Is there any depth to which this British Government might descend which would lead the Scottish Conservatives to stand up for Scotland’s rights and interests? That’s a rhetorical question, because we already know the answer. The Scottish branch office of the English Nationalist Brexit Party exists solely in order to keep Scotland subject to the decisions of a Conservative Prime Minister which Scotland didn’t elect, and therefore it is constitutionally and psychologically incapable of ever admitting that the lying liar who sits in Number 10 might actually be, you know, a lying liar.
This is a government which is damaging the interests of Scotland, damaging Scotland’s economy, damaging Scotland’s prospects, and the Scottish Conservatives clap deliriously. Yet this is the party which tells us that it seeks a strong Scotland within a strong UK. Any sensible definition of that would mean that the job of a self-declared unionist party would be to ensure that Scotland’s interests are protected within this so-called union, and to speak up for Scotland at the UK level. The Tories in Scotland don’t do that. Instead they see their job as being to resist calls for another independence referendum by any means necessary. They’re not interested in any collateral damage.
We learned this week that Tim Leunig, a government advisor in the Treasury who is close to Dominic Cummings and who has the ear of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has said that the UK’s farming and fishing industries are not important to the British economy. Food, eh? Who needs it. Leunig said that the food sector is not “criticially important”, and the agriculture and fisheries sector “certainly isn’t”. Scotland exports approximately £5 billion worth of food and drink products annually. The sector makes up a much larger proportion of the Scottish economy than it does of the UK economy. Influential figures within the British Government are quite sanguine about the prospect of selling out the Scottish food and drink industry in return for advantages for other sectors of the UK economy which have far less importance in Scotland. Presumably that’s one of those union benefits that we keep hearing about.
The Tories like to bang on about how they will defend the Scottish fishing industry, as though it were the only industry in the whole of Scotland. The truth is that the Tories speak in the interests of the handful of large fishing owners who dominate the industry. They don’t speak for the smaller fishing boats which operate in inshore waters. It’s estimated that as many as three fourths of Scotland’s approximately 2000 fishing vessels operate primarily in inshore waters, within 12 miles of the coast. Many of these are based in the economically fragile west coast and island communities with relatively few other sources of employment and specialise in fishing for the shellfish for which there’s a lucrative market in the EU. This large and important part of the Scottish fishing industry depends upon seamless overnight trade with Europe. Two thirds of the crabs, lobsters, langoustines, and other shellfish caught by Scottish fishing communities are sold to the EU.
This is a trade which only exists because of the EU single market. It’s all very well for the Tories to tell fishing communities that the UK will be a free coastal state in charge of its own waters, but if the products of the sea don’t have a market, there’s not going to be much of a fishing industry. The EU for its part insists that if there is no agreement on continued access for EU fishing boats in the UK fishing grounds – which are largely Scottish – then there will be no favourable trade deal for the UK. What we’re seeing this weekend are the first signs that the Tories are preparing the political and media ground for another of their great betrayals.
The Scottish fishing industry is also under threat from the Conservatives’ new immigration rules which will come into effect next year. As many as 70% of workers in fish factories in the North East come from EU countries where they are employed to fillet and gut fish in readiness for the market. This is a job which can’t be adequately carried out by machines, and no amount of IT is going to make it any more efficient. The industry relies upon low paid labour.
Prominent figures from across various industries in Scotland have spoken out against the Conservatives’ changes to immigration rules. Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, said that the plans showed that Conservative ministers were “in cloud cuckoo land” with respect to how the changes would affect Scotland. The Scottish Tourism Alliance has called the plans “the biggest threat to Scotland’s tourism industry”. Meanwhile Jackson Carlaw has said that the changes are a “work in progress” and said that he’ll
Where are the Tories speaking out for the interests of Scotland? They’re silent. Anything that Boris Johnson does, no matter how disastrous for Scottish interests, must be defended. The Tories are so terrified of the prospect of another independence referendum that they are unwilling to speak up for Scotland within the UK. They are failing Scotland even on their own terms.
The SNP has proposed a Scottish Visa as a way of ensuring that Scotland’s need for continuing immigration is not lost in the Conservatives’ English driven political imperative to restrict immigration at all costs. In order to get a Scottish Visa, a potential migrant would have to reside in Scotland and maintain a Scottish tax code. It’s a relatively simple scheme which could easily be implemented. Other states allow self-governing countries or provinces within them to control aspects of immigration policy. Quebec in Canada, or the self governing Portuguese provinces of the Azores and Madeira for example. There is no reason at all why the UK could not do the same for Scotland. Yet you won’t hear anyone from the Scottish Conservatives talking about it, except to say no. Naturally the British Government has ruled it out. And when Boris Johnson rules out making any substantial changes to the immigration rules in order to accommodate Scotland’s needs, Jackson Carlaw will not speak out against it.
All of the above means that the following isn’t a joke, it’s a genuine observation of a Scottish political reality: How many Scottish Tories does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None. Boris Johnson will lie that the lightbulb has been fixed and they’ll sit in the dark and applaud.
The real problem for the Scottish Conservatives and their increasingly desperate attempts to stave off independence is that more and more people across Scotland are having lightbulb moments of their own, and realising that Scotland will be a far better place if it’s in control of its own destiny.
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