Around the corner

Around the corner Phantom Power

By Margaret Johnstone

This is an excellent video, made some months ago, that lays out what is ahead of Scotland unless it secures independence soon. The recent speeches by Boris Johnson in which he called devolution a disaster and his ideas of denuding the Scottish parliament of powers via the Internal Market legislation on one side, and on the other moving powers and finance from Holyrood to local councils, must ring alarm bells. Added to that are the wall-to-wall media appearances of Douglas Ross, leader of the so-called Scottish Tories, desperately trying to make it look as if he is standing up for Scotland against the bad, very bad SNP which has made a disaster of devolution.

This is a concerted attack on the Scottish Government, the SNP and Scottish voters by the Westminster government and by a party that never believed in devolution, indeed abhorred the very idea, and has been roundly rejected by the majority of voters in Scotland for well over half a century. Ross voted in Westminster to deny more funding for local councils, yet he is promoting fairer funding for them in Scotland. I wonder if he means fairer funding in a way similar to that favoured by the Tory government at Westminster which delivers millions to its chums and donors through contracts for goods they have never previously traded and services never previously offered? That kind of fairer funding for councils, Douglas?

At a cost

There are many people who would like to see more devolution in Scotland, more powers devolved to councils and communities. But that comes at a cost, and they need to beware promises and vows of this happening under Ross as Scotland’s First Minister. Independence is likely to being a reorganisation of local government and how it is financed. Better to wait for that and have a say in how it is shaped than support a Tory excuse for emasculating Holyrood.

Another great video by Phantom Power Films. You can find more on their YouTube channel.

The Scottish government works to a tight budget allocated by Westminster. The removal of powers cited in the Internal Market legislation will result in that budget being substantially cut, as would diverting services to local councils, leaving the government denuded of powers and with an unworkable budget for the remaining priority services. Despite having voted, at Westminster, against more funding for local councils Ross is demanding fairer funding for councils in Scotland. Presumably he means fairer funding along similar lines to those used by the Tory government at Westminster as it delivers millions to its chums and donors through contracts for goods they have never previously produced? That kind of fairer funding, Douglas?

Forced savings could cut gains of devolution

So the Scottish Government would need to look for savings. Difficult choices as Westminster wouldn’t provide additional funding. Therefore it’s either cut other budgets like health and education; do away with schemes that help the less well off and mitigate Westminster policies, like the spare bedroom tax; reduce childcare hours making it more difficult for mothers to work; charge for personal care for the elderly; do away with free prescriptions, meaning that many won’t be able to afford them and putting further pressure on the NHS; sell off parts of our NHS (if anything is left after Westminster Tories sell it off to US healthcare firms) so that some services will need to be paid for; introduce charges for attending university; or substantially raise taxes. Or perhaps all will have to be sacrificed.

Douglas Ross floated the idea of a coalition with the Scottish Labour party to oust the SNP from power. On Holyrood’s present composition, a coalition majority would also need the LibDems on board and the Greens who favour independence. Richard Leonard took to Twitter to rubbish the idea, whist numerous others pointed out that there are Tory/Labour coalitions running many local councils to keep the SNP from power. On present polling figures the SNP is well placed to have a majority next May with increased support for the Greens, but with the concentrated onslaught by the Westminster-backed Tories, we can’t afford to be complacent for they will throw all they have at us. Indeed their campaign is well under way.

Unionists have made promises to us before, promises about delivering change and instead we got EVEL and the Smith Commission on which the Labour party (who like to be known as the party of devolution) stood against any additional powers for the Scottish Parliament.

We have come to rely on many of the services now at risk, view them as an indication of the type of inclusive, socially caring country we want to become with independence. But the Scottish parliament is a devolved parliament, one that generations of Scots fought for through numerous elections, winning in 1979 but thwarted by the 40% rule, until in 1997 we voted by 74% for it to be set up. Its establishment saw a burst of new confidence, a belief that we could successfully handle our own affairs, if only on a devolved basis. The success, and let’s never believe that devolution has been anything other than a success for Scotland, of our parliament and the chaotic nature of Westminster government has led us to where we are today, with 56/58% of Scottish electors believing independence is the way forward.

Unsurprisingly Westminster and the Tories have other ideas. They want to see the devolved parliaments abolished and us all back in the Westminster fold with fewer MPs representing us, and where those MPs are treated abominably.

Are we going to sit back, quietly fume and allow this to happen, allow all the gains we have made during the last twenty years to be trodden under the boot heels of a Tory government we didn’t vote for. If not, then what do we do? In the midst of a pandemic showing opposition is difficult, but surely we must do something to show Scotland is no walkover and we will stand up for what we believe in. Next May in the Holyrood election, unless Westminster cancels it, we can vote in overwhelming numbers for parties supporting independence. But May is over five months away and much can happen in five months. So whether we resort to producing and distributing leaflets and posters, writing or emailing MPs, MSPs, and local and national papers and taking to social media with infographics and comments, we need to make our voices and our opposition heard.

When we look back on this period none of us want to be in the position of regretting we sat on our hands and let the Tories strip us of the things we fought so hard to accomplish – and that doesn’t just mean Holyrood but also laws that protect us, our families and our rights which are also at grave risk under this Tory government.