The moment approaches for absolutes to collide in Scottish politics

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Commentary by Derek Bateman

The BBC news at 5.30 this morning started with an item about Boris Johnson burrowing away to wheedle promises about trade deals from Trump Republicans and ended with news that researchers had observed chimps fashioning crude tools to retrieve water from holes in tree branches. Unconsciously, the two coalesced in my mind…at least the chimps have opposable thumbs.

Derek Bateman
Derek Bateman

I find Johnson amusing, but not as a politician or public servant. I regard him as flaky and completely without principle. He is a user of people in his one great cause – the elevation of Boris. He is also mostly a media creation. (A media currently doing the same promotion job on Jacob Rees-Mogg). The best word for him is probably narcissist because everything he does is self-regarding. There is nothing I know of him which speaks to altruism or sacrifice.

Sound familiar? I think he’s a posh version of Trump, and they are men for whom the world is a toy and its people as meaningful as Lego. No one has feelings but them. The world has to be adjusted to suit. Both have captured the nature of modern human experience – unending vacuity in need of relief via counter shock. And a starburst of bigotry will do.

LEADER

Trump as President. Johnson as Foreign Secretary. And, of course, Theresa May as national leader.

Breathy and posh as Penelope Keith, she is going through the same wash programme as Cameron to show she cares by removing all dried-in stains. You know – mass electronic surveillance of citizens, breaking up families through minimum income visas, Go Home Immigrant vans, refusing to be part of refugee dispersal plans, helping withdraw naval rescue of immigrants in the Med, counting overseas students in immigration numbers, withdrawal from the ECHR. Never mind years in Cabinet endorsing brutal austerity, destroying the lifestyle and mobility of the disabled, knowingly creating child poverty, Dickensian benefits sanctions leading to suicides, the worst income disparity in the EU, infatuation with nuclear weapons. Oh, and naked contempt for parliamentary democracy over Brexit.

You’d think this would present an opportunity for the Scottish Tories to differentiate themselves in order to appeal to a different electorate. It’s obviously tricky when the mother party is a parade of political grotesques and incompetents but, on the bright side, it’s definitely easier to show how you’re different. It needn’t be with words at all, a smile would suffice.

‘Do you support Boris Johnson?’

‘I’m sure he’s doing a fine job, Glenn’.

Indeed not long ago Ruth Davidson was doing just that having gone head to head with Johnson during the EU referendum. All that has been thrown away with her brass neck of a U-turn on Brexit and a total failure to distance herself from the Spitting Image puppets in Westminster. But then they know where the votes are coming from.

No surrender!
No surrender!

Every anti-Nat in Scotland, every anti-European, every immigrant hater, every cringe-mongering Unionist now invests in Davidson’s No Surrender British Unionist Project. They’ve deserted Labour like escaping rodents, clambering over themselves in the rush to the safe Tory home. UKIP doesn’t cut it in Scotland, so the Tories double up as the hard-line party of dogmatic loyalty to Britain.

Do Conservatives stand for anything else now? Or have they become what they always tried to insist the SNP were – a one-trick pony? Can you name a Tory policy? What would they do with schools? Would they invest more in health? Does that square with cutting taxes? Do they back renewables? How would they energise Scottish business? Do they have any policy at all on the constitution?

All I hear is No Second Referendum. Get Back to the Day Job.

HISTRIONIC

We were ‘promised’ effective opposition. Will it turn up soon or must we endure years of student politics with relentless nay-saying backed by Ian Paisley-like repetition of simplistic messages? (Shouted in fanatical style by the histrionic Davidson).

I’m being harsh here. In a radical departure from normal politics the Tories asked not to be elected to government at all. Seriously, they didn’t. Please elect us to be the opposition, was their rallying cry. Perhaps they know more about their own competence than we do. All they said they’d do was hold the SNP to account and resist indryref2.

This is where our politics stands today. People voted for a party that doesn’t want to govern. It wants to shout at those who do. To be fair, it’s so much easier to stand and moan, point and scoff, which is what Davidson is good at. But this is the equation of diminishing returns. If you portray yourself as the party of opposition, that’s what the public will regard you as – the also-rans, the failures who give up without a fight, the people with no ideas except saying No. And what happens if the polls turn firmly against the SNP and in a year’s time Scots tell Yougov they don’t want independence regardless of the Brexit outcome? What do the Tories say if it’s clear independence is dead and there’s a clamour for a vote to prove it? Well then, she’ll U-turn again. Like Trump, she’ll deliver any message the public craves.

