by Hazel Lewry
May 10th 2010 – the day the Union died. Why this particular day over any other in the last three centuries and counting?
The eighty year rise of the Scottish Nationalists, Devolution, and increasing awareness all contributed to that day.
Many who are fondly remembered, but are no longer with us contributed to that day, and to May 5th 2011.
Many significant events over decades contributed to that day as being a defining day in the death throes of a Union. More than anything else in recent history New-Labour and Gordon Brown, that consummate Unionist, contributed to the day the Union died.
In retrospect he never could have avoided it, neither could Labour. That day was inbuilt to the party psyche. “Stop the Tories” had been a multi-generational mantra. That, not the “working man”, had become its raison- d’être. That is what Labour sold its soul to the City of London for.
Conservative principles, philosophy and policy had been dead for years in Scotland. Like the “vote for me and accomplish nothing for Scotland Lib-Dems”, their principle function north of the border was as a vote-splitter. To remove every vote possible from the Nationalists was the Union parties goal. Labour had been effectively dead for a generation, they hadn’t yet woken up to the fact. Death throes sometimes give the imitation of life.
Scots voters had for years been increasingly turning towards the SNP as their best form of government. The rise of the Nationalists had been like an inexorable tide, slowly rising every few years to yet another high water mark. For many Scots it appeared about as fast as glacial movement – it was as inevitable.
Another high water mark was reached in 2007, as Gordon Brown was looking to entrench himself in number 10, the Nationalists were elected as a minority government in Scotland. Safe in the knowledge there would never be a majority government in Scotland. He [Brown] believing that Holyrood would always be subject to Union control, or at the very least to Union veto, quietly sent forth orders to obstruct, obfuscate, and denigrate the efforts of the SNP in government. It failed.
Four years later Scotland is fast becoming the type of nation that the average English resident wants for themselves. In the face of Union obstructionism this is nothing short of a major seismic event.
The General Election of 2010 came upon us swiftly, more swiftly in the wake of a global credit crisis than many were apparently prepared for. Yet for those of us who looked deeper it wasn’t really a global credit crisis. Many nations escaped relatively to completely unscathed. The nations that didn’t escape were those who followed the Bush/Blair/Brown chant of light touch self regulation for the financial industry.
It wasn’t Scotland’s credit crisis – it was propaganda manna from heaven for the Union. From that perspective Westminster might well have willingly paid double for the bailout and considered it a bargain. All it bought in that respect was time, and as events would show, not much of it at that.
Scots were dealt a propaganda body blow by the Unionist media. They were daily thrashed with the fact they were “too wee, too poor” to support “Scotland’s” failed banking industry.
Propaganda was all it was, as these banks were operating under Westminster’s rules and regulations, they were reporting the vast majority of their profits and losses through English companies, and all that remained in Scotland was a rump. In some ways it resembled the Lib-Dems in Scotland, May 2011, propaganda value but not much else.
Using this “too wee, too poor” argument and the Tory threat in Westminster, adding in the promise of Labour protection if “Scotland went Red” we entered the UK 2010 election.
Scotland duly “went Red”, we decimated our own national party vote share in an attempt to secure what many in Scotland believed would be a Labour majority at Westminster. We sent 40 plus labour MP’s South and just one Tory. We gave Labour and Gordon Brown what he needed to form a coalition.
Labour under Mr. Browns’ leadership declared, quite forcefully by their actions, that they would rather do a deal with the devil than work with the nationalist parties. Labour voluntarily consigned themselves to the wilderness on May 10th 2010. A great many Scots were stunned by this stance. Labour had been given their trust to stop a Conservative government in the UK, these proud Scots has put their trust and faith in Labour and had managed to put them in a position, just, to maintain government.
Scots voters watched in astonishment as Gordon Brown, the consummate Unionist, betrayed them.
Labour, and the UK truly went under the collective Scottish microscope. Light was shone under rocks, and although no party emerged completely unscathed the Nationalists certainly looked better than any other. It took several months for the enormity of what they had just witnessed to sink in with many Scots.
For many it resembled a grieving process, as they finally pierced the veil of what Labour had transformed itself into. Political grief, like any grief, takes time. When it does translate to votes they can be hard votes indeed.
Less than one year later the elections at Holyrood came up. Scottish voters had long since proven they have more than enough intellectual capacity to vote in their best interest rather than directly along party lines, and for many the grieving process caused by Labour betrayal was over.
Scots also have long and accurate memories, better by far than most in the media give them credit for. As their daily focus swung to Holyrood and the election became imminent, the Scots ire at being Gordon Browns “voting fodder” added to Labour’s lack of leadership in Scotland, the credit crunch and the Tory Westminster government imposing “Austerity” cuts to a solvent nation boiled over into a quietly Scottish rebellion filled with the golden yellow of early spring sunshine.
Holyrood was designed to prevent an SNP majority ever happening. As that golden colour swept the electoral map and the opposition fell from both solid and shoogly pegs, the unthinkable happened. Scots chose to put their own nation first, rather than meekly submit to London control. As the chart below shows, it was no protest vote, but a steady groundswell.
When Holyrood was re-convened what Westminster also did not count upon was that by 2011, every Scots voter under the age of 30, has known nothing other than Holyrood government for their entire adult voting life.
Some may ask “why waste time and print on what is done”, basically it is not done. This Union has many aspects, from the original Treaty to the present UK government, from its major crutch this last half century and more [Labour in Scotland] to the individual supporter.
As this Union at last gives up the ghost the grieving process will involve significant portions of our population and media for a plethora of different reasons. Any who doubts this need only look back to the BBC coverage of election night.
Each will be valid in its own way. To both the individual and the organization.
The grief over the death of the Union went largely unnoticed, for as is the way of peaceful revolution, few noticed the actual event. In today’s Scotland it has been brought forcibly home. On many levels. That the Union is forever changed is a given, this means the Union we knew is dead. That loss for many has yet to sink in.
There will be grief for that, certainly not universally. It will exist, although a year late. That the labour party in Scotland is diminished and in its death throes as we know it, there is grief by many for that also. That the Liberal democrats are all but utterly destroyed will cause grief to some. That the BBC and our mainstream media must adapt to a new existence is fact. Expect the current denial there to last rather longer, but the grief process is already self evident although presently entrenched at the rejection and denial stage.
As we walk our bright new path, let us not forget the past we have come from, and be considerate of the stages of grief others among us are enduring as we enjoy our present victory. Let us help them past the rejection of circumstance, the anger, the denial, and get them to accept walking the path we have been on for many, many years.
Most of all, let us all work towards getting that acceptance from them before the referendum. This is why we need time, time for all who can to complete the grieving and embrace the acceptance of our new enhanced and expanded lot in life. In his acceptance speech Alex Salmond led the way, we should all be mature enough to walk alongside.
With the reconvening of our Parliament in 1999 and Winnie Ewing’s opening remarks the Union entered a deathwatch. May 10th 2010, Gordon Brown effectively administered the coup de grace. On the 5th of May 2011 the Scottish voter declared the corpse dead and called for an autopsy.
The only outstanding issue is when the funeral is to be held – it appears the Scots will set that date as well.
Meantime some must grieve, and that process will affect us all.