Well, there’s another SNP conference away, at the weekend there, another wasted opportunity for our “national” party to do a bit of thinking in public about what’s best for Scotland. Instead, we had this narrative that is so disingenuous that it’s dangerous. It’s the same basic narrative that killed Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland a couple of weeks ago, and it goes like this:
In Northern Ireland those responsible for the bullet that killed McKee maintained that they are resisting a foreign occupying power. This disregards the fact that everybody in Ireland signed up to the Good Friday Agreement, 21 years old on the day she died. It’s a serious political engagement that requires responsible contributions from all concerned. They need to get real and get up to date. And get honest.
When Nicola Sturgeon stamps her foot and says the England can no longer resist the “will of the Scottish people” she disregards two very important facts. Firstly, that Theresa May (and I am not here to defend her in any other way) is the Prime Minister of Great Britain, not England, and secondly that the “will of the Scottish people” was expressed in 2014 when we voted to remain in Great Britain.
Now, there are very serious shortcomings in the way devolution is working, both here and in Northern Ireland (at present it isn’t working there at all). Just as Britain is not an occupying force there, so, to a lesser extent, too many people are not doing as well as they should from the Scottish parliament. That’s the fault of the Scottish government, not the fault of devolution.
It’s not the case, as Sturgeon likes to maintain, the devolution is “going backwards”. It’s only twenty years old, and for half of that time the SNP has formed at least part of the government. Scotland’s tragedy is that the SNP has no interest in making devolution go well. It always needs to be able to claim that things would be better if we separated Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The SNP might like to ask Ireland if they think another hard border would be a good idea in this compact archipelago of islands. And a hard border it would be, unless both England and Scotland are both in the EU, and whatever the SNP says there is no certainty at all that a separated Scotland would automatically become a member of the EU, when or on what terms. This talk of what currency would be used is just so much hot-air speculation.
There are plenty of things wrong with any union – the European Union, the United Kingdom, my own marriage. To list the faults and problems is easy and cheap. The question is whether we are better to address the problems together or strike out on our own. The world is a cold and lonely place on your own, and it ain’t all as nice as it might seem from where we are at any given time.
On this day three years ago we were in Berlin, the eve of May Day which was such a big deal in East Germany. They placed a bandstage right on the line of the now demolished and much hated Wall, and at the back for everyone to read was written ZEIT FUR MEHR SOLIDARITAT. They surely know of what they speak. In a dangerously unstable world, with neo-liberalism, corruption and nasty nationalism on the rise, it’s as it says: TIME FOR MORE SOLIDARITY.
Let’s be clear: the SNP is not Hungary’s Jobbik, and Nicola Sturgeon is not Alice Weidel nor Marine le Pen. But I have this great fear. It wouldn’t take much. We have reason to worry. Scotland deserves better, much better.