An edited version of this appeared in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
It seems that this will be my last letter to the advertiser on the subject of Scottish independence. Yesterday I sat outside the Scottish Parliament and watched the great and the good troop inside, where they announced that the Vow had been delivered, with Michael Moore MP describing it as “Home Rule for Scotland”. With home rule recommended by the Smith Commission I have nothing left to campaign for.
It’s a great pity that newspapers don’t include smiley’s on the letters page, as that first paragraph would have been accompanied by a sarcastic one. A really big one.
Home rule? It’s far from it. The list of reserved powers is substantial. The minimum wage, VAT, fuel duty, equality, pensions, child benefits, foreign policy, weapons of mass destruction, the list goes on and on. We were promised “Near Federalism” and “Devo-Max”. We have been palmed off with ‘Devo Hee-Haw’ and it has to be remembered that these are just proposals. They still have to go in front of our Imperial Masters in London where they will no doubt be picked apart and further reduced.
After all the noise coming from Jim Murphy as he flip-flopped on the subject of tax, the reality was disappointing to say the least: 70% of taxes and 85% of welfare spending remains under London’s control. Oh, and the Scottish Government will be allowed to bid for (not renationalise) the rail franchise in Scotland. Given that it isn’t allowed to raise extra money and everything it does raise will simply reduce the block grant of our own money that we get back anyway, I’m mystified as to how it could get the funding for this without stripping it from elsewhere.
The simple fact is we have been offered a few token changes to meet the so called Vow, which according to a Freedom of Information request made recently, the UK Cabinet Office has no record of. It would seem that with nae power comes great responsibility. We can gather in and distribute money on behalf of London and pretend it is power. But how can we do anything about poverty when we cannot even set a minimum wage? The simple answer is we cannot. We can tinker with the edges, fiddle here and there but the power to change anything in real, meaningful terms is not available to us. Former leader of the Labour Party (Scotland branch) Iain Grey said that “any politician seeing these powers coming to them should be excited about the possibilities…” I’d suggest that if that’s what excites him he should perhaps call it a day, like many other Labour high-heidyins.
On the upside, the Smith Commission has recommended that we are given control over road signs. Unsurprisingly I’d like them to be tartan…
To: The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
So Scotland voted No. 55% of the electorate said they did not think we were good enough to run our own affairs. Or did they? There’s an element in there who would vote No regardless of any argument. There’s an element who voted No out of personal greed, the “I’m alright jack” brigade. There’s an element in there who voted No out of fear of losing their pensions, or out of fear of losing their jobs. I can at least say that the Yes campaign didn’t need to resort to the tactics of fear. We had no need to go to the streets of Airdrie and lie to people that their pensions were at risk if they voted Yes, or threaten activists that they would have their benefits stopped. Over the course of this campaign I have gone from a person who commented by letter or online to someone who started delivering leaflets round the doors, to someone who stood on the streets of Airdrie and told the truth about Labour’s lies, while our MP looked on in silence. Her silence spoke louder than I did, and it’s some consolation that the people of Airdrie and Coatbridge and the rest of North Lanarkshire said Yes. Along with Glasgow, Dundee and West Dunbartonshire, all suffering in part with great social deprivation, we at least can hold our heads up and say we were smart enough to see through the lies, and put working for the common good ahead of personal need or greed. We were smart enough not to believe the “jam tomorrow” promises of the Unionists. Already they have disappeared like a puff of smoke. The Three Stooges, Milliband, Cameron and Clegg vowed that if we voted No on 18th September that they would publish a motion that would go before the UK parliament on 19th September, and that all three parties would agree on that motion. I’m writing this on the 20th. No such motion was forthcoming. Ed Milliband has already backed out of any agreement. Our imperial masters have spoken, we are getting hee-haw.
The actions of 1979 have repeated themselves, and next year Scotland will again punish Labour. David Cameron will go to the polls as the man who saved the union, against an inept Labour leader exposed as a liar who reneges on a deal. More Tory rule and an in/out referendum on Europe await us. Will it take another round of Tory beatings before Scotland finally has the balls to say Yes, or will we instead send them a message in 2015 by winning a majority of Scottish seats and declaring our independence regardless?
Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
This week Unionist politicians appeared in Glasgow to sign a pledge declaring that Scotland would be given more powers in the event of a No vote in the forthcoming referendum. One of the signatories was Nick Clegg who as many will recall, has form for signing pledges in public and acting differently when push comes to shove. It has already been stated by some Unionist politicians that the Scottish Parliament only operates because Westminster permits it to do so. They tell us what powers we can have, and what powers we cannot have. Sometimes they even sneak powers back under their own control.
In December 2013 the unelected House of Lords voted to remove the Scottish Parliament’s powers over renewable energy by way of amendment 54 to the Energy Act 2013. This gave the UK Government a free hand to completely bypass the Scottish Government and in July 2014 they announced a free for all on licences for fracking, something the Scottish Government was categorically against. Even our national parks weren’t kept off the target list. The Scottish Wild Land Core Map, which the Scottish Government had agreed to respect was bypassed at a stroke, and there isn’t a thing that can be done about it. While it was still to be seen if the Scottish Government would keep their word, there can be no doubt about what Westminster has done. It has stuck two fingers up to the people of Scotland, and said that if our legislation is a stumbling block to the UK national policy then they shall scrap it. We may have limited powers, so long as it suits Westminster, and when it no longer suits those powers will be taken back.
As someone who supports independence but opposes windfarms that concerns me greatly. With the Tories and the Lib-Dems both supporting “respectful fracking”, the Lib Dems and Labour supporting more wind turbines, and the Conservatives vowing to scrap onshore windfarms in future while supporting them today, it seems as clear as crystal that on examination there is absolutely no likelihood that a No vote in the independence referendum or a change of Scottish Government from the SNP with end the industrialisation of our wild places. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the order of the day where renewables is concerned.
I truly believe that the battle against windfarms has been lost. There are no doubt victories still to be had. Small windfarms with a good amount of reasonable objection, grounded in fact, can be defeated. I know this, because I have helped defeat such developments. But the larger developments, and these are generally the ones which occupy larger areas, are harder nuts to crack, and due to the sheer amount of money involved are likely to succeed. Should Scotland vote No in the forthcoming referendum it will be a signal to Westminster, not for more powers for Scotland, but to draw more power from Scotland. The National Planning Act which applies to England and Wales could quite easily be extended to cover Scotland. If we currently have any safeguards in Scotland against development they can be removed by Westminster to fall in line with those south of the border, and which will make a presumption in favour of large developments which are deemed in the national interest, the HS2 rail link being a case in point. Our own system is by no means perfect, but at least we had some mechanisms of protest, if not prevention. We need to protect this system just as strongly as we would like the wild land itself to be protected, and that will not be be done within a union that cannot be trusted to keep it’s word on which powers it permits us to have.