As the Conservative sleaze scandal and the controversy surrounding second jobs for MPs, or in the case of Douglas Ross, third and fourth jobs, rumbles on, it has come to light that the Conservative MP for Moray, list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, leader of the Scottish Tories, and linesman for the SFA managed to “forget” annual extracurricular earnings of over £28,000 a year which he failed to declare to the Westminster register of financial interests. In total his annual additional earnings on top of his MP’s salary of £81,932 before expenses is £32,835.
This would be the Douglas Ross who recently claimed that he and his party were more authentic and in touch voices for working class people in Scotland than the First Minister and the SNP. There are not many working class people in Scotland who manage to forget about annual earnings of over £28,000. Those are people who struggle to do without the £20 a week in Universal Credit that Douglas Ross voted to take away from them while he was forgetting about an extra £540 per week that he receives on top of his weekly income of £1575from his MP’s salary.
There certainly are not many working class people who bring home well over £100,000 a year. However when you represent a party led by a man who once described the £250,000 a year he earned on his side gig as “chicken feed”, your understanding of the financial constraints that working class people are under is probably as warped as a Conservative MP’s grasp of what constitutes moral and financial probity in public office.
The real issue isn’t the fact that Douglas Ross has a side gig as a linesman for the fitba, it’s that many of his colleagues in the Conservative party have extremely well paid side jobs representing financial and commercial interests which potentially conflict with their duties and privileges as legislators who are supposed to be speaking up for the interests of their constituents. Public confidence in the institutions of the British state is not helped by the fact that the Conservative party is far more assiduous in taking steps to neuter independent oversight of MPs’ outside financial interests than it is in ensuring that MPs are kept to the high standards that the public has the right to expect of people who make our laws and shape public policy. And all the while the allegations keep piling up.
Over the weekend here were fresh allegations that leading Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg failed to declare director’s loans totalling £6 million that he received from his company Saliston Limited between 2018 and 2020. Additionally Labour is demanding that new information from American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri about her relationship with Boris Johnson while he was mayor of London should be investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Earlier this year Johnson avoided a criminal investigation into his relationship with Arcuri after the IOP ruled there was no evidence Johnson had influenced the payment of thousands of pounds of public money to Arcuri or secured her participation in foreign trade trips he led.
The disquiet created by Boris Johnson’s attempts in the wake of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal to abolish the independent Parliamentary Commissioner’s role in investigating allegations of wrong doing made against MPs in order to replace it with a sham committee of his chums is compounded by the many recent scandals about alleged wrong doing in the awarding of lucrative government contracts. A number of senior government figures including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Michael Gove have been found to have been in breach of the ministerial code or to have acted unlawfully. None of them have faced any consequences as a result.
There is now a widespread and entirely accurate perception that members of the British Government and the Conservative party operate in a moral vacuum where they will never have to answer for their actions and behaviour.
All this came to a head during the COP26 conference which this sleazy and corrupt British Government shut the Scottish Government out of. The eyes of the world saw a British Government desperately trying to evade democratic scrutiny and oversight as it helped to water down vital resolutions on the future of the planet in order to benefit the same kind of business interests whose shilling Conservative MPs are so eager to accept.
They also saw a Scottish Government which despite being shut out of any official role by that same British Government, showed itself to be the face of an honest, co-operative, and sincere nation, willing to deal fairly with other nations. It was a very far cry from the British exceptionalism, lies, and deceit of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a man who can’t even be honest about his own given name.
With her face to face meetings with other leaders, the First Minister still managed to effectively wield Scotland’s soft power, despite the best efforts of a jealous and insecure Johnson to keep her as far away from the limelight as possible. They all know that she believes in Scottish independence, it didn’t need to be explicitly spelled out just, as it didn’t need to be explicitly spelled out that an independent Scotland would be a much more reliable and trustworthy partner than the Brexit Britain of the Tories. The lesson was plain to see and all the more effective for being made implicitly and subtly.
During the 2014 referendum there was a lot of ignorance internationally about why Scotland sought independence. Many in other nations were perplexed by why Scotland sought independence from what they believed to be a well governed and stable democracy that was at the heart of the EU. The Conservatives and the Better Together campaign capitalised on that in order to rustle up a series of European and world politicians who were happy to do the British Government a favour and make a statement which was helpful to the anti-independence cause.
The Conservatives have now trashed the UK’s international reputation, and those European and global leaders attending COP were left in no doubt that Scotland’s rejection of Brexit and its desire to have a closer and more cooperative relationship with the EU is a major factor driving support for independence. With its constant lies and deceit over Brexit negotiations the British Government has proven it can’t be trusted to act in good faith.
As we go into a second independence referendum the reasons for Scottish independence are much clearer and easier to understand for the rest of the world. There is also, crucially, far more sympathy internationally for the idea of an independent Scotland than there was in 2014. The Conservatives and their allies are going to find it much more difficult next time round to find international statespeople who are willing to do the British Government a favour by speaking out against Scottish independence. Likewise international figures are going to be more willing to speak up in favour of an independent Scotland. And this is all due to the moral vacuum that is the Conservative controlled Westminster.
I’m still a bit delicate here, the fatigue has lifted for the most part but now I’ve come down with a stomach bug. Isn’t life a joy? I will try to blog as normal but the pace may be reduced this week.
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