Ugh. British politics is a disgusting sewer. It’s just one sleazy accusation after another. It has only just begun, and already this is the most shambolic and the dirtiest election in living memory. We’ve got another five weeks of this, and it’s only going to get worse. These are the high standards of British democracy which opponents of independence tell us that Scotland can only hope to achieve because we’ve got Westminster to tell us what to do. A troop of monkeys throwing their shit at one another could do better. At least the monkeys don’t lie about one another.
Yesterday Boris Johnson visited the scene of the disastrous flooding in Yorkshire and Derby which has caused the death of a woman and inundated hundreds of homes and businesses. Johnson was criticised after saying that the flooding wasn’t a national emergency, but to be fair he ought to know. After all, he is a national emergency.
The day before he had graced the Caledonians with his presence. Or at least he’d had a carefully choreographed visit to a distillery in Moray where he was kept well away from any of the natives who hadn’t been pre-approved. Asked by a journalist from The Guardian why he wasn’t meeting any Scottish voters, he claimed that he was. After all, he pointed out, the Guardian journalist was a Scottish voter. This is the childish literalism that passes for wit and repartee with the Tories.
The Tories are however highly selective with their literalism. They insist that there cannot be another Scottish independence referendum because they choose to elevate the “once in a generation opportunity” rhetoric of some SNP leaders in 2014 into a cast iron manifesto commitment. So I have a deal to make with any Tory who wants to preach about the once in a generation thing. I’ll let you preach about it to me just as soon as Boris Johnson dies in that ditch. I seem to recall that was a firm and definite promise that he made. And if it’s a Labour supporter, then tell me why Jeremy Corbyn is going about the UK telling one and all that this general election is a once in a generation opportunity. If Labour doesn’t mean that it’s not going to contest another election for 20 years, then you too can lecture supporters of independence about “once in a generation”. It’s only fair. But then it seems that it’s only some bits of rhetoric that are supposed to be taken seriously, and that would be those that suit apologists for British nationalism.
What’s really happening with the once in a generation claim is that British nationalists are blaming the people of Scotland for believing them. If the supporters of Better Together had indeed come through with all the promises and commitments that they made in order to secure their victory in 2014, then they would indeed be quite justified in maintaining that this was a once in a generation decision. But they didn’t come through, did they. They told us that we could only remain a part of the EU by voting No. We’re being taken out of the EU. They told us that the powers of the Scottish parliament would be made permanent and no Westminster government could ever alter them without the express consent of Holyrood, yet they’re using the Brexit that Scotland never wanted as an excuse to unilaterally make fundamental changes to the devolution settlement that Scotland did want.
Now they’re telling the people of Scotland that all this is just tough, and we have no redress and no come back for their lies and deceit. The UK that we are living in is not the UK that was sold to Scotland in 2014, and there’s no chance of it coming close to being that UK for over a generation. The hypocrisy of the British nationalists, and the Conservatives in particular, is off the scale. Even their name, the Conservative and Unionist party, is a lie.
The most important development during the beginning of this election campaign is the abandonment of any pretence from the Conservatives that they are a democratic party. Boris Johnson and Jackson Carlaw have insisted that if the Conservatives form the British government after this election, it will not under any circumstances allow Scotland to hold another independence referendum. It doesn’t matter that the Scottish government already possesses a mandate for one. It doesn’t matter if Scotland returns a crushing majority of SNP MPs at this general election. It doesn’t matter if Scotland votes for a majority of pro-independence MSPs after the next Holyrood elections in 2021. It doesn’t matter what Scotland votes for, Scotland will get what the Conservatives tell it.
This is a profoundly anti-democratic position for a political party in a democracy to take. It is a position which rips up the understanding which has formed the basis of Scottish Unionism for generations. Unionism in Scotland always preached that Scotland was a willing and voluntary part of the UK, a constituent nation forming the UK, and that Scotland remained a part of the UK because that was the free democratic will of the Scottish people. Scotland, they told us, was not a colony. That was a position held by generations of British political leaders. Yet now the mask has slipped, and we see the true ugly face of British imperialism that was always just under the surface. Unionism as Scotland always understood it is dead. Scotland can no longer comfort itself with the myth of union.
If it doesn’t matter how Scotland votes, then Scotland is not in a union. If it doesn’t matter how Scotland votes, then the democratic deficit becomes a yawning chasm. If it doesn’t matter how Scotland votes, then Scotland is no longer a nation it’s merely a glorified county of Greater Englandshire.
Jeremy Corbyn is right about one thing. This general election really is a once in a generation opportunity. This is a vital opportunity for the people of Scotland to tell Westminster that we will not be treated with contempt, that we will not be taken for granted, not by the Tories, not by the Labour party. If Scotland doesn’t take full advantage of this general election to return a landslide for pro-independence MPs, the future for this country is bleak indeed. We will see our devolution settlement gutted out. We will be out of the EU, alone on an island with a right wing English nationalism in the ascendancy. We will see the reduction and abasement of Scotland to little more than a pretty tartan bauble which serves only to allow British nationalists to pretend that their nationalism is better than other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all. We will be sidelined and marginalised as the Tories rip up the post war settlement and destroy our employment and consumer rights. We will see the NHS destroyed. We will see the tattered remnants of a once comprehensive social security system binned – along with all those who depend on it. This election may be our last chance to shout loud and clear that Scotland does matter. This may be our last chance to say that there is a better way.
Get out and vote. Get out and say that Scotland matters.
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