A Union in Crisis

The co-operation agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens to form a majority government in Scotland has rattled the Unionist cages like nothing before it. The shrill reaction from Tories, Labour and Lib Dems is testimony to their fear of an independence majority and to their de facto united front in opposition to a second independence referendum.

The original design of the Scottish Parliament by the Consultative Steering Group is being trashed by this toxic partisanship on the constitutional question as battle lines are drawn from Chamber to Committee rooms. The SNP say ‘it is’ and the Unionist chorus rejoin ‘oh no it isn’t’; straight out of a pantomime playbook. The CSG recognised that politics is a funny old world but that the New Parliament, New Scotland approach could lead to a more consensual, Continental style of debate and decision-making. Out with the ‘yah-boo’ mentality of Westminster and in with the rainbow hues of modern European polity. 

Over the first two decades of a devolved parliament, MSPs have genuinely worked more in the spirit of what was envisaged than not. There were the occasional pinch points but, overall, if speaking to the old hands who have experienced opposition as well as minority government, the atmosphere, in private as much as in public, was respectful if not cordial. That is not some sort of admission that MSPs are soft on tackling opponents. MPs in Westminster are far more ‘engaged with each other’ than the Commons political theatre displayed on our screens would suggest. Whether it is the latest amorous liaison (literally across the green benches) or the deep respect which the likes of Mr Salmond had for the ultra-Brexiteer David Davis, Westminster in private is a very cosy club.

Holyrood is experiencing a nastiness in its discourse which will only worsen as the demands for and delivery of another independence referendum reach a crescendo. Take the ambulance ‘crisis’ which has preoccupied opposition spokespersons and their willing media cheerleaders. Every aspect of medical services are under unprecedented pressure in tackling the Covid pandemic. This is true of most European countries. England and Wales called on the military for assistance in driving ambulances last year. The MoD has supported the Covid-19 response with 410 tasks since March 2020, including 16 tasks to support ambulance trusts in England and Wales with medics, drivers and other specialist personnel. Never once was it described as a failure of government.

Fast forward to the First Minister announcing that a request had gone to the Ministry of Defence for support in Scotland and you could be forgiven for thinking the sky had fallen in. Yes there are serious issues in ambulance response times but we are talking about a service that is exhausted after 18 months of relentless pressure.

Meanwhile a crisis that will effect every household throughout the UK is the continuing impact of Brexit on food supply, prices and now energy supply. Just as we thought we were escaping the long dark days of a pandemic, we could be faced with an even darker winter of discontent caused by the Tories. Not a natural disaster. A man-made drama of dithering, thoughtlessness and sheer bloody-mindedness that has made Britain the laughing stock of Europe, again.

The Union is in crisis in more ways than one but now we must strike hard. Let’s get the message across to every voter that if you want to free yourself from this epic disaster movie, change the script and vote for independence at the next and every opportunity.