Friday, March 23, 2012

The day that proves that the SNP did, indeed, win the 2007 election

The Telegraph described Wednesday's events as a "capitulation" by Alex Salmond. Really? I know some rank-and-file Nats were itching for the drama of the Scotland Bill being thrown out by Holyrood, but the reality is that the SNP are in the business of securing more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The choice was not between the modest advance of the Scotland Bill as it stands and the 'pigs might fly' scenario of Michael Moore actually remembering that he's supposed to believe in Home Rule, but between the Scotland Bill as it stands and nothing at all - or at least nothing until the referendum. So what were the SNP always likely to choose? Hmmm, let me see now...

The one exception to the general rule of grabbing every power that comes along is when it genuinely would be harmful to Scotland's interests. But those concerns have been obviated by the alterations that have been secured. And by playing hardball, the SNP have also managed to prevent some powers being transferred back to London. That part of the bill hadn't attracted much attention, but however minor the powers concerned were (insolvency and regulation of the health professions), it was always a deeply offensive sop to the idea that Holyrood isn't a grown-up parliament capable of making grown-up decisions. It was also intended to communicate the message that all the powers that Holyrood controls are merely "on loan" from Westminster, and can be withdrawn at any time. So what was intended by Calman to be the "two-way traffic" swapping of powers between Westminster and Holyrood will instead now be strictly one-way traffic - with the exception of the bizarre reservation of powers relating to Antarctica. But I dare say we can live with that. Scotland has no colonial pretensions - let's leave that anachronistic nonsense to those who do it so much better.

Casting my mind back to when the SNP sneaked into power in 2007, I recall being slightly uneasy about the overuse of the word 'historic'. A Nationalist government was certainly a dramatic development, but in itself it didn't achieve a thing. The arrival of devolution in 1999 was an achievement for the national movement. Even the establishment of the Scottish Office in 1885 was an achievement of sorts. But if the SNP had been in power for one term (or less than one term) and no extra powers had been devolved, the 2007 result would have been nothing more than a historical curiosity. For all the unionist crowing about what happened on Wednesday, the real meaning is this - the SNP did win in 2007, and it did matter.

Incidentally, I gather both from Willie Rennie's comments in the Telegraph and Brian Taylor's summary on his blog that the Liberal Democrats are openly measuring the extent of Michael Moore's negotiating "success" by how few powers he had to "give up to Scotland". Yup, there speaks the authentic voice of Scotland's Home Rule party...

NOTE : I should make clear that I'm not 100% sure that the Antarctica provisions haven't been removed from the bill, but as they haven't been mentioned in any of the reports, I presume they're still there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Will Ruth Davidson describe John Redwood as "ignorant and petty" for calling the independence movement "anti-English"?

As we all remember, the Nationalist MSP Joan McAlpine set off an almighty storm a couple of months ago by describing opposition parties as "anti-Scottish" for using their in-built majority at Westminster to circumvent the Scottish people's verdict in the Holyrood election. All of those parties excoriated her and demanded her resignation, having first cynically twisted her words to the point where she had supposedly claimed that anyone who disagreed with the SNP was anti-Scottish. The Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, for instance, described Joan as "ignorant and petty".

Well, we intriguingly now have the mirror image of the misrepresented version of Joan's words from a senior Tory MP. John Redwood has unambiguously dismissed the entire Scottish independence movement as "anti-English" -

"Nationalists in those countries [Scotland and Wales] enjoy using the EU against England. They see that the EU’s continued insouciance to England, refusing it any recognition, is part of the process of weakening and undermining the Westminster government they dislike. It all helps to antagonise the England they wish to leave in a way which might help the change they want. One of the great ironies of the Scottish “independence” movement is it is not truly an independence movement at all. It is a dependence movement, wishing to shift Scotland to Brussels control directly. It is an anti English movement more than it is an independence movement. In bizarre opposition to all the rest of his feelings, Mr Salmond even wants to keep Scotland in the pound under the control of the Bank of England!"

Can we now look forward to Ruth Davidson's scathing thoughts on these comments, or to the deafening silence of another display of moral consistency?

On the 'substance' of Redwood's argument, it's quite difficult to fathom his logic without first understanding the paranoid psyche of the obsessive Tory Eurosceptic. It seems that in his alternative reality, the European Union is already a unitary state, and therefore if Scotland was to become an independent member of the European Union, we'd be directly swapping each and every aspect of our dependence on London for dependence on Brussels. Our wish to do so can thus only be explained by anti-Englishness.

In the real world, as an intelligent man like Redwood knows only too well, Westminster has far more control over our lives than Brussels does. The benefits system. Weapons of mass destruction on our soil. Participation in illegal wars. Broadcasting. Immigration. Even abortion law. Control over all these matters would be repatriated (to use a word Redwood ought to appreciate) to Edinburgh with independence. The powers that Brussels currently exercise would remain where they are, but the difference is that we would have a direct vote in EU institutions, as opposed to Scotland being 'represented' by David Cameron and William Hague!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Unionist driving instructors need not apply...

I think at long last I might have found a reasonable definition of that slippery term 'Cybernat', ie. someone who honestly thinks that unionists are no good for anything, not even driving lessons. I was rather alarmed to spot this post on a Facebook group a few hours ago -

"Anyone know of an SNP member who is a driving instructor and is good? Please let me know, ta!"

Actually, to be fair, he was probably just hoping for a freebie from a fellow Nat!