A question of trust

ruth_davidsonFar from the least of the problems with Theresa May’s latest attempt to make the rough-hewn square peg of Brexit fit the well-formed round hole of reality is the question of trust. For example, when the British government undertakes to pay “due regard” to European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings relating to the rules the UK will share with Brussels, why would anyone assume this to mean that the British government will respect those rulings? Anyone even minimally aware of the British state’s record in relation to such undertakings would have to be exceedingly sceptical. Anyone familiar with ‘The Vow’ made to Scotland in 2014 would openly scoff at the notion of trusting the British political elite.

If there was any intention to respect ECJ rulings, why not just say so? Why not make that commitment explicit? Why resort to such vague terms? When such woolly language is used it becomes a matter of how it is defined. And of who does the defining.

This being the British political elite, it is safe to assume that they reserve to themselves the role of ultimate arbiters in this, as in all things. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to expect that “due regard” might be defined in the same self-serving manner as the British political elite defines the “consent” of the Scottish Parliament to whatever it is that the British political elite wants to do to Scotland. Thus, the British government will be deemed to have given “due regard” to any ECJ ruling if –

(a) the ruling is accepted
(b) the ruling is ignored
(c) the ruling is rejected

To most of us, I’m sure, this is the stuff of Orwellian madness. But, to those mired in the dogmatic exceptionalism of British Nationalist ideology, it all seems perfectly reasonable. The reasonableness derives from it being British, regardless of the content. This may seem improbable. Many will ask how it is possible – absent some pathology – for any human intellect to deny such glaring inconsistency, contradiction and illogic. But we are dealing here with minds capable of the kind of doublethink which allows British politicians to pay lip service to Scotland’s Claim of Right whilst using those same lips to spit on Scotland’s right of self-determination.

And there is no escaping the fact that the British government actually drafted an amended the Scotland Act which Jonathan Mitchell QC condemned as “a rapist’s theory of consent”.

30 (4) For the purposes of subsection (3) a consent decision is—
(a) a decision to agree a motion consenting to the laying of the draft,
(b) a decision not to agree a motion consenting to the laying of the draft, or
(c) a decision to agree a motion refusing to consent to the laying of the draft;

In any negotiation there must be trust. There must be a certain minimum confidence that the parties to the negotiation are acting in good faith. There must be a reasonable expectation that undertakings made will be honoured. The British political elite has shown itself to be deceitful, duplicitous and dishonest. They cannot be trusted. Therefore, there can be no basis for agreement.

If there is no reason for the EU to trust the British state, there is even less cause for Scotland to do so. We trust the British government at our peril. We are paying a steep price for having believed British politicians in 2014. The cost of trusting them now will be far, far higher.

