Saturday 10 February 2024

The goal is to abolish Holryood

A few months from now in September I am going to do my usual weekly shopping and suddenly I will find that it has ended up costing me £20 more. The reason will be that the Scottish Parliament has decided in its wisdom to charge me 65 pence per unit rather than 50 pence. It won’t make that much of a difference. I’m not going to buy fewer bottles of wine or cans of beer for my husband, but it will be an additional unwelcome expense thanks to devolution.

A lot of middle-income Scots have begun to notice life has got more expensive and we look ahead to retirement and worry that our savings are being eroded by inflation and all sorts of expenses like a heat pump and an electric car might need to be covered by our ever-diminishing income. At this point we begin to resent the Scottish Parliament with its constant attempts to make us pay higher taxes, pay deposits on cans, and generally make the cost of living higher so that we have less disposable income.

There is a tipping point for everyone. Perhaps this year you will reach yours. Maybe you already did.

There is much less support for devolution than you might think in Scotland. There are about 25% of us who would gladly abolish Holyrood. This is mainly Pro UK people who see that devolution in chiefly responsible for the rise in support for the SNP and Scottish independence.

Devolution came from soft nationalists who wanted to recognise Scotland as being a separate country that needed its own parliament while remaining in the UK. It was for this reason that people like Donald Dewer kept talking about regaining the Parliament that was lost in 1707. It was like saying we can be independent again only we will stay in the UK. It was a fundamentally incoherent argument and was always bound to fail.

It did fail. As a project to hold the UK together it is hard to think of anything worse that Labour could have done in the 1990s. Labour’s soft nationalism, in arguing that it was unfair that Scotland got a Tory government when it voted Labour was responsible for the hard nationalism of the SNP arguing that the solution therefore was to vote for independence.

It’s a good argument. If you think that Scotland is a separate country, then voting for independence is a no brainer. It follows logically from thinking it is a separate country.

But it is vital to realise that the SNP doesn’t want devolution and never did. Even when it embraced the Scottish Parliament it was only as a stepping stone towards independence. This therefore leads to the absurdity of Gordon Brown’s idée fixe that if only the Scottish parliament could be given more powers (stepping stones) it would never cross the river to independence. An extra waffer thin mint of federalism with Scotland having all the powers while Westminster still sends it all the money is just what’s needed after all the other powers that Brown told us would stop Scottish nationalism.

The problem with Gordon Brown and his generation of Scottish Labour is that they can’t quite admit that they were wrong and so have to throw good money after bad until they discover that their coal mine of ideas is bringing up only mud. But still, we have to keep the miners digging.

But the truth is hardly anyone in Scotland wants devolution. The 25% who want to abolish Holyrood don’t want it, nor do independence supporters. No matter how you measure genuine independence support that makes a clear majority against devolution. More Scots today oppose devolution than supported it in 1997, many more.

25% may not seem very much, but it is the equivalent of the Lib Dems and Conservatives put together. It’s approximately the historic level of support for independence prior to the independence campaign beginning in 2011. If you add a few percentage points, then 25% becomes the level of support that Labour and the SNP will get in the General Election. So, people like us who disagree with devolution as it is at present are a significant proportion of the electorate.

Independence supporters of course would oppose abolishing devolution, but not because they want it, so who remains? These are the people we must persuade. Soft nationalists.

Labour and the Lib Dems in particular are full of soft nationalists who view Scotland as a separate country, but they don’t want it to actually become a separate country.

We have this endlessly in Scotland. There are huge numbers of people who support Gaelic and are delighted to have our ambulances with Gaelic translations, but who never actually learn Gaelic. So too huge numbers of Scots think that they want a Scottish news channel dedicated to all the exciting business of the Scottish Parliament and providing a Scottish perspective on Gaza, whatever that is, but no one actually wants to watch it.

Our carrots must be Scottish, even our tea which cannot grow here. One day there will be an SNP edict that bananas have to be Scottish or at least not English.

Soft nationalism is as much of a problem as hard nationalism and is less coherent intellectually. Without the soft nationalism that gave rise to the Scottish Parliament, and which is present in much of the Scottish media, there would have been no hard nationalism and no SNP.

It must be carefully explained to Labour and Lib Dem soft nationalists that either the UK is one country in which case it makes sense for there to be fiscal transfers within that country, or it is four countries in which case fiscal transfers make no sense as you cannot reasonably expect English taxpayer to subsidise foreigners.

Labour cannot expect to rule England with Scottish MPs if England is really a separate country and rule Scotland too with devolved powers that England lacks. It’s a con. I’m surprised more English people don’t see that. We are fortunate indeed that English nationalism does not exist. Only a few nutters and fascists support the English National Party (ENP).

So, the UK is either one country with parts that happen to be called countries but are really no different from the various regions of France, or the UK is really four separate countries held together in some sort of weak confederation, which would logically mean those parts were already independent and would make the UK’s continued existence these past centuries historically inexplicable.

If the UK is really one country, then we need to cease thinking about it as four countries and find a method of government involving national, regional and local power that gives ever UK citizen the same degree of national, regional and local power and influence. Anything else is unfair.

The first stage is to decisively defeat Scottish nationalism. We can do that this year. If the SNP gets considerably fewer seats in the General Election than Scottish Labour, there will be no stepping stones to independence because there will be no river.

The next stage is for Pro UK parties to form the next Scottish government and for support for abolishing Holyrood to reach a level where it cannot be ignored.

Labour supporters might realise that there is no point having a Labour government in Edinburgh working against a Labour government in London and if it is working together then what’s the point. Devolution from Labour’s point of view only made sense as a consolation prize when the Tories won a General Election. If Labour wins Holyrood is a liability.

The final stage is to repeal the Scotland Act and replace it with a system of devolution across the UK that is not the odd and incoherent mishmash that we have at present but rather a system of regional power modelled perhaps on France which has 96 departments with a similar population to the UK.

Some of us are beginning to think of ways to increase support for abolishing Holyrood. Let’s aim first to increase it by 10% to 35%. Help if you can. We can do this.

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