Commentary by Derek Bateman
Must rush. The sun is streaming into the Gazebo of Hate and I have to sit in the underground command centre to write this. Also I have the kids on my own for a while and I’m busy helping construct a model of the Brandenburg Gate. (Don’t tell me your life is complicated).
Mention of Berlin reminds us of what has become a dread thought for me – the EU referendum. I can’t shake a sense of foreboding that this is all happening at the wrong time and the omens are not good. There is a global resistance to anything carrying the mantle of an establishment. The recent memory of the Eurozone crisis lives on – as does the stagnant European economy.
The migrant issue is an on-going symbol of European institutional failure. It further exposes the blatant racism of some member states’ governments. It spotlights one of the key Brexit arguments – fear of immigration, around which so much UK opinion revolves. The champions of staying in, as portrayed in the media, are distrusted neo con ministers whose differences with the Out brigade are cigarette-paper thin.
Almost all the arguments I’ve heard, including last night’s BBC1 programme presented by Laura Kuenssberg, are based on what it all costs. The concept of a wider more altruistic impulse for sharing with our neighbours is forgotten. Which is why it was refreshing to speak to Billy Kay last week for the Newsnet Radio podcast to hear about our historic relationship with European nations, our early engagement with academia, trade and, yes, military operations. It takes us back to a time when Scotland had a separate national identity and a plan which led us to connect directly with other Europeans – before we were forced to view the world through the prism of London. Most of what Europe sees of Scotland is represented by a British government and a British outlook which at times I find little short of embarrassing. Billy lays it out with a deep perspective showing how our culture was attuned to that of others, how were able to participate in their societies, learn their languages and contribute to them.
Listening to him I am struck by the quality of his intellectual contribution to the nation. How rare it is to hear someone with profound knowledge and clear love of his subject talk freely about Scotland. The contrast with so much of the shrivelled commentary in our media with its shallow and ignorant analysis and knee jerk denigration of any initiative which isn’t right wing and Unionist, is remarkable.
The message I take from it is that we have a natural home in Europe, a continent now organised around and through the EU which remains the sole route from which we can all benefit. To be a nationalist is to be an internationalist. It is the linking of both together which makes sense of the concept. First you become a nation and then you join the family of nations. Through formal treaty arrangements we work together for mutual benefit. These arrangements raise standards of human rights, income, access and communality. I don’t know if any of this is filtering through. I doubt it. I’m now relaying on the ‘good sense of the British people’ to stick with what they know and grudgingly vote In. The deciding factor is likely to be differential turnout so I’ll drag myself round there and try not to think of Barroso as I vote.
These are not clever times for the SNP on the policy delivery front…reading rates down in primary, hospital waiting times being missed, more doubts over Named Person in the Fee case. No doubt you could add some of your own. Government is about delivery and while a glance at the sheer scale of government reminds us that it does indeed work, wobbling in high profile areas causes disproportionate disquiet.
Like Blair, the SNP set themselves targets and look foolish when they can’t meet them. That’s self inflicted pain. If you’re going to single out policy areas and headline them, or allow others to do so, you have to ensure you can live up to expectation. Realistically, any government should really say: We’ll do our best. No promises. But that’s never enough in an argument so they pretend they can meet any test set for them.
There will be any number of possible explanations of course. It can’t come as a surprise that after eight years of ruthless cuts in public spending in which poorer families have been targeted and child poverty accepted as a policy consequence, that attainment in deprived areas goes backwards. The educational argument I believe can never be won because it is fundamentally a poverty issue and without control of tax and spend no government can effect the kind of budgetary shift required to eradicate it. But the SNP have committed to just that.
Waiting times look like a result of an aging population increasing need while provision gets ever more expensive as Holyrood’s budget is reduced. But in a huge organisation, you have to wonder at the administration. Is there effective management? Or are there too many jobsworths? It only takes one person to be demotivated for any section of an organisation to fall off in efficiency so multiply by a factor of 1000…
You suspect too that for many people hospitals and doctors become a way of life creating a personal dependency which takes control of their lives and limits their individualism. Do you really need to go to a doctor? In my experience, they’ll only find something wrong with you if you do. (If you see what I mean). There used to be a great line in Doctor Finlay’s Casebook when old Dr Cameron would snarl at a malingerer – There’s nothing wrong with you, man. Away with yourself…But there it is. The Nationalists have decided they can give you the perfect NHS. I say Bring Back Dr Cameron.