BEFORE the referendum Davie Cameron said: “If Scotland says it does want to stay inside the United Kingdom then all the options of devolution are there and are possible.” Ed Miliband, when he was still leader of the Labour party, promised that a No vote would deliver “faster, better and safer change”.
We could have devo-max and home rule, and the closest thing to full frontal federalism possible (©Gordie Broon). Full fiscal autonomy was clearly on the table. But it was all a part of the traditional game of bait and switch that the Westminster parliament plays with Scottish aspirations. The empty shell was revealed this week, all that’s on offer is a dismissive sneer and a guffaw of contempt. This is democracy in Scotland.
On Monday night an empty House of Commons debated more devolution for Scotland. The only benches that were full were the SNP ones, the sidelined majority of Scotland’s representatives.
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Scotland’s official voice is the Tory one, because that’s what England voted for. Scotland’s official opposition is the Labour one, because that’s what England voted for. So the Tory one and the Labour one played their irrelevant games of back and forth, trying to score points in their favourite sport of SNP condemned, because that’s what England voted for. Pointing all this out is of course racist.
The handful of English MPs in attendance made interjections which might have come from Mars for all the awareness they displayed of Scotland’s issues. According to one Labour MP, Scotland shouldn’t have control of air passenger duty because of HS2, apparently unaware that it comes nowhere near Scotland and probably never will.
Then after a couple of hours of mind numbing intelligence insulting, the matter of full fiscal autonomy actually came to a vote, and 504 MPs who don’t represent Scotland crawled out of the bars and ganged up on the 95 per cent of Scottish MPs who had just voted in favour. The bar attendees who hadn’t attended the debate voted against the greater devolution that their parties had promised us in the run up to the referendum.
All the options of devolution are not there after all, and they never were. They’re as mythical as Labour’s parliamentary road to socialism which took us to the dead eyed end of Blair and Brown.
And then after siding with the Tories to vote down FFA, the Labour one tweeted that the SNP had voted with the Tories against a Labour proposal for an enquiry to kick a proposal that Labour don’t support into the long grass. Because that’s really going to get Scotland’s voters back on your side, Ian Murray.
And then the MPs who don’t represent Scotland cheered about denying Scotland what Scotland’s MPs voted for what Scotland’s people voted for. They waved their order papers and cheered the defeat of the democratic will of an entire nation in what it pleases them to call the Mother of Parliaments.
This was not a point of principle, this was not a debate hard won on fact or substance. They were cheering the fact that England is bigger than Scotland and the smaller partner’s voice is drowned out by the inanities of backbench Labour and Tory MPs who know nothing and care less about the aspirations of a partner nation in the UK. The same people who tell us that it’s wrong for Scotland to have a voice on English only matters refuse to allow Scotland to have its voice on Scottish only matters. And there was us thinking that a sense of irony was a British virtue.
The message from Westminster was clear: Scotland – you’ll get what you’re given and you’ll damn well be grateful. And though they didn’t know it, they were really cheering the death of the Union, cheering like colonialists who’d just put down a minor rebellion amongst the uppity natives who need to be told what’s good for them. It’s English votes for Scottish laws in this most perfect of Unions. Better Together being told what’s for the best, because we can’t be trusted to decide for ourselves.
The order papers waved away the last chance that Scotland could rebuild its shattered trust that the will of its people would be respected and heard. The cheers drowned out the last chance that Scotland’s voice might ever be heard. As a voter in Scotland, you regard the scene and think – what is there here for me? And the answer is nothing at all. Nothing but rejection and condescension and the stale whiff of failure.
Even if the country voted as one, even if there were not even the paltry three degrees of failure of the SLab, the Tory, and the Lib Dem returned from Scotland, we’d still be outvoted, still be overruled. Our democracy has become even less successful than our national football team. We have been beaten by the Faroe Islands in the devolution game. We can’t even score on penalties because the only penalties are the ones we are forced to pay.
And now Scotland is paying the penalty for the majority believing in the promises of Westminster during the referendum campaign.
I don’t think this is what No voters were really voting for when they were told that they were voting for change. More of the same isn’t change. Being told to get back in your box isn’t faster safer or better change. Watching MPs from other parts of the UK vote down the devolution settlement voted for by the people of Scotland isn’t change. It’s a travesty of democracy.
So now we know that Davie really meant all devolution options were “possible” in the same sense that it’s theoretically possible the atoms constituting Davie’s body could simultaneously rearrange themselves into an overstuffed sofa. The probability against this happening is several orders of magnitude greater than the number of atoms in the universe. By an unpleasant coincidence, this is also the approximate probability that Scotland will ever get a decent devolution settlement, or indeed anything approaching democracy, out of the overstuffed sofas of the Westminster Parliament.