The meaning behind the words

Politicians may, from time to time, mean what they say. But they only very rarely say exactly what they mean. The form of words that they use is carefully crafted and filtered through aides, policy advisers and media relations gurus. Mostly, professional politicians don’t lie. Although the version of the facts that they offer may be so distorted and perverted by that filtering process as to be a long way from the truth, it is seldom an outright untruth such as might come back to bite them on the arse at a later date.

There are, of course, exceptions. But they are exceptions because they are not behaving professionally. They are ignoring the advice and by-passing the filtering process. This may be because they are so junior as to lack a devoted team. Or it may be because they are just plain stupid. They convince themselves that they are great orators and fully on top of their brief, then make complete fools of themselves. Commonly, however, such people are so foolishly arrogant that they don’t even realise they’re making fools of themselves. Between their own lack of self-awareness and the sycophantic reassurance from their entourage, they carry on regardless.

The British political system doesn’t penalise such individuals. On the contrary, it all too frequently rewards them with high office.

Which brings us to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – the final two contenders for the British Conservative Party leadership; and the title of British Prime Minister which is the free bonus prize. I shall leave it to others to judge for themselves whether each of these individuals is a fool behaving professionally, or a professional behaving foolishly.

When trying to discern the true meaning behind what politicians say, it often pays to blur out the actual words and listen instead to the general tone. Take Jeremy Hunt’s responses to journalists prior to the hustings in Perth. Look past all the rhetoric about him being “a passionate Unionist” and how he wants “a Brexit that works for the Union”. Tune out the carefully chosen phrases – “work constructively and positively”, “open mind”, “forward”, “engage fully, responsibly and generously”, “I’m a democrat”. Try to hear the mood, rather than the words. He may not be saying what he means, but what he means will come through in the way he says it.

On second thoughts, don’t totally tune out that last bit where Hunt insist that he is a democrat. It is of particular interest in light of what we find when we listen to the tone of his utterances. He might as well have said, “I’m a democrat, but…!”. Because what comes across is certainly not an unequivocal commitment to democratic principles. The words say one thing. The tone betrays something else entirely.

What Hunt is talking about is, not democracy as we would understand it – and definitely not the democracy we aspire to in Scotland – but something more akin the the managed (or guided) democracy associated with formerly explicitly totalitarian nations. In a managed democracy, elections are held and people vote but no matter who they elect the resulting administration remains effectively unchanged. Elections shuffle the politicians around, but have no effect on policy. Whatever the outcome of elections, whatever the make-up of parliament, whatever the democratic will of the people, the government continues to do what it wants.

This is a million miles from the popular sovereignty of Scotland. It is far, even, from the parliamentary sovereignty of England. This is sovereignty of the executive. This is the dangerous idea that legitimate political authority derives, not from the people or even the monarch, but from those who wield power. It is the notion that what is done is right because of who does it.

The tone of Hunt’s remarks – and in this respect he is no different from any other British politician – tells us that what his commitment to democracy means is that he will generously allow Scotland all the democracy we want so long as we only use in the way that he wants. We can vote for anything we like, so long as it isn’t something with which he “profoundly disagrees”. Our democratic choices are only valid if they accord with his preferences. Our democratic will is conditional on us not opposing his will.

Scotland can be whatever it wants, so long as that is what Jeremy Hunt (the British political elite) wants. That is his idea of democracy. Such is managed democracy.

Having discerned that what Hunt really means when he talks of democracy is democracy ‘guided’ by the British state, we are entitled to enquire as to what we are being guided to. Which is where we deploy another trick of political analysis and look for the imperatives which drive the British state and the options it has in pursuing those imperatives.

Maintaining the Union is a major imperative for the British state. England-as-Britain has to keep hold of Scotland. It is not entirely a matter of economics – geopolitics and pride are significant factors – but the economic implications of Scotland dissolving the Union cannot be ignored. Nor can they be overstated. Brexit is going to be expensive. The British political elite has, through a combination of idiocy and more idiocy, painted itself into a corner where it must deliver Brexit at any cost. And the cost is going to be enormous.

