas where there is genuine need but the Conservatives are not in serious electoral contention.
According to the Guardian newspaper. Two councils in England which are represented by Conservative cabinet ministers have received money from the Levelling Up Fund even though they rank amongst the most prosperous areas of England. One is health secretary Sajid Javid’s constituency of Bromsgrove which has been awarded £14.5m in the first announced tranche of the scheme. Meanwhile the equally prosperous Central Bedfordshire has received £26.7m in levelling-up funding for transport improvements and a community well-being hub. The area is represented in parliament by Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary.
Tory councils did better per capita at £93 per head of population compared with £65 per head for Labour councils. We can expect to see the same pattern replicated in Scotland where the Conservatives will spend preferentially in areas which have Tory representation or where they seek to boost their vote. Poorer areas in Scotland will lose out as a result. We have already seen signs that the Conservatives are undermining devolution in order to fund projects in areas where there is Tory support. One of the projects in Scotland which they have said they want to fund and slap a union flag on is improved road links in Galloway, Alister Jack’s constituency. They’re stealing money and power from the devolution settlement and the Scottish Parliament and using it to buy Conservative votes. This is what Michael Gove calls “augmenting devolution.”
I have a physiotherapy appointment tomorrow so there will be no blog tomorrow as I will be wiped out afterwards.
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