Saturday, 12 March 2016

Just say No to the Nats

I rarely if ever watch Reporting Scotland. Sometimes by chance I catch a clip of the Scottish Parliament debating. I immediately switch off. I dislike even the look of the place. The colour. The shape. The Nicola.

For the same reason I don’t read the Press and Journal as I’m far more interested in UK or worldwide events than those which can only interest people from Aberdeenshire. I couldn't care less about the price of bulls at the Turriff mart or who won the cake making prize at the Strichen Women’s Rural. I want to read whatever everyone else is reading across the UK. I want that shared experience. If I don’t have it I always feel as if I’m missing out. Frequently I am.

Recently in the Times there was an article by Tim Montgomerie announcing that he was leaving the Conservative party because of David Cameron’s stance on Europe. People on Twitter and in various blogs were discussing it. I got hold of a copy of the Times, but instead of this, I found someone worrying about peat and discussing some dead Scottish nationalist I’d never heard of. I might as well have been reading the Press and Journal.

Apparently there’s a Scottish Parliament election sometime in May. I’m finding it rather hard to work up any enthusiasm about it. Insofar as I write about Scottish politics, I only really focus on the constitutional issues. The goings on in that oddly shaped, rather expensive building in Edinburgh interest me just about the same as the elections to the European Parliament or the regional council. I don’t follow what goes on in Brussels. I can’t name more than a handful of MEPs. I likewise don’t follow the intricacies of the regional council in Aberdeen. Perhaps I should. But there are many things I should do. I should exercise more and eat more vegetables. I should read À la recherche du temps perdu, but I find sentences that go on for three pages dull and can never get beyond page fifty.

The trouble though is that the Scottish Parliament has really rather a lot of power now. If it had been up to me it wouldn’t exist at all. I can never quite forgive the Scottish establishment of the Liberals and the Labour party together with all the self-appointed worthies for creating the thing in the first place. As time goes on Tony Blair’s reputation just keeps getting worse. It was his government that did more to endanger Britain than any other I can think of. The SNP didn’t even want a Scottish Parliament. They weren’t demanding it back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed they opposed it. The Liberals and Labour thought the Scottish Parliament would guarantee them perpetual power in Scotland. The best laid plans etc.

Now look where we are. The odds for the Scottish election are positively frightening.
The bookies think it so likely that the SNP will win a majority of seats that they offer odds of 1/50. The odds of the SNP winning an overall majority are 1/20. If I bet a pound on this result I would only get £1.05 back.  This overall majority was supposed to be impossible. The Liberals and Labour promised us that no single party would ever dominate us. They set up the voting system so that what is probably about to happen could never happen, let alone happen twice running. We're going to rule Scotland forever cried the Liberals and Labour. How's it working out for you folks?

The problem with the forthcoming campaign is that it is barely worth even being interested. Until and unless the mood of people in Scotland changes, the SNP will win the vast majority of seats at Holyrood. They may indeed win all of them. What fun. This is about as interesting as an election to the Supreme Soviet. There’s really something odd about our nature. Do we like to be dominated by one party? First it was Labour winning nearly all the seats, now it’s the SNP. Is this something to do with the repression of the Scottish psyche? All those years of frugality and puritanism. We don’t so much need an election as a psychiatrist. Cults is not so much a suburb of Aberdeen as it is the various places which trap the Scottish mind-set and from which we need rescuing.  

The key to being rescued is to recognise the dark place that we are in now. Don’t vote for those who put us here. Why trust the Liberals and Labour, when it was they most of all who were responsible for the rise of Scottish nationalism? The SNP might even now be trundling along on 5% if Labour and the Liberals hadn’t decided to muck around with the UK constitutional settlement.

The Scottish establishment is universally left-wing. There’s nothing wrong with the Left in moderation. But it so dominates Scottish life that nearly every MP, MEP or MSP we have elected for the past 30 years is from the left.  There are more left-wing MSPs in the Scottish Parliament than any other parliament in the western world. Where else in the world are 90% of the politicians saying more or less the same thing and from a similar perspective? To reach Scottish levels of uniformity, you'd have to go back to the Great Leap Forward, but at least the Chinese had the excuse that their uniformity was imposed by dictatorship. We choose ours. 

