By Paul Kavanagh
SUPPOSE you saw an advert for two Beyoncé concert seats for £50, and you or your offspring being massive fans of Beyoncé decide to pay the price and send off for the seats. You get an email from the seller vowing to fulfil your order straight away. Then you sit back and wait for the postie to deliver your tickets while you listen to the Lemonade album on repeat on your phone. A few days later the postie turns up with a package, and in that package is a pair of doll house chairs with “Beyoncé concert” painted on them in tiny wee letters.
What would be the reaction of any sane and normal human being to that? You’d feel aggrieved. You’d certainly want your money back. You’d take to social media to warn everyone about the con-merchant and telling people they could get burned if they were taken in. What you wouldn’t do is sit back and say, “Oh that’s the vow delivered. I got what I asked for.” And if you contacted the seller and they told you that you needed to respect the outcome, you’d be pretty irate.
But that’s exactly what the Unionist parties expect the people of Scotland to do. In 2014 the Better Together campaign promised Scotland a prime seat at the top of the Westminster table. It promised us that we’d be an equal partner in a family of nations, that the permanency of the Scottish Parliament would be enshrined in law. What we got was a doll house chair with “seat at the Westminster table” painted on it in tiny letters, and the Unionist parties expect us to be happy with it.
Actually that’s not true, what we got was a doll house chair with “English votes for English laws” printed on it, because according to the government of the day the real message of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum was how unfair it was that Scottish MPs could make a tiny dent on the massive majority that English MPs enjoy in the Commons. It was a bit like sitting in a house that’s on fire and saying that the real issue is that the noise of the fire alarm is preventing you from hearing Nicholas Witchell on the telly telling you how wonderful Willnkate are.
The 2014 independence referendum was characterised by promises on both sides. Both sides made a pitch to the people of Scotland, but only one side won, and it’s only the promises of the winning side which can be fact checked against reality. Compare the promises and commitments of the Better Together campaign against reality and you see something with as much real life content as a Roadrunner and Wile. E Coyote cartoon. Actually, that’s unfair to Road Runner cartoons, as the law of gravity does operate in them, as the Coyote discovers. The only law that operates when you compare Better Together’s promises against what they delivered after the referendum is the law of Westminster entitlement.
Mention this to some Unionist apologists and they will say that Alex Salmond was lying about the oil price, but that’s not comparing like with like. The oil price forecasts of the Scottish Government in 2014 were certainly mistaken, but they were based on standard industry forecasts. The British Government was equally mistaken about the oil price. And neither would have claimed that the price of oil was something that they were directly able to control. The difference is that the Better Together campaign did make promises about topics that the British Government is able to control, and they reneged on those commitments.
It was entirely within the power of the British Parliament to ensure that Scotland was in fact an equal partner in this supposed family of nations. Instead they made it very clear that Scotland doesn’t even have a legal right to be consulted about Brexit, never mind having the veto on the process that an equal partner would have.
It was entirely within the power of the British Parliament to deliver the most powerful devolved parliament in the world that Scotland was promised. Instead they voted down every single amendment to the Scotland Bill put forward by Scottish MPs and have given us a Scottish Parliament which doesn’t even rank amongst the top 100 self-governing countries, territories, or regions in terms of devolved powers. Even tiny Gagauzia, with its 150,000 people in a self-governing territory in the poorest corner of Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, has greater powers and influence than Scotland. The status of Gagauzia is enshrined in the Moldovan constitution, its powers cannot be altered by a Moldovan government. And it’s got its own public service broadcaster. All that in a territory smaller than Ayrshire with fewer people than Dundee.
It was entirely within the power of the British Parliament to ensure that the permanency of the Scottish Parliament was enshrined in law and that no British Government could alter Scotland’s powers without the consent of Holyrood. Instead they went to the UK Supreme Court to get a ruling that the Sewell Convention has no legal standing and that Westminster retains an absolute right to alter the powers of Holyrood or even abolish it entirely, as it sees fit.
After a litany of let downs, a list of lies, and a display of deceit that would shame the devil himself, the fag end of February brought us yet another disappointment. We were told repeatedly during the independence referendum campaign by Better Together and its allies that the only way to ensure the survival of shipbuilding in Scotland was to vote no. It was one of their most prominent claims, one which they repeated loudly and often. The British government has the power to ensure the survival of shipbuilding in Scotland, but last month BAE announced that it was axing its investment plan in Scotland, putting the longterm survival of shipbuilding at risk. And the British government wrings its hands and does nothing.
Meanwhile over in Norway, an independent country of five million souls, ship building goes from strength to strength. The lesson is clear. We can either continue to rely on the promises of a Westminster which has not got the slightest intention of fulfilling them, or we can rely on our own efforts and resources, like Norway. It’s painfully obvious which of the two is more successful.
There’s going to be another independence referendum, and in that referendum every promise and commitment that is made by Better Together Mark II is going to be countered with, “But you said that the last time, and it turned out to be a lie.” Independence is coming, not because of anything that Scottish nationalists have done, but because of what the British state hasn’t done. It hasn’t kept its word to Scotland.