Well that didn’t take long, did it. Not even 24 hours had passed since the Scottish Government announced its plan to boost the Scottish economy to assist in Scotland’s recovery from the effects of lockdown, and the British Government refused to consider any cooperation with the extra borrowing powers that the plan required. You’ll have had your economy, Scotland. It came even before Kate Forbes, the Scottish Government Finance Minister, had penned her official request to Westminster with the request for additional borrowing powers.
Asked by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday whether he’d allow Holyrood to have the additional powers to borrow that would be needed, there was a flat refusal from the bloviating one to engage with the question, just a telling off about how much Scotland already gets, with the implication that it’s gratefulness that Johnson expects, not a request for additional borrowing powers. There was also an additional dig at the SNP, just for good measure.
It was entirely predictable, and in fact this blog predicted the refusal even as the plan was being set out. This is not to claim any great powers of foresight, predicting that this Conservative Government would refuse any extra powers for Holyrood no matter what the circumstances is a bit like predicting that Surname Surname will get humiliated at FMQs, or that the Labour party branch office in Scotland will take a wee look at strategies to get back into the good books of the Scottish electorate and choose the one that’s going to do it the greatest electoral damage. We all could see the contemptuous response of the part time Prime Minister coming.
British nationalists decry this as grievance mongering, when the Scottish Government asks for things that it knows it’s not going to get. This allows them to portray themselves as the poor victims of those vile nats stirring up trouble. It’s like an American health insurance company that refuses to pay for a much needed operation describing itself as a victim of grievance mongering from people with treatable medical conditions that will go untreated because of its intransigence. The Scottish Government is not asking for a luxury yacht – that would be the British Royal family – it’s asking to be allowed the means to haul Scotland out of a deep economic pit which the British Government’s incompetence has made even deeper.
So we now have yet another instance of Scotland being held back and damaged because of the British Government. Irrespective of what you think of the merits or demerits of the plan that was presented, we now have proof that Westminster will not permit Scotland to take any significant steps of its own to protect and develop its economy. The exact same blanket refusal from Westminster would have come irrespective of what the details of the plan were. The Conservatives do not want Scotland to succeed on its own terms. They demand that Scotland does what it’s told, even if that means we suffer economic damage, even if it means that lives are put at risk by the British Government’s reckless mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic.
In the absence of any Scotland-specific plan, thanks to the Conservatives, it is now likely that it will take Scotland’s economy years longer to recover from the blow delivered to it by lockdown. A report from the British nationalists’ favourite think tank that sounds like a knitwear college in Pitlochry, the Fraser of Allander Institute has warned that the Scottish economy will not return to pre-covid levels until 2022, and it could possibly take as long as four years. In order to ensure that the economy recovers as quickly and fully as possible, the Institute warned that there was need for urgent action from politicians. You know, action like the plan that was announced yesterday, the plan that Boris Johnson has dismissed without even examining it closely. There’s your union benefit right there. Stay in your box Scotland, the Conservatives will let you out on a short leash if you behave.
Boris Johnson’s refusal to allow Scotland’s Parliament the borrowing and fiscal powers that it needs in order to get the country out of the deep fiscal hole that the lockdown has tossed it into was of course the lead story on BBC Scotland on Wednesday evening. Ha ha. Don’t be silly. It didn’t even rate a mention.
This British Government has delivered the worst of all outcomes in its handling of the crisis. The UK has both the highest death toll from the virus, combined with the greatest economic damage. In his deluded imagination, Johnson continues to insist that the British response to the epidemic has been world beating. And so it has, just not in the way that he wants us to believe. His government is now telling Scotland that it can’t take its own measures to recover from the financial and economic effects of a crisis that has been made worse than it had to be because of the incompetence of the British Government.
Boris Johnson has a casual disregard for the truth. He has a casual disregard for how many children he’s got. The only thing he has not got a casual disregard for is his control freakery. The very notion that a part of the UK might wish to do things that aren’t all about him and that he can’t take credit for is an insult to his fragile ego. Instead of developing a plan to help its economy Scotland should instead take a leaf out of his book and sit and get pissed in Wetherspoon’s then get too drunk to worry about maintaining social distancing.
The territory upon which the next independence referendum will be contested is now being laid out. It’s very different terrain from the battleground of 2014. Now the focus will be on how Scotland is being held back and damaged by the UK. By refusing even to consider any sort of dedicated plan to help the recovery of the Scottish economy, Boris Johnson has just given the yes movement another powerful argument. The British Government holds Scotland back and prevents this country reaching its full potential. It would rather we were damaged and dependent than healthy and wealthy. Because if Scotland was able to develop its potential outwith Westminster’s control, we might just realise that not only don’t we need Westminster at all, but that Westminster is acting as a brake on our ambitions.
And finally … some Catalan music from the band Gossos. This is their 2008 hit Lliure com l’aire (Free like the air).
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