By Campbell Martin
The British Unionists are losing….and they know it. Just over five-months from the Independence Referendum, most polls still give the Unionists a small lead but the direction of travel is unmistakeably from ‘No’ to ‘YES’. With such momentum likely to continue, the British Unionists now know they are facing defeat in the real poll on September 18th.
It is for this reason that the already fear-stoked message of the Unionist coalition – Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP – has recently taken-on an air of total desperation. Last week, former Labour MP George Roberston had his audience squirming – he was speaking to a liberal-centrist American think tank – when he claimed Scotland re-taking the status of a normal independent nation would be “cataclysmic in geo-political terms”.
Mr Robertson is now known as The Right Honourable, The Lord Roberston of Port Ellen KY GCMG FRSA FRSE PC (no, I haven’t just leaned on my keyboard, that is the full title claimed by the ex-Labour MP for Hamilton). So, clearly no stranger to delusions of grandeur, it was apparently a small step for George Robertson to extend his delusions to include an apocalyptic future for an independent Scotland.
Like everyone else involved in the anti-independence campaign, Mr Robertson was incapable of articulating a positive case for Scotland remaining within the British Union. Instead, like his Unionist colleagues, his default position was to conjure-up a nightmare scenario where, uniquely amongst all the peoples of the world, only the Scots would turn the normality of independence into abject disaster – “cataclysmic” disaster according to George Robertson.
Even the Labour-supporting Daily Record appeared to call time on the British Unionist fear-mongering and use of increasingly deranged language. Of Robertson’s contribution, the Record said, “To say his speech was ludicrous and over-the-top would be to downplay it,” adding, “He doesn’t just think a Yes vote would be a disaster for all of Scotland. He thinks it would be a disaster for all of western civilisation.”
We should, of course, remember that it was the same George Robertson who predicted that devolution for Scotland – the limited powers currently held by the Scottish Parliament – would “Kill stone dead” the campaign for independence in general and the SNP in particular.
Elsewhere last week, Labour MPs were issuing press releases to local news outlets in their constituencies, with the message that the SNP Scottish Government has been using public money “to bolster support for a Yes vote in the independence referendum”.
The Labour press release cited “tax payer’s money” having been used to produce the White Paper on Independence, and the fact the SNP Cabinet has held meetings outside of Edinburgh, meetings Labour claim have been used to promote independence. The press release went as far as stating, “The funding of these meetings, and the civil servants used to organise and promote them, are not meant to be employed for party political purposes.”
Honestly, it’s difficult to know where to start with such nonsense, but let’s try the basic concept of democracy. In 2011 the SNP was elected to form the government of Scotland. So strong was public support for the SNP that, for the first time since the Scottish Parliament was created in 1999, one party secured an overall majority. There can therefore be no doubt that the SNP has a public mandate to implement the policies it set-out in its 2011 Election Manifesto.
The SNP clearly stated it favoured an independent Scotland and, if elected, would bring forward legislation to allow for a referendum on the subject. That is exactly what the party has done.
Just as Labour has done when in power at Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP has used the public resources of the civil service to help deliver the commitments it made to the public in its Election Manifesto. What Labour is objecting to is the SNP having been honest with the public and actually delivering on the promises it made at an election.
It is also the case that Labour’s partners in the British Unionist coalition, the Tories and Liberal Democrats, have produced no fewer than 11 papers (so far) opposing Scottish independence. All have been compiled and published using “taxpayer’s money” and civil servants. Then there are the publicly-funded separate visits to Scotland by David Cameron, George Osborne and the entire UK Tory-Lib Dem Cabinet – all of which were used to attack independence. Of course, these visits were organised by civil servants and paid for from the public purse.
As for the SNP publishing a White Paper on Independence, can you imagine the wailing and complaining the British Unionists would have indulged in if the SNP Government had failed to set-out its plans for independence ahead of the referendum?
Meanwhile, Labour’s complaint regarding the SNP Cabinet holding meetings across Scotland beggars belief. At every meeting, SNP Government Ministers have held a Question and Answer session with the local public. It is the public that has determined what topics were raised. Ministers have also stayed to chat with local people after the event, before carrying out visits in the area. That is democracy in action, but the Labour press release issued last week actually calls for people to complain about the SNP’s actions, and specifically to complain to a Westminster committee set up by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government.
Finally, in what can only be described as a classic example of ‘irony by-pass’, the Labour press release states, “the referendum in September is too significant an event to allow one side to gain an unfair advantage”. An unfair advantage, such as the fact that every so-called ‘national’ newspaper sold in Scotland is owned by companies based outside of Scotland, and which all support the British Union. Or the BBC acting as the British State Broadcaster and churning out anti-independence stories on a daily basis (Google ‘BBC anti-independence bias’).
George Robertson’s “cataclysmic” depiction of Scotland with the powers of independence (powers every other normal country takes for granted) and Labour MPs calling on people to complain to the Tories at Westminster about the SNP actually delivering on the promises it made at an election are just the latest manifestations of the increasing desperation afflicting the British Unionist campaign. They are losing…and they know it.
[As we hit the Easter Weekend you may notice a drop off in content from Newsnet Scotland as the team take a well earned rest. The site will return to normal this coming Monday.]