Metamorphosis

Writing in The National, Ruth Wishart offers an excellent analysis of the not-so-subtle change from Scottish Office to UK Government in Scotland. I would only make the point that the start of this process coincided only coincidentally with the coming of “the UK’s coalition government”. What triggered the metamorphosis was the British parties losing control of the Scottish Parliament.

The day Alex Salmond took office as First Minister was the day the British establishment decided that Holyrood had to be reined in, or closed down. It is that imperative to put the Scottish Parliament back in its box which has driven the transformation of the role of the Secretary of State for Scotland from being Scotland’s representative in the UK cabinet to being the British state’s overseer in Scotland.

This is not a controversial observation. Even the British government has dropped any pretence that the Scotland Office exists for the benefit of Scotland and its people. In this instance, it is totally accurate to say that ‘everybody knows’ what Alister “Union” Jack’s remit is.

The metamorphosis of the old Scottish Office is not yet complete. It will soon emerge as an unelected shadow administration accountable, not to Scotland’s voters, but solely to the British executive. A British government department to govern a British territory in the interests of the British ruling elite.

Wielding powers similar to those of a colonial Governor-General, the head of this department is tasked with undermining, side-lining and by-passing the democratically elected Scottish Parliament in whatever ways he considers will be most effective. To this end, he will be given a generous budget funded entirely by Scottish taxpayers. Money will be siphoned from the Scottish budget and diverted from the replacement for EU funding.

Within a very short time, Alister “Union” Jack will plead that he has insufficient powers to do his job properly. He will call for ever more powers to be transferred to his department from the Scottish Parliament in order that he might more effectively create the “UK-wide common frameworks” that are a transparent euphemism for direct rule from London. This will include powers which will allow him to sanction fracking as an economic necessity and bring NHS Scotland into line with NHS England the better to facilitate privatisation and a sell-off to US corporations which will not do any kind of deal while a ‘lefty’ Scottish Government has control of Scotland’s public health service.

As powers are stripped from the Scottish Parliament, responsibilities will be left. Successful projects will be plastered with Union flags and the UK Government in Scotland will take the credit, while the British media will help to ensure the blame for any failure is placed squarely on the shoulders of the SNP administration.

The British establishment regards the Scottish Parliament as a problem. Has done since at least 2007. The UK Government in Scotland is the solution to that problem. The fact that it is an affront to every principle of democracy and an insult to the people of Scotland is of no consequence. Jealous Britannia will have her way.

The British establishment has, in fact, regarded Scotland as a problem for considerably more than 300 years. Devolution was intended to deal with that problem. That has backfired rather badly. The British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project is seen as the final solution to the ‘Scottish problem’.

As Ruth Wishart says, “time is very much of the essence”. If we are to halt this ‘One Nation’ Project before Scotland’s democracy is dismantled and our very identity obliterated in a storm of Union flags, we must act NOW to #DissolveTheUnion.



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Challenging power

The National asked Scotland Secretary Mundell and the Scotland Office to comment. In response, a UK Government spokesman said: “The role of the Secretary of State for Scotland is to champion Scottish interests at the heart of government and to strengthen Scotland’s place in the UK. With the Scottish Government proposing an unwanted and divisive second independence referendum next year, that role is more important than ever.”

Scrap Mundell’s role and the Scotland Office, says MPs’ report

Let’s just take a wee look at the above excerpt from Kirsteen Paterson’s article. The first thing we note is that when The National approached Mundell and the Scotland Office for comment it was the UK Government which responded on their behalf. That alone tells us all we need to know about the role and status of Mundell and the Scotland Office. They are no more than a front for the British state in Scotland. Their voice is the voice of their masters in London. They most decidedly do not speak for Scotland in any way.

Imagine you were talking to a couple and asked the woman’s opinion on something only for the man to respond on her behalf. What would that suggest about the man’s attitude to the woman? Would it suggest an attitude of respect?

Despite the Scotland Office being part of the British establishment, it is clearly regarded as inferior by the British political elite who operate David Mundell as a ventriloquist operates his dummy. Why? Could it be because they are nominally ‘Scottish’ and the Union dictates that Scotland must be subordinate in all things and at all times?

