Easter Abroad

indexThe main pillars of the case for continuing dependence are crumbling each week. The vision of an economy tied to a fluctuating petro-chemical resource was disbanded by Andrew Wilson a few weeks ago. The idea of a country excluded from European affairs, either by veto from Spain or by or by some fantastical non-existent process has been completely dispelled this week, and further evidence of this reality emerged yesterday with the pledge of 50 European politicians to support and welcome Scotlands membership of the EU. It was support initiated by the much-maligned Ross Greer and the Terry Reintke (‘50 politicians from across Europe say independent Scotland welcome as full member of EU’)

What we’re left with is the diminishing returns of a small group of low-grade politicians, most of whom will never see political office barring some kind of political miracle/unseen disaster we can’t possibly envisage. What would be required to bring Willie Rennie to office.

A Tsunami that wipes out the eastern seaboard?

That probably wouldn’t do it.

In a short decade it’s gone from many of these people and parties having the assumption of power to it being literally unimaginable that they could be elected to high office.

Euan McColm steps dangerously close to talking good sense over at SoS today – talking of the push-button auto-derision about Nicola Sturgeon’s trip to America this week he writes:

“When Jack McConnell was First Minister in a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, he would frequently travel abroad selling the idea of Scotland as “the best small country in the world”. The lack of ambition in that appalling slogan aside, there was no question that McConnell’s overseas trips formed a legitimate part of his duties.”

Christ, even Euan McColm gets it.

The kind of desultory running-commentary from the unionist politicians about the Scottish Government is dire and getting worse. This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate complaints, faults, deep-seated problems, institutional issues and long-term structural matters that remain unresolved and untouched by this and previous governments. Of course there are.

It’s just that none of the political opposition in Scotland seem to have any ideas about what to do about them.

None of the constant low-level harassment of the Scottish Government seems to be about resolving these issues. It seems to be focused around a petty tribal nihilism.

It will either contribute to a slow slide towards independence or such a widespread disillusionment with Holyrood that people just leave, get deeply-depressed or abandon interest in all political affairs.

Maybe the creation of a new think-tank from Kevin Hague and Tom Holland will bring fresh ideas to the depleted policy base of Scotland’s No community?

Comments (17)

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  1. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Mike,
    This is a perceptive critique of the present state of Scottish politics. When you say,
    “It will either contribute to a slow slide towards independence or such a widespread disillusionment with Holyrood that people just leave, get deeply-depressed or abandon interest in all political affairs”. I think we are near to agreement.
    I too believe Scottish politics is in a torpid state of suspended animation. I find it impossible to watch proceedings from Holyrood any longer. The SNP are making the best of playing up the importance of our parliament. The unionists with the exception of Ruth Davidson don’t know what their role is. The reality is that once the annual budget has been passed there is not much else to do except, bitch.
    I would rather see Holyrood abolished than carry on in its present format. And that is why my attitude to Scottish politics has become ultra cynical these last few years. If I thought there was a chance of a second referendum I would argue with passion that the question has to be binary (as they say these days) Holyrood or Westminster? which one goes? The problem is, I cannot see a second referendum happening. I genuinely think we are stuck with what we have, the embarrassment that is Holyrood. And therefore it is the latter of the alternatives you propose that we are looking forward to.

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    Holyrood has become dormant. (to my increasing disappointment). Having read and re-read the essay`s last paragraph, can I suggest, instead, that what is badly needed are some fresh ideas to what seems the current depleted policy base of the Government and the “Yes” community.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    “The main pillars of the case for continuing dependence are crumbling each week.”

    That is probably true, Mr Small, but, much of the main stream media, the three unionist parties and the ‘NO’ organisations, such as that organised by Messrs Holland and Hague present things differently. We see that for the forthcoming Council elections, both the Conservatives and Labour are saying ‘vote for us to stop a second independence referendum’. What about education, roads, lighting, libraries, social work, etc.? Are these not the things local government is for?

    As the Smith Commission’s recommendations come into force, we can see ‘The Vow’ for the mendaciousness that it always was. The ‘most powerful devolved government in the World’ can be seen for the vacuity that it is.

    We are in a situation where there is not a majority for any party in the Scottish Parliament, yet the opposition parties, with the exception of the Greens, are knee-jerkedly oppositionist and unconstructive. Their raison d’etre seems to be to cavil.

    Undoubtedly, a major reason for the ‘stasis’ to which the two previous posters allude is due to the uncertainty about the UK leaving the EU. Clearly, Mrs May’s Government has very little idea of how to proceed, and about what it wants. It is becoming dangerously authoritarian with its ‘Henry VII’ clauses, and, it is clear that there are many Conservative MPs who have severe reservations. The Government gets away with it because Labour at Westminster seems even worse than Labour in Scotland.

