by Peter Thompson
The problem, for me, with Gerry Hassan’s argument is that there is no addressing of the real problem within the ‘Labour Movement’ which is that they are basically Thatcherite in their politics and are far removed from the concepts of social justice triggered by the 1942 Beveridge Report or encapsulated in the 1944 White Paper that arose from this report and championed by the post war Labour Government. Everything Beveridge said was wrong with the UK Nation, as a state, in 1942 still is and in terms of equality of opportunity, is getting worse.
I lived from 1977 until 2003 in the SW of England then returned back to Scotland when ill health forced my retirement, aged 47. In the eight years since I returned to Scotland I have travelled from being a Unionist, through thinking a concept of a federal UK would be best for Scotland to where I am now – wanting Full Fiscal Autonomy for my nation, as a step to regaining our right to stand as an independent nation state rather than a defacto colony of the English Empire. An Empire which still expects the Scots to touch a forelock to the Scottish Viceroy in Whitehall and be told what his view is of the ‘settled will of the Scottish People’ according to Westminster’s opinion.
Sadly Labour is totally tied up in this charade, hence their faux hatred of anything Scottish, seeking any form of autonomy, worst of all independence and the hyperbole and convolutions they go through in their attempts to out do the Tories in their hatred of the Scottish wish for Full Fiscal Autonomy and not the sticky plaster that Cameron is currently offering the nation in his proposed Scotland Bill Amendments.
Labour can see its vice like grip on Scotland is sliding faster than melting snow and they are up to their knavish tricks trying to put the frighteners on their West Coast heart lands – yet their ‘Glasgow is being ripped off’ cry and their attempts at dividing Cosla have failed.
Glasgow Labour had the choice to hold out against what they claimed was an un fair settlement, loose out on the council tax freeze and be forced to be the only authority to raise council tax against a settlement made in accordance with the Cosla protocol (considering Westminster had already cut the Scottish pocket money by 2.3% and now is cutting it by a further £1.3 billion so they can slip more than £7.5 billion in back handers to their chums in the ‘City’ via the Irish Banks).
Glasgow gets 23% per head more than the average Scottish Council in the settlement formula yet Labour in Glasgow screams; ‘we are hard done by!’ How so? Labour in Glasgow is rife with accusations of dubious land deals, expense scandals and suspicion of links to Glasgow Gang Bosses so just who is hard done by – it couldn’t be the ordinary Glasgow voter, could it?
New Labour has always been about itself; Glasgow Labour is a microcosm of all that is wrong with Labour’s ‘socialist’ model, Ed Miliband has nothing new to say on ‘socialism’ as he does not know what it looks like.
In Scotland the only left of centre party is, paradoxically, the SNP. They reflect the real heart of Scotland, a conservative form of socialism that Scots understand, the nebulous concept of ‘were aw Jock Tamson’s bairns’. It is about creating equal opportunity and encouraging the best from what ever background to fulfil their potential which is the antithesis of Westminster politics in the 22nd Century. That is why there is massive support across voters of all stripes for the current Scottish Government in its desire to keep University tuition free.
The Scots, as a nation, are historically ‘socialist’ in their cultural construct. The history of the ‘clans’ and the concept of the chieftain’s people being ‘their children’ (originally not in a patriarchal manner until the clan systems final destruction by the forced clearances – the so called estate modernisation but in fact the Scottish equivalent of the ‘English Enclosures’ – of the early 19thcentury) is deeply ingrained across Scotland and replicated in Scotland’s long standing ‘Burgh’ system of governance. A system that came into place as a direct result of the ‘Declaration of Arbroath’ and its commitment to a sovereign who reins but only through the sovereign will of the people of Scotland as expressed by its parliament. All law in Scotland is predicated on this core belief that ‘We’re aw Jock Tamson’s bairns’. The myth of Darien and immanent Scottish bankruptcy does not bear up with the fact that the Scottish economy was growing by 2.3% per annum in the decade prior to the Union – based on custom receipts. The only people heading for bankruptcy were the Scottish landowners who had mortgaged their estates to the hilt to support Darien and were facing up to the reality that they were on the verge of loosing all to the new Burgh professional and middle classes.
The Scots, in my opinion, are seeking increasing autonomy because of the current ‘globalisation’ and a deep sense that the whole process of the EU and other ‘power blocks’ runs contrary to this deeply ingrained social context. It is about protecting social norms we hold dear and see are under attack by ‘globalisation’. This is reflected in the Scottish Governments ‘generous’ settlement, set against a 2.3% cut in our pocket money and another £1.3 billion clawback still to come, to Cosla enabling another year of council tax freeze in Scotland.
Neither are the Scots ‘isolationist’. Until the Union of Parliaments, Scotland had strong academic, cultural and trading links across Northern Europe. These cultural links are still there, especially with Norway, where University students from Scotland and Norway exchange courses on the same cost basis as their home land. The creation of the EU meant that other such reciprocal schemes had to be abandoned due to Brussels’ hegemony.
The SNP are therefore not ‘tartan tories’; as Labour claims, in an attempt to hold on to its tattered pretension of the socialism of Keir Hardy and John McLean. The SNP are a broad church party; predominantly left of centre, open to anyone who agrees with their key aims and objectives. The UK media does everything it can to ensure the English citizen’s view of the SNP is as bunch of vitriolic, ginger haired, kilt wearing, nutters (comparisons to the BNP and PIRA abound) out to wreck our benign and all encompassing ‘British State’. Again, as I stated previously Labour is part of this self delusion; there is no ‘socialist’ party at Westminster they are all Burkean / Thatcherite clones of each other. The UK does not exist outside of the M25 – as far as Westminster is concerned. Consider, Labour has ruled Glasgow with an iron fist for 50 plus years and yet its poor are still rated the poorest and unhealthiest, not just in the UK, but in Europe – so much for macro-geographical socialism.
So the politics of ‘macro-geography’ have failed in all respects and like ‘globalisation’ ensure that the ‘privileged few’ maintain their imbalance of wealth while protecting the status quo by ensuring us, the little people, pay for the ‘privileged fews’ gross errors and greed in burdensome taxation with out any real representation. An example of this state of affairs is Cameron’s latest wheeze of giving the City of London another buckshee £7.5 billion under the cover of a ‘loan’ to Ireland. The clever part is, of course it will be the Irish taxpayer paying the bulk of the cost of the loan but the FT and other trustworthy economic analysts say it will still cost the average UK tax payer a further £300 a head on top of the over £3,000+ a head (and rising) QE and the ‘bank rescue’ is already costing us.
So I would argue that what the British State and its media may view of as ‘ narrow nationalism’ or ‘merely geographical’ misses the point. There is only so far you can push any colonised nation until they say – enough is enough. The longer Westminster resists this wish of Scotland for increasing autonomy, the messier and more polarised the end result will be; bringing into play the very extreme nationalism seen in the Baltic States against ethnic Russians born within their borders that the UK media claims is the SNP’s raison d’etre against the ‘English’.
The ‘class’ issue, continuing and increasing polarity in wealth and opportunity is directly the fault of the UK parliament’s extreme capitalist view and its protectionist stance of the richest in the global society.