Michael Kelly: SNP looks unlikely to play fair over referendum
DECEIT is a way of life for the Nationalists, who refuse to explain the consequences of a split from the UK, writes Michael Kelly
I do not know what has depressed me more this week: Scotland’s performances on the football field or the signing of the legal instrument to enable a referendum on independence. In a 21st-century world with domestic and international challenges on poverty, social and economic equality, regional warfare and terrorism, Scots have stumbled into a situation where for five years now (with another two to come) we have been and will be arguing over the 19th-century concepts of nationalism and nation states.
An unthinking electorate has been naive enough to believe that it could vote SNP in anger, in protest, in disgust, ignoring the fact that if it did it would lead to this inevitable conclusion – one that few voting Nationalist wanted, or even considered. For the SNP, independence is the single goal that they were set up to achieve. Not that a voter would appreciate that from the propaganda with which they have conducted all Holyrood elections. Even this week, one of the many spokesmen for the Yes campaign went on UK national radio to deny that the raison d’être for the SNP was to separate Scotland from the UK. It was, he said, in the vague and mealy-mouthed phrases that substitute for policy, “to do the best for Scotland and its people”.
This double-speak is the language of the SNP. There is the fantasy that we can stay in the nuclear alliance that is Nato without the weapons. There is the refusal to acknowledge that the best advice coming out of Brussels is that Scotland would not automatically be a member of the European Union. There is the contempt for Freedom of Information legislation which caused Alex Salmond’s government to resist disclosing what legal interpretations have been placed on matters such as these – opinions which are vital for any citizen wanting to cast an informed vote. And what about passports and border posts if we are excluded from Europe? Both already impede your progress from Switzerland to France. Will the EU allow England to exempt us?
Then there is the total refusal to spell out the economic consequences of separation. Of course Scotland could survive on its own. Most parts of the UK could. But surviving is not the same as prospering, and for years the SNP has failed to deliver an example of how Scotland would grow faster alone. We’ve had the Celtic Tiger and the Arc of Prosperity. All these examples have done is to underline the fact that smaller economies have less chance of weathering economic catastrophes. In a world of increasing connectivity, separate is both counter-intuitive and wrong. Yesterday’s figures on unemployment and GDP have hardly helped the argument that Scotland is more resilient than the UK.
This deceit is a way of life with the SNP. Its abuse of power is even more deplorable. The Trump saga tells a tale of how this government treats anyone who dares defy it. The Donald was welcomed as a hero, a close relationship was established with Salmond and he got his planning permissions. However, when he refused to sign a government-prepared press release endorsing the disgraceful release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi he was cut loose and left with an ugly wind farm as the target line for drives at the ninth. The vindictiveness of this government is only outdone by its appalling judgment that a New Yorker who saw his city subjected to the worst act of terror since its foundation would condone the release of a man convicted of blowing up an American plane. No wonder Salmond was booed in America after he shouldered his way into the Ryder Cup celebrations.
But all of these obfuscations, deceptions and lies have been covered by the SNP government’s perceived reputation for competence. However, again the propaganda runs counter to the facts. Take the SNP’s commendable attempts to tackle Scotland’s addiction to alcohol. The intention was honourable but the execution of the policy bungled. Now the proposed restrictions on alcohol pricing will not be implemented unless a long and expensive court battle is won. And there is no plan B to save Scottish bingers from themselves.
Take also the failed attempts to save the jobs at Hall’s of Broxburn. John Swinney entered the PR picture promising to do everything to save the 1,700 people involved. What did he do? He set up a task force. And now all the jobs have been wiped out. It is not a criticism that government cannot fight market forces, but it does indicate the limitation of Scottish pressure, independent or not. There was no complaint here of a lack of necessary powers. It was simply a task beyond this government. In fact, there is a powerful argument, in the present fevered referendum climate, that the UK government through the old Scottish Office would have been much more motivated and effective in dealing with the Dutch owners of the plant than some regional minister. What is the Scottish Government’s latest response? “We are happy to speak to anyone with a viable commercial proposal.” Hardly a dynamic interventionist strategy.
One can take a sporting analogy too far, but is Scotland alone doomed to compete internationally at the level of our football team. Surely our significant contributions to the Olympic and Ryder Cup teams point, however crudely, to Scotland being at its best when combining with our fellow citizens. On the day of the signing of the referendum agreement, the image of Cameron at Rosyth was much more compelling than the First Minister telling stories to schoolchildren.
My most disturbing thought, however, is that, on the basis of the SNP’s record, this campaign will not be conducted fairly, nor the arguments genuinely explored. As for both sides respecting the outcome, the UK will. But there is no chance that the SNP will fold its tents and sneak away, no matter how badly the referendum goes against it. It will continue to divert attention from the real social issues we face. That’s the futility of it all.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
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