There’s an auld joke aboot the gallus Glesca wifey wi’ thirteen bairns wha, when asked if she intended tae hae ony mair says, “Naw! No noo that wuv figgered oot whit’s causin’ it!”.
I was reminded of this as I read Joanna Cherry’s column in The National this morning. Although there was nothing funny about the topic she had chosen to address this week. According to the British media, there is pretty much no aspect of Scottish life that isn’t “in crisis”. Were we to believe the like of The Herald and The Scotsman – a ridiculous notion but bear with me – we’d accept that the whole of Scotland is in a perpetual state of crisis. NHS Scotland in crisis! Police Scotland in crisis! Education in crisis! All is crisis! Except when it’s chaos or catastrophe. If a journalist manages to shoe-horn all three terms into a single article they’ve scored what’s known in their
trade profession as a ‘Tom Gordon’ and they have to stand a round in the pub that evening. As distinct from all the other evenings when they just stand around in the pub.
Where was I? Oh yes! Joanna Cherry’s article.
Drug deaths! Scotland’s shame! This may actually be a genuine crisis. You see, you can’t have a perpetual crisis such as is portrayed by the British media as Scotland’s normal condition. Which doesn’t make sense either, now I come to think of it. ‘Normal’ and ‘crisis’ don’t sit together any more comfortably than ‘perpetual’ and ‘crisis’. A state of crisis is, by definition, abnormal. Equally, a state of crisis cannot be perpetual. The dictionary defines crisis as an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty, or a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something. A situation cannot be permanently unstable. It’s a contradiction in terms. Nor can a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something last indefinitely. In order to qualify as a stage or turning point, it has to pass. The ‘Scottish’ press: talking pish to people on behalf of British power.
The drug deaths thing doesn’t meet the criteria of a crisis either. Both because it does seem like a permanent feature of life in Scotland, and because there’s no sign of a turning point. Unless it’s a turn for the worse. The current crucial stage is the crucial stage subsequent to the previous crucial stage and prior to the next crucial stage. The situation is unstable only in the sense that it is finely balanced between more people dying and lots more people dying. The Scottish Government wants to tip that balance in favour of fewer people meeting an untimely and undignified death. The British government won’t let them.
That’s the whole story. The Scottish Government wants to address a situation in Scotland with measures tailored to the situation in Scotland. The British government doesn’t want that. Not that they actively want more people to die. Just that they actively don’t care if more people die. It is not a factor in their political calculations. Other than that it suits the British establishment’s agenda if a situation worsens under an SNP administration. The situation worsening bit is a factor. The people dying bit isn’t.
It’s way more complicated than that, of course. But the complications don’t really matter. In the end, it comes down to who decides. Whether the matter of who decides is the proximate cause of people dying or the ultimate cause of people dying only after taking a tortuous route through a maze of complications, the dead people are just as dead. The bereaved are just as bereft. People are suffering and dying in Scotland because Scotland doesn’t get to decide what will be done to prevent them suffering and dying. Or, at least, to prevent so many of these needless deaths and reduce the the suffering. And what is true in the case of drug policy applies also in other areas. So long as the British state has ultimate power, the British political elite must be ultimately responsible for avoidable deaths which ensue from their exercise of that power. The power afforded them by the Union.
Which is just my way of saying what Joanna Cherry says in her way. The Union is killing people in Scotland. The drug-related fatality situation highlights this fact in a particularly stark manner, It is an instance of the exercise of the power afforded England-as-Britain by the Union in which it can be clearly seen that people who are dying as a consequence would not die were the power being exercised in Scotland by the Parliament elected by the people of Scotland for the purpose of exercising the kind of powers which determine whether people will die. The kind of powers which are denied Scotland by the Union. Ergo, the Union is killing people in Scotland.
As individuals we don’t always make the decisions that are best for us. If we did, there would be no drug-related fatalities. In a free country, people are allowed to make choices that harm themselves and less directly, others. In a civilised country the state intervenes to prevent the worst and/or collateral consequences of the bad choices made by individuals. It could be argued that this is the primary purpose of the state. It is certainly a solemn duty. In Scotland, the state is prevented from intervening as and when appropriate by the political elite of a neighbouring nation for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of Scotland’s people and everything to do with maintaining the political power advantage afforded England-as-Britain by an ancient constitutional aberration.
Like that Glesca wifey wi’ the thirteen bairns we’ve figured out what’s causing our problems. Causing or prohibiting action to prevent – a fine distinction unlikely to be appreciated by those who valued the lives lost to policies imposed on Scotland by a British government that we did not elect; which is incapable of protecting our interests even were it willing to do so; and which is beholden to a set of imperatives which are inimical to the political, social, cultural and economic well-being of Scotland’s people. How many ways must it be said? How often must it be repeated? The Union is harmful to Scotland. Seriously harmful. The union must end for this harm to stop and repairs to our society begin.
There’s another situation that is of concern to Joanna Cherry.
I am on the record as supporting a Holyrood bill to hold a second independence referendum if Boris Johnson continues to refuse a Section 30 order.
I am in the happy position of being able to help here. I have figured out what’s causing those refusals of a Section 30 order. It’s the requests for a Section 30 order! If we really want Boris Johnson to stop refusing a Section 30 order, why don’t we just stop asking him. Duh!