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Inexorable forces

Labour’s railing against David Cameron for supposedly “playing to English nationalism” is rather silly. It highlights their complete failure to recognise the new political reality in the UK. After all, what else was Cameron to do? While he would surely deny it with all the contrived vehemence he might muster, Cameron was implicitly accepting the fact that the political cultures in Scotland and England have now diverged to the extent that it is all but impossible for a political party to meaningfully address the electorates in both with a consistent, coherent message. Cameron merely opted to tailor his message to the voters who would actually decide the election. I repeat, what else was he supposed to do?
British Labour in Scotland also recognised the need for a message tailored to Scotland’s distinctive culture. This was clear from Jim Murphy’s desperate and often comical efforts to portray himself as the real leader of a real party able to make real policy independent of the bosses in London. He convinced precisely nobody who wasn’t inclined by dumb tribalism to be persuaded.
While Cameron simply wrote Scotland off in order to deliver a consistent and coherent message to voters in England (or those parts of England which matter for electoral purposes), Murphy went a bit crazy. Then a bit crazier. His attempts to pretend that he was making policy while not straying too far from the British Labour Party line resulted in a message that was the very opposite of consistent and coherent. At times, it descended into gibberish. At other times he took the pretence of autonomy too far and was promptly slapped down by his bosses. And he made the whole thing worse by turning himself into a circus act performing his buffoonery for the inexplicably entranced media. 
The essential point in all of this is the increasing distinctiveness of Scotland’s political culture. The “One Nation” factions in the British parties will still try to deny this even in the face of the decisive redrawing of the political geography of the UK in the recent election. But the direction of travel is entirely towards increasing divergence. And it is an accelerating process. Because England (if progressives there will forgive the generalisation) is moving in one direction at least as rapidly as Scotland is moving in the other. The sum of the speeds has reached escape velocity. The two political cultures have separated past the point of no return.
Everything that happens from here on simply adds momentum to a process which leads ultimately to a formal ending of the now defunct political union and the opening of an opportunity to forge a new relationship between Scotland and England. Cameron’s pursuit of English votes for English laws (EVEL); trade unions having different affiliations north and south of the border; increasingly different policy agendas being followed by the two governments; further constitutional tinkering creating more anomalies to irk Englanders while failing to satisfy Scotland’s aspirations; the demise of British Labour in Scotland in favour of a genuine Scottish Labour Party; all of these things and more will be seen by future historians as both cause and effect of Scotland moving towards independence.
The nature of the Tories’ election campaign was very largely dictated by this process of political divergence between Scotland and England. British Labour’s campaign in Scotland dealt rather more ineptly with the same irresistible historical forces. One suspects that at least a few of the more perspicacious minds in the unionist camp must have sensed which way the wind is blowing. Will they continue a Cnutian resistance? Or will they recognise the need to start managing the process of unravelling an archaic and dysfunctional political union?

