The SNP could make us Better Together
The side that won the referendum campaign last year argued that we were Better Together, that all of the areas of the UK have their strengths and weaknesses and that by ‘pooling and sharing’ our resources we become stronger. In the run up to this General Election many Scots have discovered that this Union doesn’t include the integration of our democratic political choices. The spectre of the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster is about as welcome to the establishment as David Cameron would be at the Blantyre Miners Social Club. They say that this shunning of the likely will of the Scottish People is due to the inherent danger of letting those who want to break up the Union have some control over it. However, this is a red herring. It doesn’t take much thought to realise that nationalists having 7 percent of a majority unionist Parliament isn’t a threat to the State. The real reason they are afraid comes back to this idea of pooling and sharing resources, a smart soundbite that conjures up images of equality, collectivism and fairness which is the exact opposite of how the UK is currently run, as for decades now the UK has been subservient to the cult of the individual and a progressive alliance including the SNP threatens to challenge this.
It may come as a surprise to many, but the majority who voted Yes, rightly or wrongly, did so not because they are separatist loons but because they saw it as a fast track way of creating a fairer society. We envisioned a more democratic system in the new Independent Scotland than the one we currently have in the UK. A proportionally representative parliament working within a constitution written by the people. The power to recall MSP’S. Tight controls on lobbying and expenses. Gender and racial balance in the legislature. No unelected second chamber. We believed that the more representative a country is the better it functions for the majority of its people. Breaking up the UK was not the main goal and this assertion is backed up by the fact that Devo Max was the preferred option. The omission of this choice from the ballot paper itself highlights the problems we face, the decision of one powerful individual subverting the sovereign will of the people. It is a system that a mass movement of people in Scotland has had enough of and it won’t be long before there is a mass movement in the rest of the UK who feel the same. There is only so much more we can take and we are all beginning to yearn for change.
Over the last few decades the main ideological drive in government has been the facilitation of rampant selfishness, that the market is our saviour, that all men are islands and that society is an impediment to our advancement. This type of thinking places no value on our collective wealth and facilitates all manor of disenfranchisement. We have seen our assets gradually sold off at discounted rates to the highest bidders. The welfare state has been eroded. The unions have been neutered. Markets liberalised and deregulated.. Education has been commercialised and the NHS is soon to follow. Skilled steady jobs with good pensions have been replaced by zero hour contracts on minimum wage. Youth unemployment has sky-rocketed and people are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the housing market. We are monitored and measured constantly. Most of us are losers in this system. We are indebted, insecure, stressed and cast adrift from our fellow citizens.
The ones who benefit – the CEOs, the politicians, the top civil servants and the media barons are all the same. Their jobs are interchangeable. And we are so habituated to and accepting of selfishness we don’t even care how corrupt they are. We live in a country where nobody really bats an eyelid that Stephen Green, an Anglican priest and former government minster is lavishly rewarded for running HSBC during a period in which it implemented a systematic tax fraud. The government instead of punishing him are trying to protect him. The reporting of the Chilcot Enquiry into the Iraq war is perpetually delayed due to political expedience. Institutionalised paedophilia, rampant in the corridors of power is ignored by the powers that be. We have had the Libor scandal, price fixing and a global monetary crisis caused by irresponsible and criminal behaviour and nobody is punished and no serious regulation is produced to stop it happening again. Our government intercepts our online communications, it fabricates evidence to justify invading other countries who have not threatened us while at the same time we sell arms to any cruel despot with oil money to burn. Our City of London is the biggest provider of safe havens for corrupt capital in the world. We have had phone hacking, the police selling evidence to the media, the Hillsborough cover-up and the list goes on.
The politicians are subservient to business and the media, beholden to lobbyists, abuse their expenses and sell access for cash. And we can’t get rid of them as we only have a choice of varying hues of Oxbridge educated bland middle aged men running for government in a system only designed to facilitate two choices. They keep us plodding on by selling us a false narrative of growth, meritocracy and perpetual war against far flung bogeymen who are not even half as dangerous as the ideological stupor into which we have sunk.
Now, in Scotland, we have a small and fleeting chance to shake the whole thing up. To send south a progressive party who can hold the balance of power in what will be certainly be a hung parliament. A party that puts members in charge of policy making and that believes in a strong society. A party that wants to abolish the House of Lords and bring proportional representation to Westminster. A party that has pledged to reverse the perverse damage done to the less well off by austerity, that wants to increase spending on infrastructure and that would like to see the stain of WMDs washed from our shorelines. A party that openly endorses gender balance in leadership, that advocates reforming the tax system to make it fairer, that proposes paying a living wage with the safety net of stronger benefits to give people security.
And the reason it can work is that the UK as a whole desires progressive policies. You only need to look at this chart on the Vote for Policies website to see that even England, who consistently return right wing MPs, prefers the policies proffered by the more left of centre parties. And the SNP, Old Labour, the Greens and Plaid Cymru could find much common ground if they act like grown ups on Friday instead of trying to score cheap political points.
Of course the SNP want to break up the UK. The clue is in the name of the party. However the best way to deal with this threat is not to ostracise them and half of the voters in Scotland. Disenfranchisement will have the opposite effect than what is intended. The SNP are going to Westminster not to cause trouble but because they believe that if they can make the UK more progressive they increase the chances of gaining Independence. They envision a more federal representative system and they think that this is a stepping stone to a Scottish State. However, the converse could also be argued. For if Labour and a progressive alliance do succeed in reforming the outdated way the UK is governed many Yes voters, those who wanted devo-max and stronger democracy, would probably be more than happy to remain. By working with the SNP you place them in a more difficult position than if you allow them to be backbench hecklers to a repressive Tory minority government. You place them in a bind in which they will be forced to act as reformers or lose much of their new found support. And those reforms may ultimately benefit the majority of Brits and keep the UK together.
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