    Personally, I would like to se the Scottish Government move ahead quickly with land reform legislation and to explore ways of using land as a way of raising revenue, because with the nugatory powers coming from Smith, income tax, APD, income from the Crown Estates and some borrowing, scope for developing Scotland’s economy is limited, as the VOWERs intended it to be (pace GERS).

    1. Wul says:

      I was talking to some friends about the Scot Gov’s timidity in land reform and in exploring land value tax. It seems a bit mystifying that they have not been any bolder with the powers which they do have.

      Later on, I was pondering the fact that Holyrood has the power to create new “local” taxes but not national ones and wondered if this is one source of their reticence.

      The SNP seems, to me, to be very centralist in holding onto power. Could it be that they are wary of handing new & powerful financial levers to local authorities & regions which they themselves would not have control of?

      Since some of these authorities (ones with Labour ruled councils) are actively anti Scot. Gov. then this could make them wary of de-centralising power. Very few people are truly willing to hand power downwards.

      There is also the old “don’t scare the horses” rationale which means that any radical move by the SNP will be jumped on by the establishment to demonstrate how reckless Scotland has become.

      Plus, I suspect, a natural Business as Usual, approach which runs through the SNP; “best wee place in Europe to do business”, which I worry is code for “we won’t mind letting Big Business off the hook”.

      I can sympathise to some extent with this “don’t rock the boat”, “shush for indy” approach because the full force of the UK MSM is poised to dismember any policy which has an exploitable weakness, real or invented. It makes for dull politics though and is not sustainable.

      Maybe the best way to “Sing Scotland into Being” as Hamish Henderson has it, is to just start doing as much of the socially just, truly life-changing, fair & honest governing as possible right now. Use every devolved power to the max and show us what Scotland could be, rather than telling us.

      Like a good community worker, the SNP should be working hard to makes themselves redundant. Working towards a society where independence, rather than dependance, seems like the only sensible default position for Scotland’s citizens.

    2. gordon ross says:

      Got to agree with your comments on land tax. Used as a replacement for some combination of business and domestic rates, company taxes, national insurance, income tax, inheritance tax, etc. It would drive development of those buildings and areas in every town, village and city, that lie empty and derelict for years. Easier to quantify and collect with low tax avoidance rates. Collected by councils to give control and administrative jobs to the local areas. All the benefits would be good to build a campaign around before independence showing some vision of Scotland after independence. The tories would hate their landed gentry mates from school having to pay land tax and the broad changes that I would like to see would definitely encroach into non devolved areas again forcing Westminster to play their power card.
      There has been a lot of talk that the second Yes campaign must give more details about, finance, currency, etc. We know that the press will continue to bang on about GERS, the deficit, etc so we have to offer something that makes and allows people to think outside of the tramlines that are dictated by history. We don’t need or want an overhaul of a copy of a system transferred in from elsewhere. Independence means we have to build everything anew so we have the freedom to build whatever taxation policy we want. With land tax we can give people the vision of a fairer, more vibrant, thriving, Scotland.

  4. Kenny Smith says:

    I vote SNP and like Nicola as first minister. Do I agree with every policy?no, do I think they do a good job? well actually aye, I do. Do I agree things could be better? yes. Will Indy suddenly make the sun shine more? No but here is the thing as much as I would like the SNP be a bit bolder in areas such as land reform progressive taxation has to work in tandem with other policies and in areas that are simply out with the SG competence. At the same time how much of any extra money is seen? I could be wrong but is it not just deducted from the block grant anyway so they would endure the msm attacks even more on a scale worse than what we see just now with the Tories bollocks of highest taxed part of UK routine. WoS highlighted perfectly the dilemma of unionist parties, all shout at SNP failure without a single suggestion about what they would do, deliberately crossing things over with reserved issues as to confuse the general public that don’t know any better. I want to see sitting governments get a good grilling as much as anyone but most of it is puffs of pure pish. The SNP walk a fine line trying to keep everyone happy, its impossible but once we have free elections then any party and any ideas are possible not now when the game has been rigged so heavily against you

    1. Iain Ross says:

      “I could be wrong but is it not just deducted from the block grant anyway so they would endure the msm attacks even more on a scale worse than what we see just now with the Tories bollocks of highest taxed part of UK routine”

      I believe you are right. Take for example the ‘transfer’ of the Crown Estate, I was talking with somebody involved in the consultation and this is true ‘Yes Minister’ proposal. To para-phrase the UK Government has transferred control of the Crown Estate to the Scottish Government, however here is the kicker, any extra money they can then generate from the Crown Estate is just deducted from the block grant, so it is just a totally pointless exercise. Of course when the Crown Estate is transferred the Scottish Government have to fund the running of it themselves so we are actually worse off. As with most things British it is all just an illusion, some nice shiny beads sold to the restless natives. I am more convinced by the day that they just laugh at us down there in the other place, God knows how all the proud Scots can keep a straight face and actually defend that when we are all being played like a fiddle, they must really see something in being British that I can not….