Desperate measures

One of the most shamelessly despicable episodes in the referendum campaign occurred in the final couple of weeks when Better Together activists were going around knocking on pensioners’ doors telling them that they would lose their pension if they voted Yes. British Labour and their Tory allies took great pride in this contemptible tactic and credited it with having played a significant part in securing a No vote.
The ploy was devised by the disreputable characters who ran Project Fear. Those same disreputable characters are now on the payroll of British Labour in Scotland. And they are still up to the same dirty tricks.
Pensioners across Scotland are complaining about a letter (above left) they have received from British Labour branch manager in North Britain, Jim Murphy. And no wonder! It is the most appalling litany of scaremongering, misinformation, distortion and downright dishonesty imaginable. A document that reeks of Murphy’s fear and desperation as he faces richly deserved humiliation at the hands of Scotland’s electorate.
The letter starts with the claim that Nicola Sturgeon had “confirmed that the SNP’s key General Election pledge is to cut Scotland off from taxes raised across the UK.” This is a reference to full fiscal autonomy (FFA) which, far from being a “key pledge” is little more than a footnote in the SNP manifesto. Lie number one!
And it is not a “pledge” at all. For the simple reason that SNP MPs at Westminster have no means to deliver FFA. A fact that mendacious Murphy is every bit as aware of as Nicola Sturgeon. The most that can be said about FFA is that the SNP favours such an arrangement. But Murphy knows full well that it isn’t going to happen. Lie number two!
The reason that FFA isn’t going to happen is that, despite their infamous “vow” to deliver precisely that in the panicky final days of the referendum campaign, both British Labour and their Tory allies have now decided to renege on the promises they made to the people of Scotland.
The very thing that Murphy is now shrilly portraying as being disastrous for Scotland’s pensioners was, only a few months ago, being hailed by British Labour as the ultimate solution to the constitutional issue.
Next, Murphy states that FFA would mean that “we only spend in Scotland what we raise in Scotland”. Which is precisely what happens now. Except that what we raise in Scotland first has to pass through the British Treasury where huge chunks are siphoned off to pay for bloated and corrupt Westminster; infrastructure improvements in London; vanity projects to benefit the south; tax breaks for the rich; bank bail-outs; weapons of mass destruction; and the disastrous foreign military adventures that Murphy is so fond of.
This is Murphy resorting to the tired old caricature of “subsidy junkie Scotland”. A caricature which he and his fellow British nationalists repeatedly disowned during the referendum campaign even as they continued to peddle the “Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!” line from the other side of their lying mouths.
This insult is followed by a straightforward regurgitation of the lie that British Labour in Scotland were feeding to pensioners last September. The lie that independence/FFA would mean “the end of the UK state pension”.
But we know with absolute certainty that even independence would not have put pensions at risk. While Gordon Brown and others were busy trying to intimidate pensioners with scare stories about their pensions stopping the day after a Yes vote, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was sending out letters (right) reassuring people that independence would have no effect on their pension entitlement.
Murphy then repeats the lie about Scotland’s pensions being subsidised by the rest of the UK (rUK) before descending into idiocy with the claim that pensions in Scotland would have to be funded from “plummeting oil revenues”. Here, we get two lies for the price of one. In the first place, oil prices are not “plummeting”. In fact, they have been recovering fairly steadily over recent months.
The second part of this lie is truly idiotic in that Murphy tries to make out that Scottish pensions would be funded from oil revenues rather than from general taxation as at present. Complete nonsense, of course. Nonsense which, yet again, is based on the demeaning idea that Scotland is a poor nation.
The reality is that everything we have in Scotland, including pensions, is 100% funded by tax revenues raised in Scotland. In fact, that’s 100%+. Because in addition to funding our pensions and our public services, Scotland’s taxpayers are obliged to pay what used to be called the “Imperial Premium” – a surcharge imposed to pay for all those “union benefits” listed earlier.
Next up is a reference to the comprehensively discredited Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) claims of a £7.6bn deficit as a consequence of the FFA that, remember, isn’t going to happen anyway. So why talk about it other than as an exercise in blatant scaremongering?
The remainder of this malicious missive is taken up with sickeningly dishonest talk of the SNP “scrapping the UK pension”. Murphy genuinely seems to suppose that the people of Scotland are so stupid we can’t figure out that there is absolutely no way that the SNP could “scrap the UK pension”. Even with the maximum 59 MPs, the SNP would be outnumbered ten to one. Those 59 MPs could only “vote to scrap the UK pension” for people in Scotland if such a measure was proposed by a Labour or a Tory UK Government. And no UK Government could propose such a thing because, as we know from the DWP, the state pension is guaranteed. It is a sovereign debt.
Murphy ends with a repetition of the ludicrously dishonest claim that “the SNP have committed to scrapping the UK pension” garnished with a greasily disingenuous comment about the Tories being “determined to continue with their unfair austerity”. As if we weren’t aware that that British Labour is just as wedded to austerity fetishism as their Tory partners in the “Great British Duopoly”.
Murphy and British Labour in Scotland are clearly desperate. But nothing excuses such deceit and dishonesty. The whole of Scotland should condemn this vile strategy of terrorising pensioners. The whole of Scotland should punish the perpetrators on Thursday 7 May. We have an opportunity to rid our land of the liars who blight our politics. Let’s seize it with both hands and send a message that shakes the entire British establishment to its foundations.
The choice is simple. We either vote SNP or we empower lying reprobates such as Jim Murphy.

Labour’s mystery package

“UK Labour’s official policy is to maintain the continuous at sea deterrent albeit at the cheapest price; Scottish Labour’s policy is to scrap Trident. Jim Murphy, the party leader in Scotland and a former Shadow Defence Secretary, supports keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent, stressing that he is a multilateralist.”

