by Don Roberto And Me
Think about this for a moment: “The alternative is to accept that Scotland’s fate would remain in the hands of others and that the Scottish people would relinquish their right to decide their own destiny.”
Not the words of Don Roberto—though they easily could have been—but the twelfth and final point of the Declaration for Independence, published in early October and signed by 100 Scottish cultural figures.
If it wasn’t clear then that those ‘others’ have no intention of granting democracy in Scotland even the most basic respect, it surely must be now with election campaigning in full swing and the politicians and broadcasters vying with one another to treat us with the greatest contempt. The TV leaders’ debate stitch-up and the fact that a senior journalist such as the BBC’s Andrew Neil should re-post a doctored interview with Ian Blackford on Twitter says pretty much all that needs to be said.
I spoke with a pleasant and intelligent young man the other day who runs his own small business, and asked him what he felt about independence. He answered, ‘I think we need to be together rather than apart in these times’. I sympathised, then suggested that right now togetherness with Europe seemed a better bet than togetherness with England. He listened, then asked tentatively, ‘What about the economy?’
Johnson would have us out of Europe and off into the Atlantic as some kind of cold-water tax haven, where the poor fight for scraps under the table.
I wanted to shake him, to ask him what he reads, where he gets his information from, although I knew the answer—the mainstream media—and for that reason I couldn’t blame him for his response. But still, I wanted to say, ‘Do you have any idea how wealthy we really are? And how capable? And how much this election matters? Do you have any sense of what Scotland can be? And—most importantly—what Scotland will be if we continue to let politicians we haven’t elected decide our fate in Westminster? And not just any politicians, but increasingly hostile and unscrupulous ones?’
It chills me to contemplate Scotland’s future under any of the likely outcomes of this election. Johnson would have us out of Europe and off into the Atlantic as some kind of cold-water tax haven, where the poor fight for scraps under the table. Swinson, who is really Johnson’s political sibling, not least in her expectation that Scotland would climb quietly back into its box, would simply revoke Article 50, which would be welcome, but without any further public consultation, which would cause an uproar of epic proportions; though with Farage now pulling back his troops her dreams of leading the country seem more deluded than ever. And Corbyn … heaven knows what Corbyn would do, but the chances of it being favourable to Scotland are slim, his ruminations on Section 30 notwithstanding.
There’s a simple—and to the other players unpalatable—truth in the fact that the SNP keeps winning a majority among Scottish parties, both in Westminster and at Holyrood, and it’s not only to do with having the getaway vehicle. It’s that people in Scotland think the SNP is generally doing a good job. That’s what we elect governments for—to run the country fairly and well. The SNP (increasingly and deliberately referred to as the Scottish Nationalist Party by politicians and commentators alike) does both. It cares. It looks after people. It welcomes foreigners. Its policies are inclusive, tolerant and outward-looking. It represents all the things that the Tories in Westminster manifestly don’t.
But without any support in the mainstream media, the overall picture of the SNP presented in this election is at best highly unfavourable. Take NHS Scotland, which for all its difficulties continues on several counts to be the best-performing of all four UK health services. Yet the SNP’s performance on health comes under heavy fire, with no reference to the considerably more parlous state of NHS England, and despite the fact that at least part of NHS Scotland’s difficulties are attributable to the consequential effect of cuts imposed on its English counterpart.
Then there’s the economy, the so-called fiscal deficit, the currency, the border … these chestnuts are already on the brazier.
The same fire is directed at Scottish education, where the essential problem is not so much one of the curriculum itself as of the administrative burden it places on teachers. And while that clearly needs to be addressed, according to the Office for National Statistics Scotland nevertheless remains the most highly educated country per capita in Europe, with more top 200 universities and more people with higher or further education qualifications, than any other.
Then there’s the economy, the so-called fiscal deficit, the currency, the border … these chestnuts are already on the brazier, though at least the pensions conker was well and truly knocked out of the competition last time around. Between now and 12 December, if we’re not being ignored we’ll be deafened by lies and false accusations, we’ll be belittled and reviled, we’ll be told that our aspirations are worthless and to be sneered at, and it will become clear even to the most ardent of unionists that we’re not an equal partner in the so-called union of equals.
When 12 December arrives, if any doubts remain in your mind just picture Boris Johnson standing up in Westminster and announcing the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament. If you crave relief from such a nightmare vision, consider this instead, the tenth point of the Declaration for Independence: “We affirm the values of care, kindness, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit in all our dealings. Such values are the foundation stones of a fair, free and open society where all citizens have the opportunity to live the best, most fulfilling lives they can.”
Imagine how hard it might be to uphold values such as these if we were to remain part of an isolated UK in the hands of free-booting, right-wing, English nationalists. There is then only one possible choice on the ballot paper, the party whose founding president Don Roberto became in 1934, the Scottish National Party.