Brian Wilson is perfectly entitled to express his preference for a Tory-governed Britain rather than a Labour-governed Scotland (Opinion, 17 October). However, he is not entitled to criticise SNP MPs for supposedly not voting for the national minimum wage when, as a Labour MP, he did exactly the same thing himself.
Hansard shows that SNP MPs voted in favour of the bill at its crucial second reading on 16 December, 1997, as indeed did Mr Wilson.
However, at the less crucial third reading on 9 March, 1998, by which time it was clear that the bill would sail through, the division record shows that the SNP members were joined in their absence by a stellar cast of Labour luminaries which included Mr Wilson.
It’s perhaps unfair to describe Mr Wilson as being at the head of the list of Labour abstainers given that in addition to a number of the party’s Scottish backbenchers, Donald Dewar, Robin Cook, Alastair Darling and a couple of characters going by the names Blair and Brown also managed to be somewhere other than in the voting lobby that evening.
The “glib tongue” formulation which Mr Wilson seeks to stick on those of a pro-independence bent appears famously in Robert Burns’ Holy Willie’s Prayer, in which the eponymous protagonist, as his prayer progresses, succeeds only in exposing himself as a sanctimonious hypocrite.
I’m sure readers will be able to draw their own conclusions on Mr Wilson’s latest Nat-bashing foray without any further help from me.
An argument has been made that Scotland should stay in the UK in order to prevent non-stop Conservative rule in the rest of the UK. However, for the Scottish electorate to (very occasionally) foist a Labour government on England was just as much against the principles of self-determination as it was for the English electorate to (repeatedly) foist a Tory government on Scotland.
By the same logic, the UK could go the whole hog and become the 51st state of the USA in the forlorn hope of persuading the Americans away from the bits of their own political culture many of us feel distaste for, such as the right to bear arms and the use of capital punishment.
In the period since the franchise was extended to most males in 1885, we in Scotland, as part of the UK, have been subject to Tory governments 20 times. Left to ourselves we would have voted the Tories in only twice: in 1900 and in 1955.
Having been forced to accept the Tories as the natural party of government over such a long period has distorted the political culture of Scotland. It has even changed Brian Wilson’s own Scottish Labour Party, which has veered to the right under orders from the UK Labour Party, which itself had to move to the right to become electable.
What kind of country would we have had if we had been given the governments we voted for? Already with devolution we have started diverging. What kind of country might we yet be, given the chance?
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