by Hazel Lewry
David Cameron visited Alex Salmond in Edinburgh this week. The pro-union media trumpeted a softening of the rhetoric, which included a non-committal promise to “consider” more powers if Scotland votes down her natural right to self determination.
This is the jam tomorrow promise of Alec Douglas Home in 1979 all over again. Douglas Home’s promise of “something better” was backed up by Margaret Thatcher on the day before the home-rule referendum, when she promised that a no vote would not kill devolution. But the Tories went on to hide the devolution jam from Scotland for umpteen years and more. They even withheld the butter and toast as well.
The first question sparked by Cameron’s proposal for more powers is: “Why should we believe you this time?”
The answer from David Cameron’s own mouth, was: “You shouldn’t.”
There can be no other interpretation because Cameron didn’t actually promise anything, he said “consider”. You might as well ask the local bank if they’d consider putting a few million extra in that Super Saver account you have, you know, just so it might actually resemble the name. The bank will consider the deposit you’re asking for, for about a nano-second before kicking you out the front door. The bank has duly considered the request and considered it well.
Nothing tells us Cameron’s period of contemplation will be any longer, or deeper than the local bank’s. There is nothing to stop him putting his proposals forward now, but he says the matter can only be discussed after a no vote has been returned. If Cameron was serious, he would let us consider what flavour of jam is on offer and then we can decide if we like the taste.
It’s not jam tomorrow; it’s not even a promise of jam tomorrow. It’s a promise of a consideration of a proposal of a little jam tomorrow after we gift him enough ingredients, consisting of the keys to our nation, after which he will have enough to make sure we can all eat cake. But then we know where Scotland’s choice ingredients are destined, the same place they already go, to London and the South East.
Let’s imagine that David Cameron was to keep his word, and turn his considerations over a while and solidify them into promises, and that the promises actually made their way through Westminster’s echoing halls and onto the legislative books. What flavour of jam might we expect?
It will be soor ploom, made without sugar.
We will be forced to buy it and we will consume it even as it makes our jowls hollow and our eyes water, our bellies cramp and we head with haste for the commode. We’ll do this because we’ll have no other option. We’d have voluntarily voted away our own recipe book for our own Scottish jam.
Westminster’s jam will taste so bad because we’ll be supping it with the benefit of hindsight. It could have been so much better had we not listened, again, to the scare mongering of the Unionists and their promises that are non-promises. We’ll see the evidence that would have made us aware a Yes vote was our only option in 2014.
We may get extra powers, which might become a reality, but they’ll be cosmetic and meaningless, if we even get them at all. We might get the power to set our own speed limits or regulate air-guns. These will be our extra powers. But they will come at a huge price. We can expect to lose control over university funding, over the NHS, over much of our budget.
We can expect Holyrood to be completely neutered, in some peculiar fashion the media will spin this in an effort to make it acceptable to the international audience, while at the ballot box we will be rendered powerless to determine our future, our children’s future or our national destiny.
We can expect this because Westminster has had the fright to end frights, and Westminster does not like frights. Those in power in London have demonstrated time and again they will react ruthlessly to anything that causes them fright. For a recent example, just look at the sentences against the rioters last summer, with the Olympics approaching riots gave Westminster a fright and Westminster struck back. Hard.
We can expect our welfare system, our community values and national sense of compassion to be obliterated. Social programs stand to be decimated as each cut in England transfers to a respective cut in Scotland.
Will the Barnett Formula survive the reprisals to come? Probably not, given the swell of Conservative opinion on Cameron’s back benches that claim Scotland receives more than our “fair share”, even though we contribute more to the UK than we receive back.
Our soor ploom jam will be on the shelf at the supermarket, and as we put it out to be scanned at the checkout we might find ourselves looking into our mother’s eyes, eyes that can hardly remain open after her last bout of chemotherapy. She might not even be able to stand properly, be incontinent, but she’ll be on that checkout or lose her right to sustenance unless we can prove she’ll really be dead in a few weeks. It will not matter that these inhumane policies will be what might kill her – she’ll be scanning our soor ploom jam.
Before you get to the checkout you might walk past your child stocking shelves. She’s got a degree, she worked hard for it, but now she’s forced to work for her benefits because Westminster policies which decimated four nations to protect a City means there are no jobs. You might pass her in the aisles knowing that your spouse, the only one still working in your family is paying her wages through their taxes, because the supermarket won’t be. The supermarket just gives her the bus fare to get to the unpaid work which teaches her nothing and does nothing for her job prospects.
Part of the recipe for tomorrow’s soor ploom jam appears to be making certain that big business makes more money as we subsidise them through our benefits system. It is Westminster passing these inhumane laws, often the result of these businesses lobbying London.
The recipe also seems to include protections for the City, the bankers, bonus schemes and more light touch regulation. The recipe includes isolation in Europe, more wage freezes, austerity, lower living standards, higher fuel bills and the weakest in our society being targeted and vilified. This sour plum jam Westminster is offering has a recipe most sensible folk might want to steer clear of.
In 2014 it appears there’s an alternative on offer, if we like Westminster’s soor ploom jam we can fire up the toaster. Yet if we think our own recipe has even a chance of being a wee bit tastier we should dig through our ingredients, perhaps throw a few raspberries at London for its bigger jar.
Then we will get busy, making something fit for a real nation to enjoy.