English: A portentiously positioned election s...This one paragraph nicely illustrates the muddled mess of incoherence and inconsistency that is British Labour in Scotland. It’s all in there. From the dishonest pretence that “Scottish Labour” is a real party with distinct policies, to the self serving vacuousness of Murphy’s multilateralism.
Many will be wondering when it became “Scottish Labour” policy to scrap Trident. It’s a certainty that Johann Lamont never enunciated such a policy. Her bosses in London prohibited her from speaking on the subject. (Which may actually have been a very sensible thing to do given the way she embarrassed herself and British Labour in Scotland every time she opened her mouth on any topic.) And this policy is clearly not espoused by Jim Murphy, the man who claims to be the ultimate arbiter of all “Scottish Labour” policy.
Others will wonder how “Scottish Labour ” policy can be distinct from UK Labour policy when they are one party, with the former being a mere “accounting unit” of the latter.
What we have here is one party pretending to be two parties with at least three different policies. And, as if that wasn’t enough of a guddle, it now seems that the vast majority of British Labour in Scotland candidates in the coming election agree with neither their masters in London nor their local office manager.
And what about those three different policies? Do they make any more sense than the tangled web just described?
UK Labour policy is that obscene weapons of mass destruction are a wizard wheeze so long as it can be done on the cheap.
The pretendy wee Scottish party’s pretendy wee policy, insofar as it can have a policy and that this can be ascertained, is to scrap Trident. But even if this really is the pretendy wee party’s pretendy wee policy, it is immediately overruled by the real British Labour Party.
Then there’s Mad Murphy’s “multilateralist” stance. This is no more than a cowardly, mealy-mouthed evasion which says that, if we can’t get rid of all nuclear weapons everywhere, then we shouldn’t even try to get rid of any nuclear weapons anywhere.
Vote Labour get vacuousness wrapped in confusion wrapped in misrepresentation – all bound up in a union flag.

Vacuous vows and paltry pledges

English: Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown: A bag of wind and pish

I see Gordon Brown has made another of his interventions (Labour in pledge to go beyond powers of ‘the vow’). It’s all lies and deception, of course. There cannot possibly be a “distinct Scottish ­Labour manifesto” for the very simple reason that “Scottish Labour” is not a distinct political party. It is no more than an accounting unit of British Labour. A branch office with absolutely no authority to formulate policy.

Murphy’s bosses in London have found it expedient to tolerate his posturing as if he was a real party leader because they desperately hope that he can dupe Scottish voters into giving British Labour yet another chance. But the moment those votes are in the bag, Murphy will be slapped down just as his predecessor was.

And now Murph The Mendacious is joined by Brown The Blether. A dishonest, incompetent bag of wind and pish whose only attribute is a wholly inexplicable ability to attract the most sickeningly sycophantic attention of the media. Brown is already, by his own boast, an “ex-politician”. He has no authority and no influence now. And he will have have even less when he steps down as the absentee MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Brown is not “credited with playing a key role in the defeat of the Yes campaign”. He is blamed for the mass deception of the infamous “Vow”. And now he imagines he can pull the same confidence trick with a “Pledge”.

Stewart Hosie sums it up perfectly. British Labour in Scotland are “pledging” nothing that they haven’t previously said was already being delivered – after first claiming that it was never part of what had been promised. The phrase “all over the place” hardly seems adequate.

But there is something interesting about this laughable pretence of offering “more powers” supposedly over and above the “Cameron’s Clauses” which are a watered down version of the Smith recommendations which, in turn, merely paid lip service to a vacuous “Vow”. The frantic flailing of the British parties as they try to find some baubles shiny enough to beguile a few Scottish voters underlines the fact that devolution is entirely about withholding powers that should rightly belong with Scotland’s democratically elected parliament.

It also illustrates the point which underpins the gradualist approach to securing independence which is proving so successful. As more powers are devolved, however minimal or even illusory those powers may and however grudgingly they are granted by the Westminster clique, it becomes increasingly difficult for British nationalists to justify the continued withholding of other powers.

Imperious Britannia’s jealous grip on Scotland is gradually being loosened by increasing numbers of people asking the simple question, “If this, why not that?”. If the people of Scotland are deemed fit to exercise powers that British politicians claim are extensive and significant, why then should we continue to tolerate being denied the powers that we want – the powers which every other nation takes for granted?

If the British establishment had a persuasive answer to that question, they wouldn’t be calling for help from Gordon Brown as they frantically try to preserve the structures of power and privilege which define the British state..