Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Always Keep A-Hold of Nurse


Scotland is to have a referendum on independence. Though no definite date has been set it is likely to be held in 2014, three years after the ruling Scottish National Party obtained a majority of seats in a devolved parliament that, according to Labour, would kill nationalism stone dead. Well, like every other prediction emerging from the benighted Labour Party, it has proved to be complete rubbish.

Why so late, you may wonder? Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scotland’s first minister, says that it has been delayed merely to ensure that it is ‘well-organised.’ Yes, sure, believe that it you like. It just so happens that 2014 is the seven hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, when the Scots led by King Robert Bruce defeated a larger English army, incompetently headed by Edward II.

I have little doubt it’s on a wave of national celebration, of unrestrained Braveheartism, that Salmond hopes will carry the good ship Independence, wandering fruitlessly for so many years, a little like The Flying Dutchman, at last home to port. He even proposes to extend the franchise to sixteen-year-olds, most of whom, I hazard, know next to nothing about politics and quite a lot about patriotic clichés, mythic spiders and what have you.

There is a bit of a risk here of course. The evidence suggests that the majority of Scots, that is those a tad older than sixteen, are not that keen on independence. Here he has the example of the Alternate Vote referendum like Macbeth’s dagger before him, a poll held last year which effectively killed ‘voting reform’, much beloved by the Liberal Democrats, stone dead.

So, instead of a simple yes no he wants a third option, something he calls ‘devolution max’, which would deepen the powers exercised in Scotland, really only leaving defence and foreign policy as whole kingdom responsibilities. The situation would then be akin to the Union of the Crowns, that phase in Anglo-Scottish relations between the accession of James I to the English throne in 1603 to the Act of Union of 1707, which combined both national parliaments.

The trouble for Salmond, a big fish in a little pond (his deputy is called Sturgeon!), is that any referendum would have to have the authority of the UK government or risk being declared unlawful. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has concentrated the first minister’s thoughts here, saying he can have his race but only with the yes no horses. Expect more wrangling in the period leading up to 2014, political battles that may yet dwarf Bannockburn.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party, whose bone-headed barons long disgracefully treated Scotland as a kind of political fiefdom, is in a bit of a panic. If Scotland were cast free it would mean the end of their northern block vote, without which they are unlikely ever again to get a clear majority at Westminster. I can’t think of any better reason for Scottish independence. Oh, yes, I can: it would mean that taxes raised in England could actually be spent in England, rather than sent north in doles.

Please do not misunderstand me. I’m fond of Scotland; I have many close friends there. My parents have a cottage in the far north, a place where I’ve spent many enjoyable vacations, long and short. I could only wish that the Scots were fonder of the English, that they could lose a mindset cast so far in the past, cast, yea, even so far back as Bannockburn!

As a postscript I read that Tommy Sheridan, one time leader of the far-left Scottish Socialist Party, has been released from prison, a third of the way through his sentence for perjury. This seedy man was much given to Marxist sloganeering…and visiting Manchester sex clubs. Now the king of the swingers, sorry, make that commissar of the swingers, is free. He says he will soon be back in court, launching a fresh bid to overturn his conviction. Not only that but he will be fighting for an independent and socialist Scotland. I can just picture it – Alba as Albania, a bleak future indeed. The Scots might care to take heed of the fate of Hilaire Belloc’s Jim and always keep a-hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse.

14 comments:

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    1. Ah, Anthony, Braveheartism! You've seen that movie I imagine. It's a total travesty of Wallace and Scottish history.

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  2. Anna, I don't think visits to your parents holiday cottage have quite given you a clear view of Scottish politics.

    Alex Salmond doesn't want devo-max. All he's done is offered to put it on the paper if someone else writes the definition. A masterstroke really. By making it an SNP issue both the Lib-Dems and Labour who you would think would be pushing devo-max as a populuar unionist option go into their anti-SNP kneejerk mode and refuse to have anything to do with devo-max.

    It will come down to the status quo or nothing on the ballot paper and the public will know that the parties who have removed their popular devo-max option are Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems. The SNP get their single question referendum with clean hands and independence is the only option for change in the game.

    There's usually a good rule of thumb when reading articles written about the SNP. If the article contains references to Bannockburn, Braveheart, Albania and fish jokes the author usually doesn't have much clue about Scottish politics.

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    1. Oh well, Doug; I do my best to be fair, from a judgemental, ignorant and English point of view!

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  3. Good piece, I agree with most of what you say, but not sure about this: "If Scotland were cast free it would mean the end of their northern block vote, without which they are unlikely ever again to get a clear majority at Westminster".

    Blair had a majority of English seats in two general elections. I would hope that with Scotland gone Wales and N.Ireland would be next ie England would be independent. I think an English Parliament be be elected by PR. A proper PR system not Mickey Mouse AV. That would get rid of the Tory Labour it's your turn then it's my turn system we have now.

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    1. IE, thanks. Blair was the exception here, rejected now by his own party which has retreated into atavistic mode, unlikely ever to re-emerge. Personally I would be sorry to see the break up of the union but I begin to see a certain historical inevitability.

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  4. But I like Mel Gibson! (in a platonic sense mind you)

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  5. Cut the prickly Picts loose, I say, and leave them to their porridge and potatoes. Nationalism is already moribund; the real power has moved offshore from everywhere, to the floating world of the international corporation: HQ wherever taxes are low and finances anonymous. The pesky Scots will soon find that, far from gaining autonomy, they are even smaller fish compared to the international financial giants than they ever were compared to Westminster. They will have to crawl and kowtow and compete to earn the favour of revenue-generating business from ruthless captains of industry and heartless accountants even more mendacious than the traditional tartan miser. Armies and borders are passé; those who control the flow of wealth are our masters now.

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    1. Yes, Calvin, that makes a lot of sense.

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  6. How someone can think that autonomy will make Scottish nationalism disappear —given the huge amount of evidence available, worldwide, supporting the opposite— is honestly beyond me.

    PS: The caricature of Salmond is brilliant, by the way.

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    1. Thanks, Deino. I quite like it too. :-)

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  7. For centuries Britain operated around the world on a subliminal policy of 'Divide and Rule'. I guess this may well be our nemesis. Wales might follow suite although personally I am of course, against being divided. Chiefly because I consider myself a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

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    1. Alas, Rehan, the United Kingdom becomes more disunited by the day.

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