The role of conservative-minded citizens in an independent, Sturgeonesque Scotland will be rather like that of Christians in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, writes KEN HOUSTON
In the aftermath of the Great War, currently undergoing a centennial commemoration, a raft of new or revived states emerged across the length of breadth of Europe – e.g. Ireland in the west, Yugoslavia in the south-east and Finland in the north.
In each case, those behind the respective independence movements were, for the most part, ‘one-nation’ nationalists on the basis that a relatively painless transition to self-government required a broad spectrum of support which ranged from aristocrats to artisans.
How different this seems from contemporary Scotland, where the nationalist movement has focussed on an increasingly Left of centre agenda aimed exclusively at particular sectors of the electorate.
During the election campaign Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has talked incessantly about “locking out the Tories”, conveniently forgetting that in the 2010 election the votes for her own party were not too far ahead of the Scottish Conservatives (491,386 votes to 412,855).
Ms Sturgeon is, of course, currently talking about keeping the Conservatives out of Downing Street but the zeal with which this viewpoint is put over suggests that, if she gets her way, an independent Scotland will also be a Tory-free Scotland in terms of access to power.
Indeed, were it not for her membership of the SNP at an early age, one might associate Ms Sturgeon with those former unionists on the Scottish Left who’s support has switched to the SNP, not because they have suddenly converted to ‘Bruce and Wallace’ patriotism but because they see England (and, by implication, a united Britain) as a lost cause for socialism.
Consider Ms Sturgeon’s position on refusing, point blank, to make any deal with the Conservatives, post-election, even if (as is likely) the Conservatives were prepared to grant Scotland much more fiscal autonomy than Labour.
This suggests that her dislike (hatred?) for ‘Tories’ is as much a motive for seeking self-government as some of the wider trappings of independence which might inspire a more ardent nationalist (Alex Salmond perhaps?), such as Scotland having its own seat at the United Nations or the saltire flying from Scottish embassies in almost every capital city across the globe.
There was a time when the SNP was a political broad church, some of whose more senior figures made Mrs Thatcher look like a pinko. Where have they gone? Died, voted off branch committees, or perhaps just got fed up?
Whatever the reason, anyone with Right of centre views still campaigning for the SNP is probably ‘nationalist to the very bones’ – in which case I truly admire their dedication in putting independence before self.
So if or (more probably) when we sleep-walk into independence what type of Scotland will this be for Scots of a conservative persuasion? It seems highly likely they will end up rather like the Christians in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – permitted to do business and openly practice their religion, just as long as they do not present any threat to the political course set out by the new establishment.
PEED OFF WITH MISUSE OF PROGRESSIVE
Along with “locking out the Tories”, the other term frequently used by the First Minister during this election campaign has been “progressive policies” – a euphemism for extensive spending on welfare and growing government, the perceived benefits of which are highly dubious.
Ms Sturgeon is probably too young to remember a Scotland when progressive was spelled with a capital ‘P’, being the name of a political party which achieved considerable success in local elections from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, particularly in the four main cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Often called “wee Tories” by their opponents, the Progressives were, in fact, an anti-Labour alliance comprising Conservatives, right-ish Liberals, Independents and Ratepayer associations. Membership even included trade unionists – albeit the type who saw unions as primarily a force for improving wages and conditions in the workplace rather than moving society permanently to the Left.
By not splitting the anti-Labour vote, Progressives made previously unwinnable seats winnable – and by implication proving that a majority of the Scottish electorate did not want socialism.
This must go against everything Ms Sturgeon believes in so, during the last few days of campaigning that remain, perhaps it might be appropriate to dump ‘progressive’ for an alternative adjective.
Rather sadly this and other recent general elections have reflected, albeit in an abstract way, the decline of Glasgow from great to middle-ranking city.
When I joined the voter’s roll, Glasgow boasted 15 Parliamentary constituencies whereas it now has only seven, a result of a diminished population and, with it, electorate.
The 15 seats were given place-name, which brought a bit of colour to the proceedings – e.g. Kelvingrove, Gorbals, Shettleston and a personal favourite (albeit before my time), Camlachie.
Now, as if to compound Glasgow’s diminished stature, the remaining seven constituencies are boringly branded as if the city was a compass: Central, North-west, North, North-east, East, South and South-west.
While this might look good on a bureaucrat’s spreadsheet, perhaps some additional interest in the election process could be encouraged with a return to place-names for the remaining seats. To kick things off, here is one suggestion as to how the list might look:
Central – St. Mungo. This constituency includes the medieval heart of the old city so what better name than that of Glasgow’s patron saint.
North-west – Knightswood. The massive but highly-desirable housing scheme (for a time the largest in Europe) built in the 1930’s; Glasgow Corporation’s biggest success in urban residential planning, sadly never emulated.
North – Kelvin (after the river that flows through the constituency).
North-east – Cowlairs. Another name for the former North British locomotive works at Springburn, whose products were exported across the world. A testament to the city’s former expertise in heavy industry.
East – Auchenshuggle. Eastern terminus of the last Glasgow tram service, the No 9. Attempts at pronunciation by BBC posh-boy political commentators on election night should lead to some amusement.
South – Hampden. The national football stadium lies within the constituency boundary – need one say more?
South-west – Ferguson. Includes Govan, where Sir Alex of Manchester United fame was born and raised. Has never forgotten his roots and still plays a part in city life. This includes a recent personal donation to a fund to build a statue of the woman behind the Glasgow rent strikes during the Great War…..which, incidentally, is where I came in.