Commentary by Derek Bateman
If, like me, you spent the last week confused about why the SNP was giving credence to Labour’s latest ploy, then lighten up with this gem in the Herald from David Torrance. It will make your day.
Here in one handy article is everything that is wrong with our wee country – among aspiring Scots, in the media and throughout Unionism. This belongs in that corner of each newspaper that should be entitled Today’s Unionist Wishful Thinking.
David has been consulting with his contacts which usually means his former employer, David Mundell, who has for years been a one-man briefing source keeping the Unionist media on message.
We are duly advised that the imperious might of the Scotland Act is about to burst like fireworks over Holyrood and leave the overwhelmed Nationalists gasping in shock and awe. By its very ingenuity and all-encompassing breadth it will crush the Nats’ ambitions and wake up the gullible populace to their shallow chicanery. Their reign is about to end as they are exposed by Tory genius as charlatans. Redemption is on its way, brothers and sisters. The man in the High Street with the sandwich boards was right all along. For the Nats, the End is Nigh.
All great empires must eventually fall, says the headline…indeed they do and that applies equally to the Union which is now on its knees. But with finely-honed perspicacity (or, as Mundell told him) the ground shifted last week and the SNP has finally been rumbled. Because it must be clear to you all by now that they are not really a political party that cleverly got in tune with public opinion, grew a generation of talented politicians and has successfully ran the government for the best part of a decade, hardly putting a foot wrong and hovering up Tory votes along the way. No, they are clever tricksters who have fooled half the entire population into backing them by pretending to be genuine, or left-wing, or something and getting away with it. But Mundell has them in his sights, he’s got Labour to load the ammo and any minute now there’ll be a BLAM! and it will all be over. Ironically though, if David’s beloved Tory Party hadn’t thrown every last penny at Mundell’s seat, he wouldn’t even be here today – except via the Lords, obviously, from where he would still have been Secretary of State, such is the democratic tradition of British Unionism.
Those democratic traditions gave us the Vow which Torrance now declares delivered, although he’s been saying that almost from its inception such is the desperation to draw a line under the devolution of powers or, as he puts, to end ‘grievance’. Nationalists must know that belief in your country and campaigning for national dignity by running your own affairs can never be described as a noble cause. It is merely the expression of a grudge against people you instinctively dislike because of course you’re too primitive to know better. Unionists are more open-minded, non-judgmental and welcoming. Such is the British way. The smugness oozes through the paragraphs.
Another example is the clichéd ‘An election fought on the basis of parties and personalities suits the Nationalists; a campaign based on “record” and policies does not.’ Really? First of all I hardly think the Nats will have to bother with the personality side of things. Name me a single Labour personality. One? OK then, I grant you James Kelly.
Secondly, let’s look at the record since David doesn’t think you’re interested.
- Crime is at a 40 year low, with violence down 10 per cent and a clear-up rate the best since records began in 1976. (Crime has even fallen under the media-ridiculed single force).
- NHS budgets are up £3b since the SNP came in. Numbers of staff including nurses and doctors are at an all-time high. Prescriptions are free.
- Education policy has brought a 50 per cent rise in university applicants from the most deprived areas. Scotland is the best-educated country in Europe, says the UK Office for National Statistics.
- The economy is thriving despite global unrest, say accountants BDO and Bank of Scotland.
Standing above all else is the publicly accepted and endorsed policy of always putting Scotland first. Unionists can always point to failures but based on the above, you can see why no SNP canvasser is afraid to go on a doorstep and argue on the record. Just compare it to Labour’s!
Unaddressed here is the elephant in the room – the Scots don’t believe the Vow. Just over a month ago, Yougov found 9 per cent – that’s NINE per cent – believed the Vow had been kept. It looks like wishful thinking that some amendments, changes in grammar and the addition of abortion is going to ramp that up much, no matter how hard the Herald and the Record trumpet it. The whole point of the Vow, as created by the real editor of the Record, Gordon Brown, was that it said nothing that could be confirmed or rejected. It was a scratched together publicity stunt from terrified Unionists who saw the polls turning against them. Smith was a race against time to pretend something was being done and an abrogation of responsibility since profound constitutional change cannot be done in half a dozen meetings with self-interested horse-trading.
Also overlooked here is the message from the General Election – an unprecedented sweep of Scotland in favour of a party of constitutional change – sorry, grievance. You simply can’t casually cast aside, as Torrance does, the effect of the mandate delivered by the voters in what he regards as the Holy of Holies, a British General Election. Taken together with the threateningly high Yes vote, the clear implication is Scots were prepared to stay in Union but, by God, they wanted the Home Rule promised, not a face-saving stitch-up. That’s what the SNP surge was about. The effortless arrogance of those who dismiss the verdict of the voters is the hallmark of the failed state they support…the Unionists assume their own brilliance when they are actually ignoring the obvious. This imperial myopia allied to the affront of EVEL, is feeding the Nationalist beast.
But, when hands get clammy with excitement on the keyboard at the prospect of an SNP defeat, democratic mandates and voter messages can go hang.
What there is here is confirmation from a connected Tory commentator of the Unionist plan built around Smith and the concession of partial tax and welfare powers. Here it is. ‘…with more and more of its budget taken up mitigating Westminster cuts, obviously that becomes much harder to maintain, especially when coupled with a deep reluctance to increase income tax. Not only will scrutiny be greater than ever before but the Scottish Government’s room for manoeuvre much narrower.’ Boom, boom! The Smith process, and Labour’s tax credit scam are nothing to do with the governance of Scotland or what benefits the people might derive. It is all to do with squeezing the Scottish budget and laying rat runs of escape which all lead to unpopularity via service loss or tax rises. There, in a paragraph, is British Unionism’s plan for devolution to Scotland. It is a Fuck-You policy.
As you read down you will see that just before the end Mr Torrance rescues himself from his galloping daydream and sanity intervenes. The shambolic failure of Labour across the UK is pointing, as I said yesterday along with the rest of the known world, towards another Tory government in a few years’ time and along with a possible oil price rise, could smooth the way for a revived SNP move on a referendum. But still, it seems, for Unionists, fed on thin gruel for so many years, the ground has shifted. So much so, that there is even space to hint at a possible Tory revival – you just can’t escape that constant theme cropping up. I thoroughly enjoyed this column and have resolved to read the Herald again next Monday. They’ve hit on a winning formula here –Inside the Scottish Tory Mind…hours of pleasure.