Democracy requires a mixture of different ideas. It requires Left and Right to act as a check and a balance to each other.  It's the dominance of the Left  in Scotland and our tendency to want to be ruled by only one party that creates instability in the UK. To satisfy our continual demand that the way Scotland votes is mirrored in the UK as a whole, they would first have had to vote Labour, now they would all have to vote SNP! It's the dominance of the Left that underpins the SNP. It is the source of and the explanation for Scottish nationalism. On the other hand voting for the Right undermines that foundation meaning that first it will topple and one day it will fall. 

There is only one party that can do something to redress the balance and bring Scotland back to the ordinary every day politics that we had until the 1980s. It’s not going to happen overnight, but every Tory that is elected to the Scottish Parliament is bringing us one step back to the UK mainstream where both the Left and the Right have a chance of ruling.

Scottish attitudes are remarkably similar to the other parts of the UK. But we are haunted by the past and cannot bear to see ourselves as Tories. Even those of us who like some Tory policies find ourselves filled with dread at the prospect of making an X next to the Tory candidate’s name.  But long-term making that X may be the best way we have of supporting the UK. The Conservatives have become the natural home for Pro UK people.

Labour and the Lib Dems have turned Scottish independence into a matter of conscience. Their MSPs will be able to vote as they please on this matter. Does anyone really think that Labour or the Lib Dems would stick up for Britain when the time comes for them to do so? They’d be far too scared of losing support. The only Scottish party that will support the UK come what may is the Scottish Conservatives.

If the SNP win more than 50% of the vote, then tactical voting in the constituencies will be utterly pointless. Of course, there may be places where it still makes sense to vote tactically against the SNP. But given that a Labour, or Lib Dem MSP may turn out to be a Nat, I’m afraid I will find myself unable to vote tactically for them.

The Scottish people we need to focus on most are those Pro UK people who, for reasons that escape me, choose to vote for the SNP. We don’t know when or if the SNP will push for another referendum. It could be as early as this summer if the UK votes to leave the EU while Scotland doesn’t.  We don’t know if the SNP would be allowed to have a referendum under those circumstances. I believe that voting to leave the EU makes it less likely that Scotland would choose independence. But there is uncertainty about that. Moreover it may depend on the rationality of the Scottish electorate. We have been swinging from everyone voting Labour to everyone voting for the SNP. This swinging irrational pendulum is inherently unstable. It could turn into a wrecking ball that breaks up the UK.

If the SNP fails to win an overall majority in the Scottish parliament, there will be no circumstance in which they can ask for another referendum. This will be for the simple reason, that they will need the consent of another party that hopefully will believe in the continued existence of the UK. The more Conservatives we have in the Scottish Parliament, the more chance we will have of Ruth Davidson holding the balance of power. If that happened, for the first time in years we wouldn’t have to worry about The Nicola. 

Lib Dem and Labour MSPs might always choose to side with the SNP. After all they are allowed to. Conservatives will never do that. We have a slim chance of giving Ruth Davidson the power to say No to the Nats. But nothing is written, the battle has not yet been fought. If all Pro UK people get together and vote for the only person who will actually take the fight to the SNP, we can still get our country back. For the first time in ages I find myself getting interested again. Wouldn't it be funny if the SNP could no longer make threats? What would they do? Can you imagine the joy of watching their impotence? Can you imagine no longer having to worry about someone trying to break up our country?  

It's the knee jerk hatred of Tories in Scotland that explains both Labour's former dominance and the SNP's tendency towards ruling a one party state. It's a grievance that's been festering since the 1980s.  The SNP are today's anti-Tory party, but too many Scots who don't vote for the SNP help them by sharing the self-same hatred of the Tory enemy. This grievance has been festering since the 1980s. It ceased being rational a very long time ago. If you support the UK it's time to get over it. 


  1. This forum that published your blog " do not break our unity " is nothing but a lie !!!

    They purport to be a forum of unity against snp ???

