By Derek Bateman
I’m thinking about taking the advice of Unionist friends and giving this up. They think I’m wasting my time because I’m not any good.
But the real reason for stopping is altogether different…is there any point?
What more do we have to do to show that, whatever your doubts about independence, sticking with the UK is a mug’s game? Are we really thirled to a country that allows 10,000 people to lose their jobs and many their expected pensions so a gold digger and tax dodger can buy his third massive yacht…do we really owe allegiance to a parliament that knowingly says No to a mere 3000 destitute and frightened children…can we stomach the corruption that allows a cover-up of 96 unnecessary deaths to last nearly 30 years…or the biggest transfer of public money to the richest few in history in a bank bail-out and money-printing exercise…while an unfair sacking can’t be challenged without £500 in cash up front…where landlords are handed billions in subsidies while a majority of young adults can’t buy a home…where we are reliant on foreign governments for energy policy and pile taxpayers’ money into inflated nuclear price deals that last a generation…and a country where promise after promise made to hold us in is cynically broken by a Prime Minister who one day loves us and the next tells a colleague he couldn’t care less if we stay or go?
Whatever doubts exist over a future outside the UK – and there are salient issues at play – have we not reached the stage where the minuses outweigh the pluses. If you’re Unionist by instinct, how do you view the running of Britain today as the various brands of Toryism spit and scratch at each other over EU membership? Is an internal ideological schism enough reason to risk the stability of the country for the foreseeable future? Isn’t that why so many couldn’t risk their vote for Yes – uncertainty over economic buoyancy and yet here it is being threatened on a grander scale by the same people who told us instability had to be avoided?
It was the same Tories who told us our European future was safer in the Union. The Clyde shipyards had only one guarantee – a No vote – something now worth less than it was as the MoD squirms over its reduced and delayed orders. The union men who fronted the No campaign look like suckers now but isn’t that the way it is for us all?
How many times do we have to learn the lesson so many automatic apologists of government never do…politicians lie. Not just mislead by pointing out partial facts that suit their case but dishonestly fabricate and falsify. The list of such crimes against Scotland since the indyref lengthens to removal of the carbon capture project (again), cutting support for renewables and, of course the fast delivery of major constitutional change. The scale of the let-downs reminds us just how rattled the British were and of the depths of their desperation to keep control of us – an odd juxtaposition with their constant narrative of subsidy from England and disregard for claims for more powers.
Is the Unionist answer still: Aye, but it would be far worse after a Yes vote? There are still frigate orders coming, just not as many or as quick and there would be none at all under independence. Is that true? Would a government deep in debt and frantically selling off any utility it can to raise money really upsticks from the Clyde, invest in an English port at a cost of hundreds of millions, search for a qualified workforce, all with only vindictiveness as motive?
The naval man who gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee made clear that existing orders would be fulfilled because it was simply too tricky to do otherwise.
It’s true that for the doubters the specific arguments over the economy and currency outweigh all else but, even as they remain sceptical, do they still view the old UK with equanimity? Is it still the powerful political and cultural entity that makes the heart beat faster? Cameron and Osborne have hollowed out the idea of the island nation by squeezing everything that makes life better for ordinary citizens from the threat to human rights, the attack on universal welfare, the deliberate rejection and impoverishment of youth and the feather-bedding of pensioners, the obsessive concentration of subsidy and wealth in the South East, the demonization of immigration and asylum and the Victorian hounding of claimants.
What are the SNP sins that compare? Well, from the Left, they haven’t done enough for the dispossessed and won’t put taxes up. From the Right, they’re Hell-bent on a second referendum. Neither, I’d say, convincing to the traditional Unionist No voter. (They haven’t even got a referendum in the manifesto).
Are Unionists waiting for a gentler Conservatism? Or for Jeremy Corbyn? If the election returns another SNP government there will be many who will finally come to terms with the changed reality of a Scotland determinedly different from the rest of the country and ask themselves if it isn’t also time they got in tune.
Supporting the Union means voting for Dugdale, Davidson or Rennie and their scarecrow parties. The days when there was talent and gravitas in abundance are long gone. Just as an earlier generation deserted the Tories (for Roseanna Cunningham in Perth in the mid 90’s and for Blairite Labour) so the remaining core of Unionism will have to decide – thrawn to the end or embrace the new orthodoxy?
Those who opt for Davidson do so in the knowledge they are backing the government and scorched earth policies of Cameron. At one time a vote for anything up to 20 Scottish Tory MPs was married directly to the powerful London-based party who had UK-wide popularity. Today there is a single nice but unimpressive MP feeding into a divisive centre. Davidson’s Holyrood troup exists almost exclusively because of a PR system in a chamber they tried to stop happening.
Most of us can at least vote with pride and conviction. But how often can you vote with a heavy heart and a reluctant hand for something you know is passing and may soon be gone?
Put it this way. If you haven’t understood the decline of Britain, you’re unlikely to grasp the vision for Scotland. And that means I’m wasting my time.