Monday 13 July 2020

The SNP care more for tartan than social justice

In 2014 the SNP had a poor argument for Scottish independence, and it was refuted by a talented team led by Alistair Darling. There is much that Better Together got wrong including in my view its name and its Project Fear tactics, but there were front rank politicians making the argument.

In 2020 the SNP argument is worse than it has ever been, but there is no one to make the argument. This is our problem.

Nicola Sturgeon is a first-rate politician. She is popular not merely in Scotland but in England too. The Remainer Centre Left establishment love her. Why else is she broadcast across Britain on the BBC? How do people in Bournemouth benefit from knowing how Covid regulations differ in Scotland from England. But they get the Nicola Sturgeon Show regardless and they get regular interviews with her and the modern equivalent of Terry Wogan brushing her ego to keep it warm.

Sturgeon is a better politician that Salmond, but she too has a fatal flaw. She is beginning to believe her own publicity. She shows signs of succumbing to the personality cult that is inherent in all forms of nationalism. She has a mask of secrecy that hides what is really in her heart and when the mask slips, we see that it is anger and hatred. She has a dreadfully poor case for independence but a mob that she whipped up intent on forcing her to make it now.

The greatest success of the SNP campaign in 2014 was to persuade Labour voters to align with Scottish nationalism in the hope that an independent Scotland would make them financially better off and Scotland would be free from the hated Tories.

This argument destroyed Labour not merely in Scotland but also in Britain as a whole. It is almost impossible for Labour to rule Britain again without forming a coalition with the SNP. This coalition would be used to leverage still more power for the Scottish Parliament and still more money from the Treasury. It would lead to the absurd situation where Nicola Sturgeon would control devolved issues such as healthcare in Scotland and those same matters in England too. If and when she tired of this, she could demand another independence referendum and be granted it or else bring down the Government.

English people would in effect be vassals of the SNP. They won’t vote to be vassals.  For this reason, Labour will never form a British Government until the SNP are defeated in Scotland.

But would Scottish independence help former Labour voters in Scotland? This is where the SNP trick is so devious. The SNP have used hatred of Tories and hatred of England to leverage support for an independent Scotland that would in the short term be much more Tory than Britain is at present.

While it was possible to argue that Scottish independence in 2014 would have left much the same, the years since have made that argument impossible to make. With the whole of the UK in the EU, England might have been Germany to Scotland’s Austria and cross border trade would not have been overly disrupted. But Brexit would put not merely an international border between Scotland and England it would put the EU’s external border there too.

In order to fulfil the criteria for EU entry an independent Scotland would have to cut spending and raise taxes. Having done all this when the next pandemic happens, we would not be furloughed as fellow countrymen by the British Government. If we were lucky, we would receive a loan from the EU which if we struggled with the repayments would take control of our Government and our finances like it did in Ireland.

We would be doing all of this at the worst possible moment imaginable. The Scottish economy is going to be seriously damaged by Covid and Sturgeon’s ultra-caution in getting us back to work. We are going to need help from the British Treasury for years if we are going to get Scots back to work. But just at the moment when partitioning Britain has become the worst argument imaginable, we are left with no one to make it.

I have been writing more regularly because Covid has given me more time. But have we seen a similar increase of effort from Scottish opposition politicians?

The fundamental argument against Scottish independence is easy to make, but no one dares make it. Do these people think that a softly softly approach to Scottish nationalism will bring back Labour Liberal and Conservative voters?

The SNP conflate their own party with Scotland, which means they treat opposition as being anti-Scottish. Do the Scottish opposition agree? I sometimes think they do. But it is essentially a totalitarian argument. Vote for the Party or become an enemy of the people, someone UnScottish. Should we denounce each other to a modern McCarthy?

But this is our problem. If there were a second independence referendum, there is no one to make the argument against Sturgeon. There is no one with sufficient experience in Government. There is no one who knows how to debate, and I fear no one with the intellect to even understand how to defeat the SNP with logic and reason.

Ruth Davidson was a front-rank politician who made a long-term strategic mistake by aligning with Sturgeon after Brexit. It had the effect of implicitly turning Scottish Remain voters into SNP voters. Anyway, Davidson is busy with more important things. Michael Gove has in my view one of the best minds in Parliament, but he has the disadvantage of being a Conservative.

We need to rebuild an informal coalition of people from all political perspectives in Scotland to make the case for Britain and explain why Scottish independence would make us worse off not merely financially but more importantly socially by dividing a Britain where we are treated as fellow countrymen into a partitioned island where we are treated as foreigners. At the moment British people owe each other everything because we are family. The SNP would turn us into foreigners who owe each other nothing. If that socialism, then I’m a Dutchman.

If Better Together renamed and rethought is to rise from the ashes of victory it needs a leader from the Left. This should not be necessary, but it needs someone born in Scotland with a Scottish accent.

The task is to persuade those Scots mainly on the Left who have deserted to join the SNP. The argument therefore must be sympathetic to them. The argument is this.

Scottish independence would not bring social justice to Scotland nor would it make poor people better off. It would not do this because it would involve decades of struggle to begin a new country in the most inauspicious circumstances possible. But if the argument is not about making poor people better off, then it is a purely nationalistic argument. The SNP are tricking working class Scots into voting for years of Tartan Tory austerity merely to please the nationalist flag wavers who care not one bit about the economic concerns of former Labour voters, but merely wish to use them as “useful idiots” to reach a nationalist goal that is the opposite of the solidarity that British workers need, an example of which we are experiencing right now through the Covid furlough. It is giving to each according to his needs and it is not asking for any repayment.

Someone. Anyone. Make this argument. It is an open goal.