  5. Monty says:

    we have had very little constructive opposition in the whole history of the Scottish parliament expect perhaps from the Tories when the SNP were first a majority government. Unionism has always been central to the Tories in Scotland and Labour have long been deeply suspicious of nationalism as a distraction from a class based view of society and with good reason. You could argue both should have got over this long ago but these ideas are as deep in the DNA of the parties as independence is in the SNP. All three parties need to be more flexible about core beliefs in order to advance as parties advance Scotland

  6. Alf Baird says:

    If the SNP don’t do something soon they will simply go the same way as slab. People are fed up of all career politicians looking to earn an easy buck, wearing fancy suits, and talking mince (even at Stanford Uni).

    1. Iain Ross says:

      Go on then humour us, what is this “something” they should do? I think they are doing a decent enough job considering they do not have control over any real levers and have to operate on a fixed budget.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Iain,
        I can tell you something the SNP should have done, but its too late now. They should opposed HS2 with everything they could throw at, and I include resigning as a government and forcing an election.
        Its not all about the constitution. Travel links to the continent are important in lots of ways. Symbolically as well as the massive benefit tourism brings.
        Way back in the early 80s when Thatcher proposed the Channel Tunnel rail link the original idea was to run trains direct from Edinburgh and Glasgow to the continent. Get on in Scotland get off in Brussels or Paris. As the project picked up pace this was still the plan. A lot of money was spent on depots at Polmadie and Craigentinny to service the rolling stock. Track lowering schemes at bridges and stations were undertaken. Millions were spent may be 100s. And then without any warning (around 1991) the scheme was dropped and it was decided at the highest level (French and UK government and Channel Tunnel Consortium) that the channel tunnel trains would terminate at St Pancreas.

        My point is when HS2 was proposed by Camerons government a few years ago where was the SNP campaign? to “finish the original proposal” before starting another direct link into London. The logic of a rail route around London is obvious. It still has the clear benefits for Scotland that direct access to Europe brings but it would also alleviated the transport bottle neck that is London. This would have been an impossible argument for The Tory government to oppose.

        So where was it? Why no campaign by the SNP government in Edinburgh? I don’t know. I can only assume, they never feeckin thought of it.

        I hope you are suitably humoured.

        1. Interpolar says:

          I don’t know if the Scottish Government should make it such a life-or-death issue as you propose, but bypassing London would be absolutely crucial for most parts of GB. And why Heathrow needs another runway is beyond me. Does Westminster not have the imagination to foster a new hub further north, say Manchester or Glasgow, or do they not really care, their reason clouded by a London-First-and-then-some paradigm? London is connected well enough to the world regardless, the rest of the UK is not.

      2. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Iain,
        Here is another one you will find hilarious.
        The decommissioning of the North Sea’s oil and gas platforms has begun. Please note there are hundreds of redundant rigs and 100s of miles of pipe line, and over the 10 years all will require to be removed and broken up.
        The first rig is now in Turkey, may be you recall, it ran aground on Harris as it was being towed on its 5000 mile journey. The second is on its way to Hartlepool County Durham.
        Have you heard anything from The Scottish Government on this Iain? Then again as you say, what can they do?

      3. Alf Baird says:

        “”something” they should do”:

        The 56 MP’s could have begun negotiating the end of the union by now, in much the same way it began. They hold an overwhelming democratic majority in Scotland, yet allow English Tories to rule over us. That is incomprehensible.

        Another option, perhaps in combination with the above, is to hold a new Holyrood election on one issue – independence. In this the two votes would need to be dealt with more astutely than in 2016.

        A referendum is not necessary and is probably more prone to ‘risks’.

  7. Andrew says:

    The debate reminds me of the famous Brexit Bus with the £350million a week for the NHS.

    In today’s Scotsman Kezia Dugdale writes that “Leaving the UK would mean an extra £15billion worth of spending cuts to our schools and hospitals.”

    In other words she’s taking the GERS number of a £15billion, saying that Scotland would continue to have the biggest defence budget in Europe and become the only rich country in the world not to run any deficit at all.

    It’s just not serious. If the unionists want to win indyref2 they need to move away from numbers that are obviously lies and actually come up with some proper arguments.

  8. Jane. says:

    ‘…It will either contribute to a slow slide towards independence or such a widespread disillusionment with Holyrood that people just leave, get deeply-depressed or abandon interest in all political affairs…’

    People already are fed up with politics: Truth is most people aren’t overtly political, many just want to get on with life. Contrary to what many indy supporters believed it was less independence that was rejected by the majority, but the style of politics. Granted people don’t much like career politicians but neither do they much like being talked down to by opinionated self appointed (mostly middle class activists) ‘politicos’ who assume importance and assume their strident views are somehow more considered and important than those less vocal. If the Independence movement wants to regenerate itself then it needs to distance itself from this clique who have assumed ownership of the movement and for all intents and purposes made a career out of YES. The sense of entitlement is grating for most normal people.

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      Help me out here; name names please!

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