Now, in the light of what we know about the nature of the relationship between England-as-Britain and Scotland as presumed by the UK Government, let’s examine the statement made by the UK Government because Mundell was not trusted to speak. It begins with the patently false assertion that “the role of the Secretary of State for Scotland is to champion Scottish interests at the heart of [UK] government”. We know this to be false. The true role of the Secretary of State for Scotland is made totally explicit in the fact that he works for something called ‘The UK Government in Scotland’. And, of course, by the way Mundell disports himself. No dispassionate observer would ever suppose Mundell was making any effort to “champion Scottish interests” even if said observer was unaware of the fact that Mundell has absolutely no mandate from the people of Scotland.

Mundell is quite open about his ambition to trample all over the devolution settlement and re-impose direct rule from London. That’s what is meant by the term “UK-wide common framework”. How can contempt for the Scottish Parliament be in Scotland’s interests?

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Mundell is also the power behind the throne occupied by Ruth Davidson as ‘Queen of the BritNats’. He is at least her equal in his determination to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. He does not champion Scotland’s interests in the British state, he champions anti-democratic British Nationalism in Scotland.

Which brings me neatly to my main point – Scotland’s right of self-determination which is inalienable and, notwithstanding the dictatorial rhetoric of Mundell and Davidson or the macho posturing of Tory leadership candidates, cannot be denied. Go back to that ‘His Master’s Voice’ statement from the UK Government again. Note the claim that the Secretary of State for(?) Scotland has an “important” role in a new independence referendum. Let’s scrutinise that claim.

If, as is evidently assumed, the UK Government represents the superior party to an asymmetric political union then, according to well established principles of international law, the Secretary of State for Scotland – being an agent of said superior party – can have no role whatever in the process by which the right of self-determination is exercised.

See, for example, the ‘Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States’ which form part of the Helsinki Final Act, adopted by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975. Principle VIII states,

By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.

Helsinki Final Act

The British state cannot have it both ways. If it is a superior entity asserting the power to impose policies on Scotland regardless of the will of Scotland’s people as expressed by the Scottish Parliament, as well as the authority to deny or constrain Scotland’s right of self-determination, then it cannot also be a participant in the process by which the people of Scotland “in full freedom” determine “their internal and external political status”. This would clearly constitute unlawful “external interference” and a breach of internationally recognised principles.

The power and authority over Scotland which the British state asserts must be robustly challenged. When it is, it will surely be found to lack any standing in law as well as any democratic legitimacy.



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The shadow

scotland_officeThis stuff about the Scotland Office’s spending on propaganda is all very interesting. But we can get to the nub of the issue by asking a very simple question. The most fundamental of which is in respect of which best reflects and represents Scotland’s choices, priorities and aspirations. Is it the government that is actually elected by the people of Scotland and accountable to them? Or is it a department of the British government which has been consistently and decisively rejected by Scotland’s voters?

Even Unionists, were they capable of being honest, would acknowledge that the Scottish Government has the better claim. It’s a fairly straightforward matter of democratic legitimacy. There really isn’t much of a grey area here. Only the Scottish Parliament can credibly lay claim to democratic legitimacy in Scotland. For the Scotland Office to claim democratic legitimacy is ridiculous and rather offensive.

The point is that Unionists, without any exception that I am aware of, don’t care. They don’t care that the Scotland Office lacks any democratic legitimacy in Scotland. They still insist that it should have political authority on a par with and even superior to that of the Scottish Government. They are content to have the British state develop the Scotland Office as an unelected and democratically unaccountable shadow government.

British Nationalists are prepared to set aside considerations of democratic legitimacy in the name of ideological expediency. That makes them dangerous.

It is not totally accurate to say that the Scotland Office is spending public money for party political purposes. Not unless one considers all the British parties as a single British Nationalists entity. What they are undeniably doing is spending public money for ideological purposes. They are using Scottish taxpayers’ cash to fund British Nationalist propaganda.

