Preparing the hyena feast

The article in The National under the headline Corbyn reveals unredacted document showing ‘NHS is on the table in trade talks’ refers throughout to “the NHS”, implying a single entity. This is misleading. There are, in fact four quite separate and distinct public health services in the UK.

  • NHS Scotland
  • NHS England
  • NHS Wales
  • Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland

We may, however, assume that the US corporations seeking access to and control of “the NHS” think of it as a single entity even if, as we should expect, they are sufficiently well informed to be aware of the reality. What is certain is that they will want the same access to and control of all four health systems. And, with the support of the US Government, they will demand that the UK Government facilitate this as a condition of any trade deal.

We know also that, post-Brexit, the UK Government will be so desperate to conclude a trade deal with the US which can be spun as an example of the benefits of leaving the EU that they will agree to pretty much any and all conditions set by the US negotiators. We must ask ourselves, therefore, how the UK Government might go about facilitating this ‘sell-off’ of all four health services as part of a single deal given that there are significant differences in the way they are structured, funded and managed. We should also ask ourselves what demands the US negotiators might make in this regard.

It seems extremely likely that the US negotiators will want the four health services combined under a common UK-wide framework. Which is handy, because the UK Government has prepared for just such an eventuality. Readers may recall discarded Scottish Secretary David Mundell referring to these “UK-wide common frameworks” on numerous occasions – and with great relish as he at the time supposed he would be in charge of the Scottish bit of these common frameworks through the shadow administration called ‘UK Government in Scotland’. We may also note that these “UK-wide common frameworks” are openly being discussed in relation to agriculture, agricultural support, fisheries etc.

While there has been no mention of a “UK-wide common framework” for health services we would anticipate that any proposals of this nature would be kept under very tight wraps. Tighter even than those that secured – or failed to secure – the document Jeremy Corbyn now claims to have in his possession. Even if no specific proposals exist, which seems highly unlikely given the language of the aforementioned document, the UK Government has seized powers which could provide the means to ‘surreptitiously’ force the four health services into adopting common practices in various areas – notably, powers over public procurement.

Additionally, the UK Government has seized powers over elements of reciprocal healthcare, which would allow them to claim some kind of precedent for the imposition of a common framework in other aspects of health services. We know how that argument goes – there is already a “common UK-wide framework” in respect of that, and this is closely associated with that, so obviously there should also be a “UK-wide common frameworks” for this.

And let us not forget the provisions of Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998), which gives the British Prime Minister sweeping authority to unilaterally alter which powers are devolved and which reserved. Read with due trepidation.

“Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of Schedule 4 or 5 which She considers necessary or expedient.”

Taken altogether, we may safely conclude that the intention of the UK Government is to effectively abolish the separate health services by absorbing them into NHS England in order to present a more tempting prey for America’s corporate hyenas. We can be sure that NHS Scotland will be particularly targeted due to the fact that those predators find distinctly unpalatable the Scottish Government’s commitment to preserving a genuine public health service founded on a principle of universality that is alien and anathema to them.

Some will protest that this is overstating the threat to NHS Scotland. Can we afford to take the chance?

PS – How could I have forgotten this? ‘Boris Johnson warns SNP will ‘forfeit all right’ to manage NHS‘?

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The right man for the job

It is becoming clearer by the day why Alister “Union” Jack was chosen to replace David “Fluffy” Mundell. The latter is a functionary. Dull, plodding, unimaginative, but mindlessly loyal and unthinkingly obedient. He could be relied upon to do his masters’ bidding dutifully and with mechanical efficiency. The ideal person to manage the setting-up of the new apparatus of the British state in Scotland. But not the man to operate it.

Some people design and build racing cars. Others drive them. The same applies to bulldozers. And to the machinery of state oppression. Not the state oppression of old. Not the crude, strong-arm oppression of medieval times. Nor the overwhelming, ‘might and main’ oppression of European imperialism. Nor even the relentlessly menacing oppression of the 20th century totalitarian state. Modern state oppression is more subtle. More efficient. More insidious.

Some will object to the use of the term ‘state oppression’ in this context. But think it through. Oppression is subjugation by means of superior power. Who can sensibly deny that the original purpose of the Union was subjugation of Scotland by the superior power of England. Those who seek to preserve this subjugating Union will insist that it has changed over time. They claim that it is a “partnership of equals”; a voluntary collaborative enterprise for mutual benefit. But is that what we see when we look at the way the Union functions?

Is there anything that has happened in the last decade that looks at all like a “partnership of equals” in operation? Is there anything about current relations between Scotland and England that seems “voluntary” or “collaborative”? From the appalling Project Fear to the impertinence of EVEL; the contemptuous disregard for Scotland’s Remain vote; the exclusion of the Scottish Government from Brexit negotiations; the seizure of repatriated EU powers; the denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination; to the competitive Jock-bashing of the Tory leadership campaign and the emergence of an unelected shadow administration accountable, not to the people of Scotland, but to a British executive wielding powers akin to those of an absolute monarch, nothing in any of this speaks of anything other than the subjugation of Scotland by the successors of those who imposed the Union on us more than three centuries ago.

What distinguishes Unionists is that they are in denial about this subjugation. What distinguishes British Nationalists is that they believe this subjugation be the ‘natural order’. What distinguishes campaigners for the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that we refuse to accept this subjugation, considering it a gross insult to the people of Scotland and an affront to democracy.

As awareness of the true nature of the Union has grown, the British establishment has been obliged to respond. That response has been much as we would expect of an oppressor. It follows the perverse logic that if oppression is failing then the solution must be more oppression.

We are not, of course, talking about overt oppression of the kind that relies on batons, CS gas and prison cells. The British state has had centuries to perfect methods of oppression which are, as has been noted, more subtle and insidious; not to mention more cost-effective. The tools of the 21st century oppressor are media and money. Adroitly deployed, these can be every bit as effective as more brutal forms of oppression – and a lot less messy. Modern oppressors don’t occupy the land with military garrisons. They occupy minds with propaganda. They don’t control the populace by means of physical force. They control the people by means of economic pressure.

David Mundell has served his masters well. Doubtless, he will be rewarded as loyal servants of the British ruling elite usually are, with some sinecure or title. For the moment, however, he has been unceremoniously cast aside in favour of someone considered better qualified to actually run the shadow administration that Mundell has been instrumental in establishing. Someone with a rather different skill set.

Alister Jack is the enforcer. Now that the infrastructure has been put in place, the British state needs someone to make sure it works effectively. This requires a certain ruthlessness. Not the violent mercilessness of the vicious despot. But the cold pitilessness of the business executive. Someone who will move the pieces around the board with the same focus on the bottom line whether they are people or plant. Someone who will be quite unmoved by arguments from principle if these get in the way of the deal.

A faithful old retainer such as Mundell has his uses. But the ‘One Nation’ project requires someone who can act on their own initiative. Someone who can manoeuvre and manipulate on the fly. Someone who can spot opportunities and jump on them without waiting for instructions from head office.

The UK Government in Scotland is, unquestionably, the most important part of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. It is crucial that the British establishment get the right person to run it. Alister “Union” Jack’s educational, business and political background is such as would, in an earlier time, have fitted him well to the role of colonial governor. It’s not difficult to see why he was considered the perfect candidate to take on the task of dismantling Scotland’s democratic institutions and readying the country for exploitation on a massive scale.

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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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