The Sunday Times is reporting that ‘sources’ in the British Government have told it that Scotland’s workers won’t receive any further financial support from the British state if the lockdown in Scotland continues longer than the lockdown in England. It’s a safe bet that those same ‘sources’ didn’t bother to consult with the Scottish Government in making their decision.
This is how the Scottish Government, and indeed the other devolved governments as well as the English regions and counties, find out about about British Government policy these days – via unattributed leaks to right wing newspapers. When the Tories told us that Scotland was a valued and equal partner in a family of nations what they really meant was that they’d hold Scotland in just as much contempt as they do Wales and Northern Ireland. Feel the love. Finding out what the British Government is up to via unattributed briefings to the British right wing press is how the Scottish Government is expected to formulate policy.
The British Government decides that England should come out of lockdown, and everyone else has to jump to it. Even if the scientific advice is that it’s still not safe for Scotland to return to work, the British Government intends to force Scotland’s workers to make a choice between staying at home without any pay, or returning to work and risking contracting the virus. There’s that pooling and sharing for you. It’s England which has unilaterally come out of lockdown, but it’s the other nations of the UK which are no longer in lockstep. If ever you needed any proof that this so-called union is run solely in the interests of one of its members, here’s exhibit one. Or more exactly it’s exhibit three hundred thousand and thirty four nine hundred and seventy four thousand.
Just to be clear here, because you can be sure that the British media won’t be, it’s not that Scotland is moving at a different pace from the rest of the UK. It’s England which is moving at a different pace from the rest of the UK, and it’s doing so because the Conservatives wish to prioritise money over human lives. Scotland’s workers are expected to work and risk getting ill, or starve and risk getting ill. So that is what Better Together meant when they told us we could have the best of both worlds, we get to choose between disease or hunger.
There will be no additional funding for a Scotland which wishes to respond to this crisis in a way which suits the epidemiological needs of Scotland if Scottish policy differs from what the Conservatives decide to do in England. Yet we all know that this virus does not affect all parts of the UK equally and does not affect all communities equally. There are good and solid reasons for Scotland coming out of lockdown at a pace and in a way which is tailored to the specific conditions in Scotland. None of this is necessarily an attempt to politicise the epidemic. Yet it’s the Conservatives who are politicising it in their insistence that the entire UK must act as one in order to preserve the facade of a united kingdom. But what they mean by acting as one is that all parts of the UK must blindly obey the dictats of Westminster irrespective of the local conditions because the union must be preserved at all costs. Even at the cost of lives.
Yet unless lockdown is lifted when there is good scientific and medical evidence that it’s safe to do so, then lockdown will all have been for nought. There will only be another spike in infections, more people will get sick, and more people will die. We will have stayed indoors for all these weeks for nothing and will be forced to return to lockdown in order to get the new outbreak under control. The Tories are quite prepared to risk this because of their precioussssss union and because they know the price of everything but the value of nothing. They certainly don’t know the value of a human life.
Those British nationalists who have now turned 180 degrees and have recently taken to attacking the Scottish Government for not going into lockdown earlier than it did will now of course be at the forefront of criticisms of the British Government for not allowing Scotland to remain in lockdown if that’s what the scientific advice for Scotland recommends. Last week they were saying we should have locked down independently but this week their beloved Westminster is telling Scotland that it gets no money if we do.
Oh wait. No. They won’t be criticising the British Government. They won’t be standing up for Scotland within the UK. They’ll be looking for something else to attack the Scottish Government for, like insisting that this proves that Scotland couldn’t possibly be an independent country. Because a Scotland which is not permitted to exercise the full financial freedom of movement of an independent nation is proof that Scotland can’t cope with exercising the full financial freedom of movement of an independent nation. They’re like the abusive spouse who insists that their partner cannot go outdoors alone until they prove that they can be trusted to go outdoors alone, but who keeps their partner indoors and so never allow them to prove that they can be trusted. And in the process they slowly pick away at their partner’s self esteem, self worth, and sense of self. British nationalism in Scotland is basically the self-fulfilling prophecy that an abuser uses for self-justification.
The true story of this so-called union is that the government of one out of the four nations decides to do things differently, but that one has the power to bully, intimidate, and blackmail the others until they slavishly follow along. So it’s not a union at all. It’s a blackmailer and their victims. If the Conservatives had deliberately set out to alienate public opinion in Scotland they couldn’t do a better job of it. It’s about the only thing that they seem to display any sort of competence for. There is no longer even any pretence that the British Government is taking decisions that are in Scotland’s interests. It’s time to end this so-called union that’s no union at all.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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