ALEX Salmond and his party have sold out all their principles in the race to get past the referendum winning post, writes Michael Kelly.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to dwell on the Jubilee. That’s in the past and in the past it must remain. However, I did so enjoy the discomfiture that the exaggerated outpourings of loyalty to the monarchy caused the SNP. The brief glimpse of our First Minister sitting po-faced in St Paul’s surrounded by the trappings of the United Kingdom was the money shot.
Monarchy is just one of the many obstacles in the way of the SNP as it begins the long two-year haul trying to convince Scots to do something the vast majority stubbornly resist. Alex Salmond’s reaction to the continuing evidence that Scots, not just tolerate, but support the monarchy demonstrates his shallow commitment to making Scotland a fairer and more equal country. It also indicates how willing the SNP is to ditch any principle in an unethical attempt to get past the referendum winning post.
Monarchy is the appropriate constitutional model for an old state that is comfortable with it. To change it in the United Kingdom in pursuit of greater democracy would not only be impossible given widespread public support, but destabilising as well. And, the best argument of all: never forget if we’d had an elected head of state that’s where the Tories would have kicked Margaret Thatcher when she had finished destroying the Scottish economy. Given her dictatorial tendencies she might still be there.
Those seeking to create a new state within which to remould a revived nation are already guilty of indulging in anachronistic behaviour. This is the era when the dominance of nation state is drawing to a close. Progressive thinking is moving towards greater integration which offers better economic prospects and better guarantees of protection from large, hostile and doctrinaire regimes. But is doubly anachronistic, and duplicitous, to argue on the one hand that constitutional change will create a fairer and more equal society while, on the other, promising to embrace a system based not on merit but on the feudal remnant of inheritance.
This must go against the grain of the vast majority of SNP grass-roots support. All over the world such self-determination movements have been avowedly republican. And so is the SNP. Yet because opinion polls clearly demonstrate that an independent republic would be even more difficult to achieve than the impossible dream of independence alone, Salmond has turned himself into a cheerleader for the Queen. He was even heard to praise Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second – something no Scot ever accepted she was. The real revolutionaries in the fifties blew up pillar boxes adorned with that legend. But today his party silently follow its leader in his volte-face. It demonstrates both the lack of all but one principle at the heart of the SNP – independence. Where are those MSPs who by crossed fingers and other gestures showed their contempt for the monarch’s writ running in Scotland? Can we have from them a ringing endorsement of monarchy? Has Roseanna Cunningham sold out for a mess of pottage?
But this dishonesty and the refusal to seek facts or to admit established ones runs through SNP policy. Despite jumping from one model to another as the wind of change changes the party has have never managed to establish a convincing economic case. We haven’t heard a word about the “arc of prosperity” since Ireland and Iceland went down the tubes.
The policy of adopting the euro has been dropped because it is now too easy for opponents to bracket an independent Scotland with tottering Greece. And the lie is being pedalled that Scotland will have a significant say in UK fiscal policy if we adopt sterling when the Bank of England flatly deny it.
Ruth Davidson blew Nicola Sturgeon out of the water in a recent television debate by producing a letter from the European Commission formally stating that the SNP has never contacted them over simple questions on which the SNP case depends – like will an independent Scotland be automatically admitted to the EU? And, is the adoption of the euro a pre-requisite to entry? The reason the questions have not been asked is that the SNP already knows what the answers will be. Has the party asked the Queen whose country they are breaking up, if she’s willing to be our head of state? Thought not.
Alex Salmond must have had a queasy four days, having to show face and say words that must surely have stuck in his throat. “Paris is well worth a mass”, Henry IV declared as he swapped his calvinism for the throne of France. This is the pragmatic, unprincipled approach that the SNP is taking to its policy pronouncements in the long, tedious run-up to the referendum.
This refusal across all policy areas – defence is another one – to come clean with Scotland is what is stopping honest and informed debate on what exactly we will be voting for.
In reality it will be a very different Scotland to the vague reassuring picture of only the bad things changing that will face us if the SNP were to succeed. The harsh realities of the real world would shape our country’s future. We’d be in Europe saddled with the euro. We’d be in Nato accepting its nuclear weapons policy. We’d see our exports savaged by England. We’d be queuing up to cross the Border seeking cheaper goods. We’d have higher public expenditure financed by higher taxes.
And the monarchy wouldn’t survive long. It is significant that Salmond, who is very good at choosing his words, affirmed his support for the Queen, not for monarchy as a system of government. If Scotland were to cast itself adrift from the United Kingdom and the inevitable change in monarch occurs you can put your money on a move to remove Charles as our head of state. That’s the package we’ll be voting on. Don’t buy their pig in a poke. Better to take the Queen’s shilling. With a wee tour round the country in early 2014, she’ll be the Yes campaign’s trump card.