Time to come home?

Immediate reaction to the suggestion that Scottish MPs are to be ‘locked out’ of the British parliament might range from a so-what shrug to a small celebration. I doubt if there was much ‘anger’ away from newspaper headlines. Any mention of the Scottish contingent at Westminster is as least as likely to prompt questions about why they’re there at all. There’s not much righteous indignation at the contempt shown to Scottish MPs left in Scotland. Ian Blackford has requisitioned it all. His not infrequent venting of that righteous indignation tends to prompt questions about the advisability of sitting right under Britannia’s arse if you don’t like being shat upon.

It’s difficult to get worked up about the British political elite’s casual contempt and calculated discourtesy because these things are so much part of our political life. I expect nothing else from the British state other than that it will treat Scotland in the manner it regards Scotland – as an annexed territory necessarily subordinate to ‘Mother England’. I expect better of our elected representatives than that they should meekly accept this inferior status even while complaining about it. I don’t know about anybody else but I’m more likely to be roused to anger by the fact that we still send supplicants to petition the British parliament for the boon of those things which less pusillanimous nations hold to be theirs by right than by the fact that those supplicants and petitioners are treated accordingly.

Outside the bubble of the SNP Westminster group, few ask why they are treated so badly by the British. Many more ask why they continue to submit to this treatment.

I shouldn’t have to explain that by ‘Scottish MPs’ I mean the 48 SNP MPs plus Neale Hanvey. The others are British MPs from British parties representing British interests. They cannot be regarded as Scottish MPs. The vicinity of Britannia’s arse seems the natural place for those who regard it as an honour to be in receipt of her excretions. The likes of Alister Jack and Ian Murray belong in the British parliament. They are British. They are proud to be British. And if the price of being British is being shat upon copiously and constantly then this is a price they will gladly pay. They accept that their associations with Scotland mean this is the best they can expect. Their expectations are well met.

What remains to be explained is why the Scottish MPs remain in Britannia’s chanty. A common view is that they are ‘in it for the money’. Or that they enjoy the status as well as the perks and privileges. Or that they’ve ‘gone native’. Some or all of these explanations may apply in greater or lesser measure to a few or many. But I find these explanations unsatisfying. Human motives and motivations are seldom if ever so simple and clear-cut. Even politicians – and even British politicians – are only rarely so shallow. And the shallowest of them are otherwise occupied squatting like malignant cuckoos on the opposition seats in the Scottish Parliament.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating the material rewards of any job if those rewards are earned. And for the most part, MPs work fairly hard. Sometimes very hard. The hours are unsocial the travelling is arduous the facilities are decrepit the bureaucracy is a mire the procedures are arcane the ceremonies are ludicrous much of the work is tedious the people you have to work with even more so and the job is extremely insecure. I wouldn’t do it for twice the money. Besides, people generally have to go through the mill just to become MPs. All that shaking sweaty hands and coming away with enough of somebody else’s faecal matter to test for prostate cancer. All that kissing snottery bairns smelling of shit and sour milk. All those single-issue obsessives with their four-hour ‘wee talks’ on urban foxes. All those damp and draughty halls with their junk PA systems that whine almost as much as the five people who’ve come along expecting free tea and scones. All those constituency selection panels making you feel like that nutter who brings their grandma’s collection of Frank Ifield memorabilia to the Antiques Road Show convinced it’s worth millions.

For me, they can have their salaries and their pensions and their expenses and their subsidised bars. None of it is enough to compensate for the crap they have to take in the course of their political careers.

I’ve less sympathy for the SNP MPs who have ‘gone native’. If indeed there are any. I find it difficult to believe they could ever be absorbed into a club which so evidently doesn’t want them as a member. But people can have a considerable capacity for convincing themselves. They may genuinely believe they have gained entry to the elite and might even persuade themselves that it is in order to better serve constituents and country. Invariably, they are being manipulated. It’s what the British establishment is good at. Perceived threats which can’t easily be crushed may always be neutralised by other means.