It is questionable whether the UK can bear this cost. England-as-Britain almost certain would not be able to do so. The figures may not mean much, but they suffice to illustrate the point. The cost of Brexit may be £200bn. Scotland’s economy is worth roughly the same amount to the UK. England-as-Britain demands the status of successor state in the event of Scotland restoring its independence. Which means England-as-Britain takes on the entire burden of UK debt plus the additional costs of Brexit. And it takes on this burden with an economy which has shrunk relative to the former UK by around £200bn annually.

Even without Brexit, losing Scotland was going to be economically problematic for England-as-Britain. Which is why the Scottish Government included in its White Paper a number of provisions intended to ease the transition. Unpopular as many of these provisions were among independence supporters, Alex Salmond realised full well that an economically crippled England benefited Scotland not at all.

These provisions were also rejected by the British government. Not because they weren’t aware of the need for them, but because accepting that England-as-Britain would need Scotland’s cooperation post-independence didn’t fit with the narrative of the anti-independence campaign. With the exception of those who were completely taken in by British propaganda, everybody – including the British political elite – was aware that a Yes vote would have prompted several screeching U-turns on the part of the British government.

We know that, regardless of any other considerations, the British government must deliver Brexit. We know that Brexit is likely to be economically crippling to some degree. We know that, failing the kind of relationship with Scotland that British politicians seem determined to permanently destroy, the impact would be considerably greater if Scotland dissolves the Union. We know that, so long as there is an SNP Scottish Government, a Scottish Parliament, and a Yes movement the British establishment must assume that their precious Union is in jeopardy.

Do the math!

It is blindingly obvious that the British state’s imperative to preserve the Union must drive it towards the option of removing the Scottish Parliament from the equation. It has to be Holyrood because proscribing a political party is fraught with problems and the Yes movement is invulnerable on account of its very nature. Besides, removing the Scottish Parliament also removes the Scottish Government. A doubly blow to Scotland’s democracy and to our aspiration to restore constitutional normality.

Whichever British politician we listen to, and whatever form of words they use, the tone tells us very clearly that the British state’s intention is to eliminate the threat of the Union being dissolved by eradicating Scotland’s distinctive political culture and imposing their own brand of managed democracy.

Because we know what the British state’s imperatives are; because we know the circumstances in which the British political elite has placed the UK; because we know the options available to the British government – whoever is PM – and because we know the meaning behind the words when Jeremy Hunt and his ilk speak, we know with a high degree of certainty that the British government will shortly move to dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions. We know they are going to emasculate, suspend or abolish the Scottish Parliament.

The question is whether we are prepared to let them. How determined are we to stop them? How committed are we to democracy? How resolved are we to rescue Scotland from the rolling juggernaut of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism that threatens everything we have achieved – and everything we aspire to?

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5 thoughts on “The meaning behind the words

  1. The moment that the EU referendum result was delivered, it was evident that the path we are following now would have to be the path that the British Nationalists would take because there is no other that co-incides with their world view. Yes, they could back-peddle on Brexit, and immediately after the result, they might well have got away with it, but just a month later, it was already too late. If they do so, they will instigate ‘political civil war’ in England, wholesale deselections and utter turmoil at Westminster, not to mention civil unrest in the streets. Any SNP adviser who has not been making this absolutely plain to the leadership should have his/her a**e booted from here to kingdom come. Even if a new PM asks for an extension from the EU, even if they come up with some plan that the EU could accept, even if they manage to create associated status for themselves, with the Single Market and Customs Union or one or the other alone, they will alienate masses of the population and the right-wingers in the Tory party, in the Brexit party, in UKIP (those who have not departed for Nigel Farage’s new party) and all the other English Nationalist groupings, not to mention the Labour Brexiteers. This was always going to be about England and England’s choices.