    I questioned their unity when they published this blog saying labour and liberal had no answer to snp and Tory was the only answer ???

    I have no problem with a forum supporting a political party but when they say:-
    We would like to reach supporters across the political spectrum to unite in opposition to Salmond’s attempt to break up and destroy the United Kingdom and with it divide this small island.

    Then they deceitfully and deviously plant anti labour and liberal propaganda

    All I asked was for them to be truthful about their so called principles I was blocked without a answer

    OH DEAR, thanks Effie who needs a deceptive unity forum.

    1. I alone am responsible for putting the blog in that forum. I do so because I always have and because they asked me to a long time ago. I blog about what I feel and am not constrained by membership of any party or group. If you object to this blog, you are welcome to contact the moderators of the forum. It wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

      However, it might make more sense if you provided counter arguments, rather than just objecting to the fact that I support a party you don't


    2. Hi Effie, you totally missed my point, I have no problem with or care of your Tory political beliefs.
      This deceitful forum " do not break our unity " portrays to be a anti snp forum of supporters across the political spectrum ? It's the deceitful moderators that plant anti labour/liberal articles while saying they are a unity forum against SNP. All I asked is for them to be honest with their readers who they are ?????
      The last time I criticized their articles they labeled the Labour Party as a party of the Muslims
      I have no interest in deceptive forums or in trying to " bother you "
      All the best Ian . Bye bye

  2. You've made the assertion before that the Scottish parliament has to be "allowed" to call a referendum. Thankfully your airy certainty that this is the case simply isn't supported by any actual evidence. There is nothing in the Scotland Act which prohibits the holding of a referendum, ergo it is permitted. The issue is giving effect to a decision of the Scottish people to vote Yes in such a referendum, whether it had the "permission" of Westminster to hold it or not.

    As others have noted, the $64,000 question relates to recognition by the international community as a whole. If the Scottish people voted Yes in response to a clear question, there is little prospect of the international community accepting a Westminster veto, any more than they would accept Westminster deciding to reverse the acts of parliament which "granted" independence to Dominions like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or former colonies of the Empire.

    The Edinburgh Agreement was, as many pointed out at the time, a sign of unionist weakness, not strength. There is no academic consensus that the holding of a referendum, still less declaring independence, is subject to Westminster granting us their gracious permission. Sadly, like so many other unionist tropes, this one is regularly trotted out as a "fact", beyond any dispute or argument.

    Given the polls for Holyrood, and the probable differential vote between Scotland and the rest of the UK in the brexit referendum, the question is whether unionists feel lucky? One sure fire way to increase pro-independence sentiment further, particularly amongst "soft" No voters, would be for Westminster to try and take the same approach as Madrid has been taking with Catalonia. Of course, it is overwhelmingly they lack either moral courage or political support within Scotland to do so; your appeals to Scots "inner Tory" looks increasingly desperate Effie, as the relative size, enthusiasm and age profile of the recent Tory and SNP party conferences shows so clearly.

    1. The Scotland Act reserves specific matters and the union is a matter reserved therefore you are completely wrong.

      Do read the said act before asserting what it contains.

    2. No, I'm not, and neither are Halliday Campbell, who set out the case pretty conclusively here:

      "The Scottish Government proposes to pass an Act to allow it to honour the manifesto promise to hold a referendum on independence. Such an Act would be lawful unless prohibited by the terms of the 1998 Act. The holding of referenda is not prohibited and so is permitted. The claim against lawfulness is that the proposed referendum “relates to” (within the meaning of s29(3) – the crucial bit) the Union. The argument is that an Act to hold a referendum would, in itself, have an effect on the Union. That just can't be right. Faced with the argument you are forced almost to tautology but the purpose and, beyond anything other than specious argument, solitary effect of an Act to provide for the holding of a referendum is the holding of a referendum. The Act would have no other effect, at all. Even the result of the subsequent, supervening referendum would not have an effect. Only an Act, presumably following a "yes" vote, purportedly dissolving or amending the terms of the Union would have an effect. Such an Act would, in very clear terms of the 1998 Act and whatever the result of as many referenda as you like, be "not law". As a matter of the Act establishing it, the Scottish Parliament could not, even following a "yes" vote, unilaterally dissolve the Union. We might expect both Scottish and Westminster Parliaments to choose to do so, but only as a matter of morality, politics and international (not domestic) law. "

      There is nothing in the Act which specifically says that holding a referendum is a reserved matter, therefore it is not.

