The most noteworthy thing about Unionists is how they never talk about the Union. Consume the output of media politics in Scotland from one week to the next and you’ll virtually nothing about the relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.
The comments of players in the game appear, for sure, and events like Damien Green meeting Scottish ministers about divvying up post Brexit powers are treated as news but there is virtually no perspective on the working of the relationships that are the sinews of the construct that is Britain.
I wait in vain for any of the pro-Union representatives to make a speech lauding the current state of the country or to break out of the predictable studio narrative and cry Hallelluja! Thank the Good Lord for bestowing upon us a country so contented, so prosperous, so healthy and united and for national leadership so inspiring it is taken as a beacon for others around the world. Blessed we are in this United Kingdom.
Or even: things ain’t too bad, after all.
Could it be that nobody in Britain actually believes that things are going well. Is the truth that nobody has faith in leadership. Why do polls suggest majorities in all four nations believe the Union will end, perhaps within a decade?
There appears to be a self-denying ordinance gagging those who should be holding up the UK as a template for a well-run country. Instead of examples of how Britain does things better and gets results, we are subjected to many reasons why any alternative is worse. The same thing happened during the indyref when every utterance of independistas was examined minutely but with no corresponding analysis of how things actually work now.
I’ve watched the relish with which a Twitter row among Yessers is elevated to mean the end of the nationalist dream when it hasn’t touched the leadership or cohesion of the wider movement at all. A handful of mini-celeb names that mean nothing to the hundreds of thousands of independence voters across the country have let their narcissism get the better of them.
But is the SNP split? Is the Cabinet in revolt? Has anyone resigned? Has anyone in a position of authority said anything worth quoting? Is anybody opposing the continuing objective of independence?
Contrast that with a broken-back Prime Minister whose Chancellor maps out a new approach while she’s on holiday, before her deputy straightens it out again.
Here’s a section from the FT:
‘Theresa May’s cabinet is split into at least three groups over how Britain should arrange a transition period after Brexit, according to several people involved in discussions. One group, led by Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is pushing for the most gradual departure possible from the EU and tends to stress the economic risks of Brexit. Another, including Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, tends to emphasise the opportunities of departure and the need to honour last year’s Brexit referendum result and favours a cleaner break. Then there is a group in between, which includes the prime minister and her de facto deputy, Damian Green, as well as two notable Brexit campaigners, Michael Gove and David Davis.’
Considering the importance of Brexit this is little short of disastrous. Remember, these are the people in charge of the policy yet are deeply divided among themselves. Somehow a coherent argument has to be put to the EU negotiators from this guddle.
They are still fighting each other as the clock ticks down. And for noises off – the equivalent of the Yes Twitter spat – we have the recently resigned aide to David Davis saying the whole Brexit disaster must be stopped, a new political party formed and the Brexiteers who lied to the voters, jailed.
These are the people running the United Kingdom whose health service may be approaching breaking point because of their policy and funding failures (I predict the Tory solution will magically turn out to be private investment).
Even before we turn to the universally agreed destruction that Brexit will bring, the state of the nation surely demands that we hear a great peoples debate on what kind of country Britain has become.
It is now established for example that the effects of austerity and lack of investment mean people in the north of England die younger than those feather-bedded in the south. The rate of premature death in people under 45 is falling in the south, but stagnating in the north. In 2015 the number of premature deaths of people aged 35 to 44 was 50% higher in the north than the south. Since 2008, the regional death gap has widened alarmingly, bucking a decades-long trend.
Dawn Foster, in the Guardian, writes: ‘deaths by suicide, from substance abuse and chronic health conditions: a growing death toll driven by despair and diminishing quality of life for young people, with life chances winnowed away and health worsening for one section of the population while the other flourishes. These are the diseases of despair: deaths that aren’t inevitable and would be entirely preventable if only health inequalities in this country were taken seriously. The deindustrialisation of Britain hasn’t helped, leaving areas with no industry, precarious work, high unemployment and for young people, little prospect of a better life and a stab at social mobility.’
The Tory Party that 700,000 Scots voted for brought in the two-child maximum benefit cutting at a stroke a financial lifeline to three-child families almost a third of of whom are now struggling to pay for basic living costs. With a new baby to care for but no extra tax credits to help cover costs, parents reported having to skip meals themselves so they could feed all their children. Some told the charity they’re developing health problems because they can’t afford food with the right nutrition or vitamins. Others say their children now have to go without the right school uniform or materials for class.
If Unionist Scots do care about the ‘United” kingdom, why is so little attention paid to the way whole areas of the country is run? We were told we had to shun our own self government so as not to leave in the lurch the poor and vulnerable in Liverpool and Leeds. Well, we’re still here. How are we doing?
It’s when you look at the reality of de-industrialised, under-invested Britain with its rentier economy and craven surrender to foreign economic interests that you know why even Tories don’t celebrate the UK. There are no peons of praise, no hymns or hosannas that any British politician could utter that wouldn’t be treated with justified contempt. May, whose term at the Home Office was stained yet again this week in another immigration court appeal, talked about the Just About Managing – JAM families on the edge. It is her own government that is the JAM. And the UK, now the worst performing economy in the developed world and one of the most unequal, is a global laughing stock for shooting itself in the foot over the EU.
Labour too is split badly over Brexit and fighting internally over deselection of MPs. The stardust of Corbyn is dispersing as he is steadily exposed as a charlatan like all the others with anti-nuclear and student policies evaporating on examination and his Bennite distaste for the EU.
Even natural allies of Britain are scathing in their scorn at the delusional Brits. But you won’t find this as a narrative in Unionism because, as must be clear by now, like Brexiteers, they live in denial. And fundamentally most pro-Union types can never accept that any level of Hell could be worse that their own country’s independence.
Attacking Scotland and Yes is easy – and we shouldn’t facilitate that – but don’t be deflected. The enemy is the British system, the matrix of powers that is the State and their desire to exploit the nation for their own self-interest. That’s what has created the state we’re in.by