The History Man
The reverberations from the SNP Walkout earlier in this week are still being felt – a mild action in and of itself but which suggests disruption and direct action have untapped value – and clearly some of the chumocracy are rattled. A case in point is Euan McColm writing in today’s Scotland on Sunday (‘The SNP Ignores History with Politics of Grievance’).
It’s a such a splattering of misinformation it’s unclear where to start. So it’s with a heavy heart that we have to re-evoke the McColm Principle (a simple law in political philosophy in which it’s held that if Euan McColm argues for something, it’s probably nonsense).
This morning he argues that the SNP have engaged in some kind of transformation, writing: “the SNP’s change of tack, from perpetually whining about Britain to cheerleading for a bright new Scotland”, as if aspiring to a better society is some kind of ill-thought out short-term tactic.
He continues: “A vote for the SNP wasn’t necessarily a vote for independence but an indication that you were willing to give the nationalists a crack of the Holyrood whip.” Yeah, I think there’s a whole lot of people who had no idea at all that the principle aim of the SNP was independendence. Boy have they been hoodwinked. Wait till they find out.
Jumping down the Memory Hole McColm argues: “With a change of approach, the SNP transformed the tone of Scottish politics which, between 2007-11, saw the nationalists happily work with Tories to ensure delivery of policies.” This era may have passed readers by?
Next, showing a pretty shaky understanding of the constitution, McColm argues: “The UK government is not – unless threatened legal challenges prove otherwise – bound by a vote in the Scottish Parliament to refuse consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill.”
Most of this is standard fare, obliquely contemptuous of Scotland, presenting unfiltered grudges as analysis and churning out articles by rote.
Then, getting into his stride he argues: “Whether the vote at Holyrood was meaningful or not (and some might even say it deserves to be placed in the “stunt” category), it created something which the UK government had no choice but to ignore or “disrespect”.
So we have moved swiftly from the Walkout being stunt, to Holyrood itself being a stunt. Cute.
Amongst the key facts that McColm seems to have missed are: the Sewell Convention and the fact that the rejection of the Withdrawal Bill was not some SNP ruse conjured up in party HQ, but a cross-party overwhelming majority vote backed by the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Labour. This doesn’t matter because Holyrood doesn’t matter and the sole focus of his rage is the SNP.
Over at the Sunday Herald Iain Macwhirter has a more lucid account:
“The Sewel convention is the rule that Westminster should not legislate in areas that are the Scottish parliament’s responsibilities without consent. As a reward for voting No in 2014, Scots were promised that this would be put on a statutory basis – a law not a mere convention. This was soon undermined by the insertion of the word “normally” before “legislate”in the 2016 Scotland Act – a cynical exercise in parliamentary draftsmanship. Now all pretence that Holyrood is a co-equal partner in domestic legislation is being openly discarded. As Mundell put it, in a remarkable statement, “Scotland is not a partner in the UK, it is part of the UK”. It is abundantly clear that Brexit is all about rolling back Scottish home rule. It is incompatible with the creation of the new unitary British state, envisaged by the no-imperialist romantics of “Global Britain”. It is naïve in the extreme to believe that after seven years, in which the UK government will exert a kind of colonial authority over the Scottish parliament, that the powers will be returned and all will be as before. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
What has clearly upset the likes of McColm is not just the success of the most modest parliamentary disruption we saw earlier in the week but the shift of the likes of his own ilk, in the conversion of Murray Foote. He writes: “Now grievance and complaint – amplified as loudly and delivered as hysterically as possible – passes for debate.” Except there was nothing hysterical about the SNP Walkout, it was just MPs standing up for the people they are supposed to represent. What really upsets McColm is that not everyone is willing to indulge in the craven politics of neo-colonial Britain and lie down to subjugation and fantasy. He represents a certain vintage of scribe that expects people to be content with their lot and finds themselves out of place in the new Scotland, and just wishes it would all go away as soon as possible, he is yearning for yesterday, he is the History Man.