    3. I've just linked you to the actual law and for whatever reason you now say the law is wrong and some random blog you found is correct.

      Legislative Competence: (1)An Act of the Scottish Parliament is not law so far as any provision of the Act is outside the legislative competence of the Parliament.

      Reserved Matters: (1) The following aspects of the constitution are reserved matters, that is—

      (b)the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England.

      So there we have it the Union is a reserved matter and any legislation for a referendum on the subject produced by Holyrood is not law.

      Your argument is ridiculous.

    4. You're entitled to your own view, but not your own facts! You are (as far as I can tell) some random UKIP poster trying to assert you know better than a blog post from respected lawyers Halliday Campbell, which simply points out the fact that nothing in the 1998 Act prohibits the holding of a referendum, and that ipso facto since it is not specifically prohibited, it does not fall within the ambit of reserved matters under the Act. You can argue that this is not the case, but unless you're a constitutional lawyer, we're entitled to give your assertion all the weight it is due.

      Anyone who was paying attention in the run up to indyref1 knows that there was considerable debate (which continues) about the matter, and that it was by no means an accepted "fact" as so many yoons insist, that the holding of a referendum was in the gift of Westminster, or that Holyrood calling such a vote was somehow outside its competence. Unionist blustering that it is just somehow "a fact" signifies nothing.

      My argument (based on fairly wide reading around the subject and a PhD in International Relations) is hardly plucked from thin air; neither are the opinions set out in the Halliday Campbell piece, or those rehearsed in the run up to the Edinburgh Agreement. That Agreement and the Section 30 order made the point moot, but there was (and is) simply no consensus that failure to reach that Agreement would have stopped indyref1, or indeed that it would stop future votes.

    5. If a matter is reserved it does not form part of legislative competence and that is to say it is all of the matter and this is not my view this is the law as it stands and the fact that the competence was temporarily devolved in order to hold the once in a lifetime independence referendum that your side lost by a massive 28 council regions to 4 simply affirms the facts of the matter.

      Now you are entitled to your view that someone else's view means the law is not what it is but that does not change the law.

      It is true to say anyone can hold an independence referendum but no law from Holyrood could without permission permit one and as a consequence no public funding could be used for the same.

    6. As has already been pointed out to you, the matter isn't reserved under the act; it really isn't rocket science. You clearly have little understanding of the matter, but are happy to set yourself up as knowing what the law "as it stands" says. The fact remains that neither the Scottish government, nor many legal authorities, accept the view that holding a referendum IS outside its competence, or requires any temporary devolution.

      The massive defeat you talk of included winning Glasgow and Dundee, and requiring a relatively trivial change, which is already in train. I don't for a moment accept that your view of what the law says is somehow definitive, or even that well informed given your apparent inability to accept the basics.

      You're simply factually incorrect to say that Holyrood could not permit or hold one without permission. The 1998 Act says nothing about whether calling &/or holding a referendum is permitted, or whether it is a reserved matter. Nice try, but no cigar.

    7. The SNP can have a referendum any time they like however without legislation it can't be:

      A) Binding.
      B) Lawful.
      C) Use public funds.
      D) Use the government.
      E) Use government bodies.

      By all means campaign for the SNP to use their own funds and their own resources to hold an advisory referendum but they can't use our funds and our resources without legislation and that legislation is not within the competence of Holyrood because the MATTER is reserved.

      MATTER is the key to understanding here, take defence then the MATTER is reserved meaning all of defence is reserved to Westmister and the same goes for the Union between Scotland and England.

      Do try to remember that Holyrood is not the restored Scottish Government from 1706 Holyrood is Westminster's devolved assembly in Scotland.

      The defeat you suffered of was huge, you lost 28 out of 32 regions and that is staggering so pretend it was a close thing if you like but all that will be is pretence.

