While I am surprised by neither I am less irked by the British establishment’s effort to forge new shackles for Scotland than by the posturing indignation of SNP and SGP politicians (Plan to give unelected Lords greater powers over Holyrood bills draws ire). The expressions of shocked outrage at something so readily foreseen is as transparently theatrical as any am-dram ham. I recognise that these politicians must put on a show. But the obvious insincerity insults the audience. But then, I suppose it depends what audience they are performing for. Some audiences are more prepared to suspend disbelief than others. Some aren’t even aware that what they’re watching is a performance. Which is sad.
Those SNP/SGP politicians might respond to my criticism pleading that they have no choice in the matter. Nicola Sturgeon is the boss and they are required to act out the script what she wrote. I wonder, though, how much of their intellect and self-respect a person must sacrifice to play the same wooden character mouthing the same threadbare lines day in and day out year after year. One must admit to a measure of grudging respect for their fortitude in resisting the waves of profound ennui which would surely cripple a lesser person.
On stage for this performance is SNP constitution spokesperson Tommy Sheppard MP.
It is difficult to take seriously a report on democratic structures by a body which is the most egregious example of a lack of democracy in the UK.
The unelected, unaccountable and unrepresentative House of Lords is never more so than when it comes to attitudes to the governance of Scotland. Not one single member of that private members’ club supports independent self-government for Scotland – a position that is now favoured by a majority of the Scottish population.
He states the matter well. As he should. He’s stated it often enough when others in the cast weren’t stating it. This is the longest second act in the history of theatre. A seemingly endless succession of stars and supporting players trooping across the stage at Westminster repeating the exposition as if to prepare the audience for the denouement of a third act which never comes.
We are familiar with the plot. We are accustomed to the often excruciating acting. But oh! how we long for the curtain to come down on this farce. We know who the villain is. We have an overabundance of evidence of their crimes. We know how the plot must be resolved. But still we’re kept waiting in anticipation which for many of us long since turned to annoyance and then anger. And occasional despair.
When the people of Scotland spurned constitutional normality in 2014 we did so in a way which effectively gave the British political elite licence to interpret that No vote in whatever way they find expedient. What a No vote meant was left to be defined after the fact by the winners. That definition didn’t need to be fixed. It could change to suit whatever was the agenda du jour. All we could be sure of was that the No vote would be defined in whatever way best served the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.
Nor was it difficult to see what this would entail. The imperative is the preservation of the Union – which is essential to the British state and its conceit of itself. The Scottish Parliament had been a growing threat since the voters stripped the British parties squatting in Holyrood the control devolution was supposed to afford them in perpetuity. From a British perspective, the minority SNP government formed in 2007 was a warning. The 2011 election was the first strike. The former was bad. The latter verged on catastrophic. The Scottish Parliament had to be reined in.
Initially, the idea was for the British parties to retake power at Holyrood. There was an expectation that this would happen. That expectation was subsequently downgraded to hope – faint and fading. Given the boot by the electorate, British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) collapsed into a bitter sulk from which it still hasn’t recovered. It remains an intellect-free zone. So it fell to the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) to save the Union. The best person the British could find to fill the role of Token Jock in charge was Ruth Davidson. It rather goes without saying that a backup plan was required. If the British parties couldn’t snatch the reins of power from the SNP then Westminster would have to hobble and hog-tie the Scottish Parliament. If the self-styled party of independence couldn’t be ousted by the best puppet the Brits could find then they would have to be deprived of the means to effect change such as would almost inevitably be anathema to the British ruling elite. So began an effort to undermine, denigrate, marginalise and delegitimise the Scottish Parliament. An effort now well advanced and continuing on several fronts. The work of the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee being something of a minor example.
All of this is familiar to any observer of Scottish and UK politics. As is the fact that the SNP has done nothing to prevent any of it. SNP politicians warn, object and protest on cue. But there has been no effective action aimed at stopping or even slowing the erosion of Scotland’s democracy and distinctiveness. That is not a rhetorical statement. It is a statement of plainly evident fact. Any who would contest it must show just as clear evidence of the SNP having successfully thwarted or hampered the British Nationalist project aimed at locking Scotland into a ‘reformed’ Union.
It’s difficult to think of anything the SNP has even attempted. Can anyone suggest even one thing they did to stop Scotland being dragged out of the EU? There was much speechifying, of course. But when it came to actually doing something, not so much. The SNP’s apologists will doubtless claim it was enough that the party demonstrated Scotland’s powerlessness in the face of England’s numerical superiority and the power afforded the British political elite by the Union. But is Scotland’s cause really helped by incessant reminders of our powerlessness? Was there really nothing that could be done? And if not, what then is the point of the SNP?
What it looked like – to this observer, at least – was that the SNP simply couldn’t think of anything they could do. Or wasn’t prepared to do anything that might have been thought of. What it looked like then and continues to look like now, is that the party had no plan. It was bereft of ideas. And still is. Not that ideas aren’t generated within the SNP. I was a member, branch official and conference delegate for many years. I’ve attended countless meetings of what was then my branch and visited many other branches as a guest speaker. I’ve seen the rank and file of the SNP in action. I’ve observed at first hand the fresh thinking and the generation of novel ideas I’ve watched as all of this was increasingly disregarded and discounted by the SNP hierarchy. Which is a big part of the reason I’m no longer a member.
The early Yes movement was successful because it was a massive machine for generating new ideas and creating effective solutions. But at least as important to that success was the fact that the individuals and groups coming up with these ideas were listened to and their ideas were translated into action. The SNP has long had a similar reservoir of talent. It simply doesn’t get used. For the most part, that reservoir remains untapped. Which might be forgivable if the leadership and inner circle were generating its own ideas. But there is precious little sign of that. Everything the SNP has blasted with Blackfordian bombast over the years since that fateful No vote was entirely predictable. All of it was foreseen by numerous people. The SNP either knew all of it was coming, or could have known if the inclination had been there. And yet there was no evident preparation. No strategic planning at all. Again, that is not merely a rhetorical statement. It is plain fact.
The best that can be said of the SNP Westminster group is that it has been noisily ineffectual. Many seem content with this. For these SNP/Sturgeon loyalists it is enough that they get a vicarious jolt of righteous indignation at every iniquity perpetrated by the British political elite as the Blackford Players strut the boards denouncing this, condemning that and castigating the other – only to follow-up their oratory with nothing beyond parking their arses back on the green leather benches of a parliament that is increasingly foreign to Scotland in every sense of the term. Many seem to consider this enough. They seem oblivious to the lack of substance behind the words. They seem able to disregard all that is being done to Scotland. They seem prepared to accept that the third act is being indefinitely delayed.
The show goes on, and on, and on, and….
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