    You are right to highlight just why Scotland is so important to England – not to the UK alone, but to England, above all else. Why did we have a Union in 1707? Because England wanted us to feel loved and part of something bigger? Because it wanted us to benefit from its largesse? Because it just felt sorry for us? Aye, right. England needed that Union far, far more than Scotland did. Oh, yes, the big wigs had lost their money in the Darien debacle (again, did no one in Scotland seriously consider before they embarked on this misadventure, and in light of the English blockade of our ports and sinking of our merchantmen and the advice not to invest from England that they might just try to stymie us?) but the country was not bankrupt. We were allied to the French, England’s traditional enemy; we held the maritime ports that traded with Scandinavia and the Baltic, the Hanseatic League and even Poland and Russia (now militarily strategic, too). At the time, the English ruling elites believed Scotland to be a poor, shrivelled thing in comparison to England. Now they know better. We hold over 60% of the maritime territory of the UK and very much else besides. They have always needed us, but it was politic to feed their own population nonsense about our poverty-stricken state and to undermine our own confidence in ourselves.

    If the SNP leadership is afraid of what England will do in its extremity, after Brexit, it should be, but its fear will change nothing if England decides to destroy us by death by a thousand cuts: siphoning off monies to its own UK Scotland Office and by-passing Holyrood, which it will do post Brexit anyway to service the UK Framework. We need to use every weapon at our disposal now: run a case in the International Court of Justice to resile the Treaty, alongside a second indyref. If there is a very strong following for independence via a second indyref, then we can dissolve the Union, and the case will be unnecessary, although still expedient; if not, we must press ahead with having it ‘sound’ in law and resiled on the grounds of bad faith on the part of England. The world, and especially Europe, can see how we are treated, but we need to stand up and shout our defiance because, if it is more politic to listen to Westminster and Whitehall and the security services, they will do so and we will be sidelined, as the Catalans have, albeit the EU is beginning to take note there, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It would seems, that the tories would just love to do away with Holyrood.
    But they have a bit of problem… It is the Edinburgh Parliament, that has given gave the likes of Ruth Davidson, the position she now has.
    That would never have been the case without it.
    And the bigger problem both for the tories, and and the Libs, and especially for Labour in Scotland.. (what’s left of it), any attempt to abolish that Parliament in Edinburgh, will be met with such resistance today, the Union would quite simply blow apart, in an instant.
    It appears, their strategy now, is to try to make it as useless a forum, as they think they can get away with.
    It shows their delusion, as that idea, too, will bring the Union crashing down.

    As for SNP plans…. They really must stop with this insane pandering to the Westminster rule book, and start taking most seriously, these threatening comments form the would new Prime Ministers of England.
    It is obvious, for them, they see Scotland, as a possession to be kept hold of.
    They treat with contempt, the very notion of Scotland as a different country, in its own right. Clearly, the Treaty of Union is vied by them, as redundant…. Well it isn’t, and all this focus by SNP on another Referendum, is not helping matters either, as these tories, think, they have the power to over rule it, Spanish style, and as if that is the only way for Scotland to be Independent.
    It is time, SNP showed them otherwise.
    Waiting, and waiting, is doing no good at all.
    The time to act, is now.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Again, Peter, a most thoughtful, and I fear accurate, analysis of the London-centred political situation. I think also that all we see before us in the Johnson/Hunt debacle is pure theatre which distracts attention from a very serious power struggle now on-going in the South. Let’s be blunt, Johnson and Hunt are clowns on the current stage, their utterances (when they actually make any) simply “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. They are not the people of the UK who are doing the thinking right now.

    The past few articles you have written, to me have reinforced the old adage – ‘Know your enemy’ – and this we must not lose sight of. The traditions of centralised, autocratic rule in the south of England go back to the eleventh century. They have endured because they suit the greedy aspirations of a small, self-contained and self-selecting ruling elite which has spared no effort in adjusting and modifying its detailed modes of operation to tackle dangers to its existence which have arisen over the centuries.

    In its earliest days the ‘system’ was based on the monarch and his most trusted kin and countrymen, but now it is much more difficult to discern exactly which actual men and women make up the core of the deepest establishment. For their own safety they have learned the art of concealment, a curtain behind which the can play their own power games.It is they who must be discovered and confronted for the achievement of lasting change such as the dissolution of the Union.

    Who are they? I don’t know, but it seems reasonable to seek them at this time in the economic sectors of finance and communications. Negotiating change with the Johsons/Hunts/Mays of this world is simply to join them on the stage prepared for the purpose by their masters.

    Liked by 2 people

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