      I await your compelling arguments that will persuade the 28 council regions to think again given the current state of Scotland's finances.

    8. OK, one last try. The MATTER of holding a referendum is not reserved. Only those things specifically called out as reserved matters in the Act could be regarded as beyond the competence of the Scottish Parliament. As has already been pointed out to you, and as the Halliday Campbell piece stresses (a piece which you dismiss as “some random blog” whilst giving absolutely no countervailing authority other than your own couthy assurance that your interpretation is “FACT”) simply holding a referendum has no effect on the Union in and of itself. It is therefore not covered by the act and quite legal. Since it is legal, the question of funding doesn’t arise; it would be funded on the same basis as indyref1.
      The question of whether a putative Yes vote in indyref2 (or any future indyref) is binding is a different matter. You would presumably accept that such a result would be binding in the event that both parties accepted the result and negotiated in good faith to bring about the dissolution of the Union? If Westminster refused to accept a majority Yes vote in an advisory referendum (which given the precedent of indyref1 seems unlikely) then it would be down to the international community to decide whether they accepted Scotland’s independence or not. As the Canadian Supreme Court pointed out in its discussion of the Clarity Act with respect to future Quebec referendums, the international community is likely to take a dim view of any party which refuses to negotiate in good faith in response to a clear majority in a referendum which has asked a clear question.
      Of course it would be quite open to the rump of the UK to refuse to accept Scottish independence, just as it would have been quite open to the UK to refuse to accept the independence of the Dominions or colonies. Since these were all brought about via Acts of parliament (and since Westminster sees itself as sovereign) there is nothing to stop the UK parliament rescinding such acts, or passing new acts to remove their independence. I can just imagine the hilarity that would cause round the world.
      Your point about the continuity of the Scottish parliament is neither here nor there. I didn’t make any such argument, nor is it relevant to the discussion at hand. If you are determined that a 55/45 defeat is huge, I really can’t help you further. The swing involved to secure a Yes vote next time really isn’t that large; the regional count is irrelevant. The current state of Scotland’s finances is a whole different argument, nor is it that relevant to what they might be at the time of indyref2 and/or actual independence date. As we saw in the huge amounts of analysis of the recent GERS figures, it’s hardly likely that the 2 sides are ever going to agree given the entrenched positions involved. Pro-independence sentiment can’t really be said to have diminished in the past 18 months can it? Similarly, the SNP seems to go from strength to strength, irrespective of unionist wishful thinking to the contrary. Come back after the Holyrood elections in May and tell us if you feel more or less confident about the future prospects for the Union.

    9. The Union is finished, its just about when and by who now.

      The right wing surge in England will not withstand a Scotland projected as being on benefits.
      A resurgent Scottish drive for independence based on SNP support pushes everyone in the same direction.

      If you doubt this ask yourself this, who wants to save the union as our finances continue to suffer.

  3. "As time goes on Tony Blair’s reputation just keeps getting worse"

    What does he do when offered a chance to update the UK constitution, revive a set of land borders that held sway during medieval times - utterly uninspiring.

    For all their tinkering with the constitution what have these 'here today and gone tomorrow' politicians achieved with it, has it been worth the division and inequity it has caused and the additional weight of public sector politicians and bureaucrats on the books?

    Front line politicians ought to back away from change for a while before they have any more 'great ideas'. Try sticking to improve the lives of people rather than more hacking away at the already botched job of devolution.

    Perhaps the whole subject of constitutional change ought to be placed on a higher shelf, slightly out of reach to politicians of the day, and place it into the hands of some body other body and a different dialogue with the population introduced, one that can give time and thought and consult with those it affects. For if it is worth changing, that change ought to be applied up everyone or none at all - rather than those shouting the loudest for it by default (and it so becoming more of a means to appease - which it so evidently fails to do).

  4. Effie, please sort out the comments on your blog as this default system is terrible.

    1. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. The comment system belongs to google. I wouldn't know how to change it if I tried. I am very clueless about computing. I suggest writing a comment in Word first and then copying and pasting.

    2. If I do you a quick how to would you?