by Paul Kavanagh
The Liberal Democrats’ handle on reality continues to fly off along its own happy wee Yellow Brick Road. Mikey the Munchkin of Melrose is off to save the Union by giving us reasons for being independent. In a recent attempt to grasp at a straw, Mikey told us that an independent Scotland wouldn’t have been able to invade Middle Eastern countries all by itself. Like that was a bad thing.
Mikey the Munchkin believes that throughout Europe the citizens of smaller nations bewail the fact that when they watch the TV news they never get to see their armies invade anywhere or wallop the Wicked Witch of the West with a house. Belgians and Danes look jealously upon Scotland, which has its very own Dorothy and Toto the dog in the shape of David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Mikey believes that Scotland is a major world player when it comes to battering the Wicked Witch of the West with a flying house, although bizarrely Magrit Curran still has a career.
Belgium hasn’t invaded anywhere for ages, and that’s the reason the country is on the verge of splitting into Flanders and Wallonia. If only the Belgians could see their boys and girls dying in a pointless war run by Westminster with permission from the White House, thousands of miles from the nearest waffle stall, they’d stop all their constitutional wrangling and focus on common Belgian things that are really important, like what kind of mayonnaise goes best on your chips and is the new Tin-Tin movie any good.
The Union’s foreign adventures give Scotland international standing and allow us to punch above our weight, according to the Unionists. Scotland gets noticed while Denmark languishes in obscurity with nothing to sustain it but the bacon industry and sparking off international disputes about cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
But Scotland has a time-share in a major world player, or at least in a state that used to be a world player back in the 1940s, which is the main reason the Unionists keep harping on about WW2 so much. Scotland gets to occupy the UK holiday flat in Afghanistan for the first two weeks in July every alternate year before the English schools get their holidays, and this makes us important.
Señor Moore and his merry band of unionistas never explain quite how Scotland manages to attract so much attention when the media abroad reports on das englische parliament, el inglés army and the angliski government with its anglais nuclear deterrent and and its inglese seat on the UN Security Council. When tourists from abroad plan a visit to our shores they buy engelsk phrase books and change their euros, kroner and dollars for Bank of England pound notes. Probably Mikey doesn’t speak furren and hopes that we don’t either. Another sad reminder that there’s no one quite as parochial as a British nationalist.
Quickly glossing over his faux-pas, one of the few furren words he’s familiar with, Mikey’s latest wheeze was to respond to John Swinney saying that an independent Scotland would be the sixth richest country on the planet by releasing figures that claimed that if Scotland had been independent then the country would be facing a debt of £41 billion. “Scotland a wealthy country? Nonsense!” cried the man represents our interests in the Westminster government by insisting that we’re a basket case.
Treasury figures for Scottish income and expenditure derive from top secret Westminster documents called Published Accounts Underhandedly Creating Headlines to Lower Expectations in Scotland. This makes anything that issues from the Scotland Office about as unbiased and reliable as North Korean farm equipment factory statistics, only not as useful for howking tatties.
In order to calculate the amount we’d be in hock, Westminster allocated Scotland a proportionate share of everything that an independent nation can’t do without and which counts as national expenditure : Trident missiles, aircraft carriers, invading Middle Eastern countries, the Olympics and London Crossrail, decades of welfare expenditure caused by an addiction to Thatcherite economics, bank bailouts due to laissez faire regulation that turned out to be lazy and unfair, MPs’ expenses claims, and Tony Blair’s messianic god complex.
But at this point Mikey the Munchkin’s trip along the Lib Dem Yellow Brick Road shuddered to a halt. Currently, Scotland’s proportionate share of the UK national debt stands at £60 billion and is heading off somewhere over the rainbow. That’s what happens when you rely on the Wizzard of Osborne and the Emerald City of London. According to the Scotland Office’s own figures, we’d be better off being independent to the tune of the best part of £20 billion.
This is serious stuff. For decades Scotland has remained a part of the Union due to the ability of the Scotland Office to convince us that the country is a desert wasteland inhabited by morons who rely upon the kindness of our English neighbours to build toilets for us and to do the complicated sums. But now the Scottish Secretary has admitted how much the Union is costing us, and has even helpfully given us a figure. We have a Scottish Secretary who actually struggles with the concept “too wee, too poor, too stupid”.
Meanwhile, Mikey’s party colleague Wee Wullie Rennie has run into another pot-hole on the Lib Dem Yellow Brick Road. The Yellow Brick Road is about as well maintained as the A9, only it hasn’t been upgraded quite so often and doesn’t lead anywhere that anyone might want to visit. But if we didn’t have to subsidise Westminster with £20 billion we could have sorted the A9 once and for all and extended the Embra tram network all the way to Inverness, or at least to South Queensferry.
Wee Wullie is displaying confusion over the meaning of the terms “democracy” and “majority”. This is because the SNP has offered to put a question about devo max on the independence ballot even though it sounds like the name of a character out of the Matrix. Devo Max would be virtual independence, complete with Agent Tory taking care of UK defence policy and hordes of death-dealing machines who get their power by sucking Scottish national resources dry.
Status Quo will be on the ballot too, though the only people who’d vote for it would be Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi and the last few Tories left in Scotland before the party puts its lights out. However the three chord band of too poor too wee too stupid Unionism thinks multiple questions are unfair and liable to confuse Scottish voters. Scottish voters are as thick as Unionist politicians you see.
But it’s perfectly simple really and even a Lib Dem politician ought to be able to grasp it. It’s like a meat pie, Wullie. There’s only the one meat pie on offer. People can have a choice of all the meat pie, half the meat pie, or no meat pie at all. 51% of people say they want all the meat pie. 99% say they want half the pie. The other 1% are members of the Status Quo fan club and are banging their heads in a 70s time warp along with Jackson Carlaw.
Can you add up, Wullie? This is the bit that you’re maybe finding tricky. 99% plus 51% makes 150%. That’s a pie and a half. But you can’t have all of a meat pie and half of the same meat pie at the same time, not even if you are a Liberal Democrat who believes his party can have the cream cake of government with the Tories without eating the laxatives of electoral rejection. So if people vote yes to the whole meat pie, then yes in a second question to half the meat pie, that means that they want all the pie but would settle for half if that’s all that was on offer. Only a munchkin could imagine otherwise.
You’d think this was all in the realms of the bleedin’ obvious, but Wullie thinks it means another half a meat pie could be magicked up out of nothing, like the Lib Dems think they’ll be able to magic up some votes come the next election.
Wullie spent last week touring Unionist media outlets, where the staff are contractually obliged to give Yellow Brick Road trips a sympathetic hearing and to treat really stupid questions from Unionist politicians as though they were questions posed by Albert Einstein about the fundamental nature of the fabric of the universe.
But even a Daily Record article ought to be able to explain it. As with pies, as with independence versus devo max. You can’t have independence and devo max simultaneously, not even in the fevered pages of the Daily Record. Independence is a pie. Devo max is a pie without the meaty bits and the gravy. The Calman Commission is that dodgy bit of gristle you spit out and offer to the dug, only the dug sniffs at it suspiciously then leaves it on the floor after giving you a dirty look.
Wullie’s trying to argue that the votes of the 48% who only want the dry crust of the meat pie outweigh the votes of the 51% of people who’d prefer the whole pie. Wanting half a pie is not the most popular choice.
In Wullie’s world saving the Union has to be everyone’s first choice, that’s the destination of the Lib Dem Yellow Brick Road. The notion it might be some people’s stale pie crust is as alien to him as basic arithmetic.
Even when they’re somewhere over the rainbow the Lib Dems cannae weigh a pie.