Ask those SNP MPs why they’re at Westminster and I’m sure they would make a convincing case that they’re doing a public service on behalf of the people in their constituency. And I don’t doubt that they try. They may even on occasion succeed. Even the British MPs from Scottish constituencies might do something helpful for their community from time to time. So long as it doesn’t impinge on their service to the British ruling elites. Or cause them any inconvenience. But SNP MPs have a very particular remit. They have a mandate. All power to them if they’re sorting out some single parent’s benefits or trying to bring meaningful employment to their constituency. But what about their role as champions of Scotland’s cause? What about their duty to work for the restoration of Scotland’s independence? How compatible is this with being at Westminster?

Might it not readily be argued that there is no more effective affirmation of the Union the SNP has undertaken to abolish than sending representatives to the place that more than any other represents the Union and all it implies for Scotland? Is there not an intolerable contradiction here?

The more we realise that Scotland’s independence will not be restored by any process involving the parliament of England-as-Britain the more difficult it becomes to justify the presence of SNP MPs in that parliament. They can do absolutely nothing for Scotland’s cause as members of the British parliament. Perhaps they might best serve that cause by coming home.

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Reasons to be cheerful

This article was first published on Friday 3 July in The Scottish Independent

In the early hours of the morning of 19 September 2014, I was at one of the referendum count centres where I watched as people who had spent the previous two years loudly and repeatedly proclaiming their credentials as “proud Scots” cheered the humiliation of the country they claimed to love.

Of course, from their own perspective they were doing no such thing. They were celebrating variously a tribal victory over a political opponent; the defeat of dangerous democratic dissent; and/or the triumph of British nationalism. Mostly, they were just relieved that they had succeeded in preserving the old order and the old ways. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state had been challenged by a popular grass-roots movement, and that challenge had been seen off. The ruling elites remained in place. Established power was undiminished. Everybody could get back to business as usual.
That’s not quite how it was to turn out. But it would be some time before I came to realise that the British establishment may have won the vote, but the people of Scotland were to take all the prizes. At the time, I witnessed only self-proclaimed “real Scots” revelling in the fact that Scotland had declared itself unworthy to be a nation as other nation. I saw only people reacting to the diminishing of Scotland with uninhibited joy.
And I was sickened.
More recently, I read accounts of MPs in the House of Commons cheering the defeat of amendments to the Scotland Bill which would have taken it some way towards honouring the promises by which the No vote was secured. They were openly congratulating themselves on having thwarted the efforts of the vast majority of Scotland’s MPs to secure the powers for the Scottish Parliament that were agreed by the Smith Commission.
They were applauding (figuratively, of course) the fact that the democratic will of the people of Scotland counted for nothing against the might of the British state. They were vociferously celebrating the affirmation of Scotland’s subordinate status in the UK.
The British establishment has declared its response to the election result which saw the parties of the British establishment all but wiped out in Scotland. The ruling elites have given their answer to the 50% of the people of Scotland who, by voting for the SNP, demanded only that which we were assured was our due as part of the UK. Namely, a powerful parliament in Edinburgh and a strong voice at Westminster.
That answer could be most succinctly expressed in the vernacular. Essentially, it was a curt “No!” to the powers we asked for and a contemptuous “Forget it!” to our demand for simple respect. The British state had declared its position. Its power trumped any “vow”. Never mind what was said about Scotland’s rightful place in the UK. Henceforth it would be English votes for English laws; English votes for Scottish laws; and no Scottish votes for English laws.
Just as Scotland had been branded inferior in the world by the referendum, so Scotland was to be confirmed as totally subordinate in the UK and, to drive the point home, our democratically elected representatives were to be declared second-class members of the British parliament.
I read about those who had lately professed their “love” for Scotland cheering all of this, and I was sickened.
Then I see the rather more sly and surreptitious pleasure being taken in the plight of Greece. I see the sleekit manner in which people such as Peter Jones in The Scotsman pounce on the situation in Greece, not to condemn the rapacious cabal which has brought Greece to this pass, but to mock Scotland’s aspirations and insist that there is no choice other than to submit to the very system which has failed us all so disastrously.
I see how Greece’s travails are being gleefully exploited by Europhobes and British nationalists alike, and I am sickened.
If you are desperate enough to seek a silver lining in all of this, consider only that where you see humiliation, insult, wanton disregard for democracy and callous exploitation of the powerless by the powerful, others see an excuse for a party.