It is a fine distinction. The real and significant contrast is between those who find this partisan politicking objectionable, and those who are prepared to shrug it off along with any pretence to democratic principles.


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A smear backfires

English: Alistair Carmichael MP addressing a L...
Alistair Carmichael MP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having listened to Alistair Carmichael’s defence in the matter of what I suppose we must grit our teeth and call #MemoGate, I am even more convinced than ever that he should resign immediately. Unbelievably, Carmichael is now insisting that we should simply ignore his despicable behaviour and focus instead on some unspecified things he may have done for his constituents in the past.
Even more incredibly, he is trying to portray the SNP as the villain of the piece!
Carmichael’s conduct has been, and continues to be, appalling. But the fact that his party refuses to take any action against him is totally inexplicable. They have voluntarily chosen that the whole party should be tainted by Carmichael’s offences. We have to assume that this was Willie Rennie’s decision, not least because it is backed up by his personal plea that Carmichael be given a “second chance”. Such poor judgement must call into question Rennie’s fitness as leader.
Rennie has foolishly put himself in the firing line of a scandal which is already threatening to embroil Carmichael’s successor as Scottish Secretary, David Mundell as more and more people ask how he could possibly have been unaware of what his then boss was up to. After all, it’s not as if Carmichael was acting in a particularly clandestine manner. One of the more shocking aspects of this whole affair has been the casual attitude to deliberate smears and brazen lies displayed by the main players, and the fact that Carmichael believed he could act as he did with impunity, doubtless believing that he would be protected by the British establishment.
Carmichael’s apologists will, of course, bleat about a “witch-hunt”. I would remind them that their man is being condemned for cause. And very good cause, at that. This is in no way similar to, for example, the way Stewart Stevenson MSP was hounded from office as Transport Minister when he was absolutely blameless just so the British parties at Holyrood and their friends in the British media could claim a scalp.
Carmichael has to go because he did something – in fact, several things – which even he has admitted would require his resignation. Which almost certainly means that the LibDems will be wiped out in Scotland.
Mundell may well have to step down as Scottish Secretary if he cannot offer a satisfactory account of his own part in the affair, thereby creating another constitutional crisis as the Tory UK Government is forced to try and find someone else for the position. Or abolish the office of Scottish Secretary altogether.
And Willie Rennie is, at the very least, weakened as leader by his craven defence of the indefensible.
I wonder if Carmichael still thinks his attempt to smear Nicola Sturgeon was such a wizard wheeze.
But there is more. Recall that the memo at the centre of this affair was actually fourth-hand as it derived from a telephone conversation about a telephone conversation about an account of a conversation given by someone who was not actually a party to the conversation at the heart of the matter, but merely a witness to it.
It is perfectly legitimate to ask why the second of these telephone calls was made. And who gave the instruction for the call to be made. And for what purpose.
Given the events currently under discussion, and the general behaviour of the British parties, it is only natural to be suspicious of everything they do. It does not seem beyond the bounds of credibility that the telephone call to the person who had made the telephone call to the French Consul General was a fishing expedition looking for something which could be spun into a bit of anti-SNP propaganda. Indeed, I suggested as much when the smear attempt against Nicola Sturgeon first surfaced.
There may be a great deal more to this than has hitherto come to light. One person who may know more is Simon Johnson, the Telegraph journalist who was complicit in the original smear attempt. So far, he has escaped the kind of scrutiny that he deserves.
We know for a fact that Johnson simply didn’t bother to seek a response from any of the principals in the story. That he has kept his job after such a grievous dereliction of professional standards is a telling comment on how low the British media has sunk. But little or nothing has been said about what questions he asked of his source at the Scotland Office.
Scurrilous journalists also tend also to be cowardly. Johnson would have sought assurances that his arse was covered. It is difficult to believe he wouldn’t question the provenance of the story? What questions did he ask? What was he told that convinced him he would not put himself at risk by running the story? Did an experienced political journalist fail to even suspect a smear attempt? Did he just not care?
One way or another, we have not heard the last of this.