Friend or Foe?

Black propaganda, based on lies and half-truths, can be an effective weapon, but like any weapon it can cause unintended harm. One of the main strands of unionist black propaganda is central to the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” myth, namely that Scotland is subsidised by England. Aimed at Scotland, it is intended to convince people that they would be much worse off financially if Scotland becomes independent. Various figures are bandied about, with little justification, for how much independence will supposedly cost the average Scottish family. We are told that Scotland has more per capita expenditure than any other part of the UK except London, without it being pointed out that some of the expenditure by the UK government “on behalf of Scotland” is really for the benefit of England, especially London, or that Scotland contributes a higher percentage of UK government revenue than it gets back as UK government expenditure.

A second strand of unionist propaganda is that Scottish nationalists only want independence because they hate the English, perhaps as the result of watching a certain historically inaccurate film. Therefore the pro-independence movement must be racist, and who would want to be associated with racists? This ignores the fact that many supporters of Scottish independence are themselves English

Now both these strands are insidious enough here in Scotland, but these days news, opinions and propaganda all spread freely. In England, not only are they propagated, but they combine in a synergistic way into something much more damaging – the Scots are ungrateful subsidy junkies who hate the English who have been so generous to them over the years.

I would not claim that the English are more racist than any other nation, but, as elsewhere, there is an element of xenophobia. Sadly, xenophobia throughout the UK is being exploited for political purposes and encouraged by the gutter press. The meme of English-hating subsidy junkies finds fertile ground south of the border, as witnessed by the number of virulent anti-Scottish comments to be found on some web sites. I do not know what percentage of English people share these views, but while it is sure to be a small minority, I fear that it may prove politically significant. When Tory and Labour politicians find themselves competing with UKIP for English votes, the temptation to indulge in some Scot-bashing may prove irresistible.

Lurking in the current controversy over the possibility of a currency union is a much more important question. Assuming that there is a Yes vote in the referendum, will Westminster honour the Edinburgh Agreement, negotiate an amicable independence settlement, and co-operate with the Scottish Government whenever this is to the mutual benefit of the two countries? In short, will England be a good neighbour to Scotland? The Chancellor’s attempt to appear to rule out a currency union, without actually doing so, suggests that the answer is no.

Then there is the reported¬† claim, by an anonymous spokesman for the Tory/LibDem coalition, that Westminster may renege on the Edinburgh Agreement following a Yes vote. Unless the Scottish Government tamely gives in to Westminster’s demands, which could be that Scotland pays for a per capita share of the UK national debt while not being allowed a fair share of the UK’s assets, Westminster will drag out the negotiations and so delay independence.

This may well be merely a continuation of Project Fear, bluff and bluster intended to frighten Scottish voters into rejecting independence, but even if it is just that it is a form of bullying which will stir up a great deal of resentment. If it is not bluff, then it is confirmation that England will be hostile to Scotland if we reject the union, and will seek to harm Scotland even where it goes against their own interests.

If England will not seek to be a good neighbour, why should we remain in a union with them? It is not as though we can expect to be treated well if we turn down the chance to become independent, given that Scot-bashing is likely to prove a vote winner in England, for the reasons given in the first part of this post, especially if UKIP replace the LibDems as the third party. A drastic cut in the Scottish block grant following the abolition of Barnett formula will probably just be the start. Neither of the two main UK parties will lift a finger to protect Scotland. The worst we can do to the Tories is elect one Tory MP less than we have now. The Labour MPs will happily harm Scotland if it harms the SNP; they talk down Scotland in the Commons and elsewhere. To Labour, it is more important that Scotland stay in the union and increase their chance of winning a UK election than that Scotland should prosper.

The unionist black propaganda is inciting hatred of the Scots in England. Unionist threats, and their contempt for Scotland, risk turning Scots against England. Unionist tactics, as they try desperately to preserve the union inflicted on Scots more than three centuries ago, are tending to make that union intolerable and unworkable. It looks as though regaining our independence may prove a messy, difficult business, unless the unionist threats are just bluff, but I fear the consequences of remaining in an increasingly dysfunctional union would be much worse.

PS. I make no apology for referring to England rather than the rUK. England would dominate the rUK in terms of population, and I suspect I might be doing an injustice to the Welsh if I were to lump them in with the English in this context.

The Demise of the SNP?

In my first post, I touched on the future of the Labour party in Scotland, and so now I will balance this by speculating on the future of the SNP, assuming that Scotland becomes independent in March 2016.

One possibility is that, since the primary reason for the SNP’s existence is to achieve Scottish independence, the SNP will then wither away, its aim having been achieved. Voters who have voted for the SNP in recent years because they want independence or increased devolution, or because they want an SNP government to protect Scotland from the right wing policies of Westminster, will drift away to other parties. Perhaps, without the common goal of independence to strive for, the SNP will fission, with those on the left and right of the current party setting up new parties.

The opposite possibility is that the SNP, for at least the first few years following independence, will attract even more support. People like to back a winning team. More importantly, it is likely that even by Independence Day events will have exploded many of the scare stories emanating from the unionist parties. People who are still using the pound and do not need a passport to travel to England may not trust those politicians who claimed Scotland would not be allowed to use sterling and that border posts would spring up from Berwick to Gretna.

In reality, both these effects will co-exist, and tend to cancel each other out. My guess (and it really is only a guess) is that the SNP will win the 2016 election by a modest margin. I hope I am right, because the first few years of independence call for a government which is dedicated to achieving the best for Scotland, and I do not see the potential for that amongst the current Labour MPs and MSPs. Even after independence, there may well be outstanding issues to be settled with the rUK, the EU, NATO and so on, and there is the vitally important task of developing a Scottish Constitution.

In the longer term, I do not know to what extent the current parties will maintain their identities; perhaps they will split into smaller parties. The electoral system used for the Scottish Parliament does not favour big parties in the way Westminster’s crude ‘first past the post’ system does. There is something to be said for coalitions of small parties, to avoid the risk of an ‘elected dictatorship’ when one party is too dominant.