AGENCY

do wish the Scottish Tories would start developing policy ideas again and reclaim what I regard as the weakest point in the political all-party programme – business generation. There is a crying need for a fresh approach to business to encourage and sustain start-ups, to take away the burden of onerous legal responsibilities from companies until they have established themselves. Risk-taking has to be encouraged, new models created, disused premises brought into operation. Successful companies can buddy start-ups, the state development agency can stop taking an arm and a leg from new companies’ assets. We can foster a business culture that rejects the jaded men-in-suits mentality.

But when you discover that the Tory spokesman on technology, connectivity and the digital economy doesn’t know that telecoms is reserved, you realize that this new Scottish intake is full of the same bluster as their leader. On which point, it is an epic lack of self-awareness that leads Adam Tomkins to tweet that Sturgeon must get back to the day job…a man literally with two jobs himself, both publicly funded. These are the sentiments of a classic trougher like the Tories at Westminster with outside earnings voting to cut benefits for the disabled. Adam has a big brain and sometimes leaves it at home charging overnight.

And what is Sturgeon’s day job? I’d say protecting Scotland. In a normal government the first responsibility is defending the nation. In our case we’re not allowed that role but protecting from anything that threatens our security, peace and economy will do. And what is the biggest threat? You may say Brexit but I’d bracket that right alongside a Tory government, one we sure didn’t vote for. That is the First Minister’s main task. That is the day job so I suppose you can understand Tory fears about her concentrating on it so much since they themselves pose the biggest threat and caused the Brexit catastrophe.

TIMELINE

But if we count everything else as the Day Job to suit the Tories, what is the SNP doing all day? Let me check my timeline.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

This is from today’s mail: The Scottish Government has set out 20 proposals for revamping the planning system, which will support economic growth, delivery of houses and increase community involvement in planning decisions. They form a consultation which will pave the way for a planning bill to be brought forward this year.

The proposals build on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year. Key changes include zoning more land for housing, promoting self-build and removing the need to apply for planning permission for more types of development. The consultation also seeks views on new rights for communities to produce their own plans for their local area. Sounds to me like a good Tory policy right there.

Then this: Construction of the new Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary has resulted in 215 new jobs – 55 more than planned – for people from the region, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today.

At the project’s outset, contractors Laing O’Rourke pledged to create 160 new jobs, training opportunities and apprenticeships on top of the 800-strong workforce already employed for the build. So far, the hospital’s construction has created 215 new jobs.

The new hospital received £200 million from the Scottish Government’s NPD (Non-profit Distributing) programme. The programme, valued at £3.5 billion, is being used to fund projects in further education, health and transport.

The hospital will provide 344 single-bed en-suite rooms, and will also house a combined assessment unit to manage emergency cases and bed allocation, theatres complex, critical care unit, women’s and children’s unit and outpatients department. It is expected to open, on time, in December this year. Oh dear, so not so busy after all. Tut tut.

Also from yesterday: An extra £107 million that will ensure more people are able to be cared for safely in their own homes and avoid preventable admissions to hospital is set to transform patient care in Scotland.

The money will be invested into health and social care partnerships which bring together NHS and local council care services for patients, in particular the elderly, and reduce the need for them to go into hospital for treatment.

This new investment means NHS spending on social care and investment will increase to almost half a billion pounds in the coming year, and will go towards delivering our living wage commitment to adult social care worker. The lazy SNP bastards!

Meanwhile I can’t see what actual work Ruth Davidson is doing apart from her team posting remarks on Facebook. When I clicked on the link for ruthdavidson.co.uk I was directed straight to the UK Conservative Party site which has no reference to Scotland at all on the front page…

It looks like the Day Job mantra is pure deflection. Which brings me to the question I really would like answered by Davidson – and by the hysterical Dugdale who has joined the UKOK club. It is this: If Scotland faces economic catastrophe as a result of the Brexit talks, will you resist any move to disengage from the UK?

That is: Is there any circumstance in which you would consider independence an option if the relevant facts are presented, or must we in all circumstances stick with the UK even to our own impoverishment?

I believe that moment is approaching when absolutes collide. It could be only a year away and those still-to-be-convinced Scots must look first at the prospect of isolation, trade tariffs, job losses, wage cuts, rising prices and long-term right wing government or look left to liberal, supportive, European integrated independence alongside Ireland, Denmark and Holland…one an eighteenth century caricature of mercantile freebooting and cut-throat exploitation, the other a door into the modern digital connected world of European partnership where rights are respected. This used to be Tory territory before the Little Englanders took over and it was the Labour Left who struggled with integration (poor old Corbyn’s at it again today as the light goes out on radical Labour). The Tories have abandoned the Churchillian dream of peace in Europe in preference for xenophobia, ending the consensus built by Heath. In Scotland the party is in the hands of self-publicists and opportunists. But then they never promised us anything else…and, if that’s the Day Job, I have to say they’re rather good at it.