I was driving back from Troon and Philippa Whitford’s adoption do in Central Ayrshire with Burns country sparkling and fertile when I switched on the radio. A voice I knew but couldn’t place produced pinpricks of apprehension…words falling over themselves as they tumbled out in a stream…fear, concern, danger. It took me back to the appalling Better Together campaign and of course, it was Alistair Darling, hyperventilating as ever about Nationalists and Tories. Poor man sounds afraid and worried all the time…I imagined him bursting into the front room: Margaret! Margaret! I was going to make tea but there’s only enough water in the kettle for one cup which means we can fulfil just half of our tea promise – a 50 per cent failure! The danger is that one of us will go without unless we press for a solution. What can we do? This is a real threat to our tea drinking. I’d call the housekeeper but I suspect she’s a separatist. Remember how she bought that tartan tea cosy? Wait! I’ve got Blair McDougall on fast dial…
Is this man really an elder statesman of the British state? He may be wealthy through it and no doubt ennoblement awaits, but I think he is broken by Westminster, a Scottish radical corrupted into ineptitude.
It was yet another facet of the nappy and rattle campaign by Unionists to deny democracy to SNP-voting Scots, a kindergarten version of It’s no’ fair.
Embarrassing as this is for the whole idea of modern democracy and the fabled fairness of Britain, it does have an up side as there can be no Scot left in any doubt about how he is truly regarded by the majority opinion in the metropolitan capital after this Scotophobic* denunciation. It tells me that some people count for more than others, that some peoples’ origins are more important than others, that the franchise is qualified and when the chips are down, that our role is secondary to just about everyone else – including right wing, quasi-racist zealots and religious sectarians with historic links to paramilitaries.
This is covered of course by the excuse that Nationalists want to ‘break up Britain’ – who wouldn’t? Unfortunately for those like the incompetent failure that is John Major, the democratic process has decided that issue, not forever, that’s certain, but for all practical purposes and to deny that is to deny the peoples’ will. They say: We ignore the result of the referendum. We discount the vote. We are now effectively re-running the campaign. Well, it’s an election and there are some very frightened politicians desperate for anything to save their skins, grubbing even for previously hated opponents’ votes as principle takes flight before preservation. All of this unedifying protest is designed to scare people into voting for them and, whatever they say, when the votes are cast, deals will be done and understandings reached and, one way or another, bankrupt old Blighty will hobble on pretending to be a World Power.
Labour, if the numbers work, will reach an accommodation with the SNP simply by moderating their policies to suit (which will make them appear more generous and popular) and by saying any gains for Scotland had previously been agreed by the Smith Commission (if powers go beyond Smith, who can be bothered arguing?)
For most voters, the fact that a government has been created will be enough. It avoids the horror of a second election and the same vilified Scots will again become a semi-extinct breed to be ignored as Westminster is consumed by its metropolitan obsessions. People will tire of the Tory-led outrage at nationalists propping up a government and make them seem like bad losers. Others may even grow to like the SNP and their rational left-of-centre approach.
The scary interlude is similar to Darling’s dismal and mendacious BetterTogether campaign. Remember how No was a vote to save the NHS? The same NHS now threatened by whoever might win the election?
There is one thing we can do, though and that is to understand how English minds are working because English people deserve explanations and reassurance rather than the Armageddon foretold by Britnat loonies in the Mail and Express.
In my experience, England sees Westminster as primarily an English institution with statelets bolted on. It is one reason why there is no widespread move for an England-only parliament – they’ve already got one. They have been told forever that they are pre-eminent in numbers and resources, that other nations were, in the ancient sense, conquered and therefore ‘theirs’ and that the prevailing hegemony of the UK is England’s. The whole spatchcock contraption of Union only stays afloat so long as England feels it can dominate but when there is regional insurgence it begins to lean and pitch dangerously, threatening to turn turtle.
So I think English people are entitled to wonder about the SNP and its motives. After all, we don’t normally believe politicians’ promises so why should they believe Sturgeon when she says she comes in peace? She does want to break up Britain, right? Her line is that she doesn’t want to do it quite yet.
There is a greater prize here because, if it does fall to the SNP to shore up Labour, they can demonstrate to the whole UK – and a wider Europe suspicious of independence – just how astute and adroit they are in playing the government game and producing sensible pro-British policies which in turn will soften English hostility. Understanding of Scotland and our national ambitions can flow from that and potentially ease the path to independence in future. Played well, the SNP bloc can be creator of a Westminster Enlightenment.
*Fear of the dark (apt) and Scots.by