If I haven’t blogged very much about the new UK government, it’s mainly because it’s so hard to blog about from a Scottish perspective.
Most of the interesting things they do don’t apply to Scotland, and you can only blog so much about their deficit reduction plan.
I’ve found two good articles about this.
The first one is by Iain Macwhirter:
[F]rom a Scottish perspective it’s hard to pass much of a judgment on the performance of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition so far because, in terms of domestic policy at least, it’s almost completely passed Scotland by. Of the many initiatives that have been launched by the coalition in its first 100 days, very few actually apply here, apart from the deficit reduction programme and that hasn’t been implemented yet.
The second one appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, and it describes well how radical the new government is in England:
England is embracing the free market, a smaller state and weaker local authorities and Scotland is sticking with what it’s got – comprehensive education, a totally state-run health service and powerful councils.
So, if all this is happening in England, where does this leave Scotland? The blunt answer is: in a mess. Scotland is going to get the cuts but without the reforms. It is going to see swathes of public servants thrown out of work but without anything new structurally to take their place.
Although it might not have been the coalition’s intention, I think it’s becoming abundantly clear why Scotland needs full independence, or at the very least full economic autonomy. The alternative is the abolishment of Scottish devolution, and that wouldn’t go down very well north of the border!
Joan McAlpine has an important point about the al-Megrahi affair (hat-tip: SNP Tactical Voting), namely that both the UK and the US are saying Scotland’s government were wrong to release him, but there’s nobody on the international stage to fight Scotland’s corner:
Since foreign affairs are not devolved to Edinburgh, David Cameron officially speaks for us. On this occasion he trashed us in front of the world. Where were we? We should have had a right to reply at least. After all, Scottish troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as they did in Iraq, to support America. Would Obama and Cameron have condemned a friendly, independent sovereign nation like this?
Even those who disagreed with the decision to free al-Megrahi should agree that this situation is untenable – the US government should be discussing this issue with Alex Salmond, not with David Cameron, and only independence will resolve this issue.
Charlemagne is quoting Johan Norberg for wondering whether the Swedish model is restricted to Sweden: “If countries don’t already have a tradition of an efficient, non-corrupt bureaucracy with an impressive work ethic a larger government only means more abuse of power and more waste of money. I often try to convince Americans, no, more government in the US would not get you a big version of Sweden, it would get you a big version of the US Postal Service.“
It’s an interesting point, and I think it’s at least partly true.
I do think Sweden in this context can be replaced by a much larger area, at the very least Scandinavia and parts of Germany, but living in Scotland, I can see that many things are just not working because of different attitudes.
For instance, buses are regularly late, but people just shrug their shoulders and use their car the next time. In Denmark, people would be very upset and it would eventually become a priority for the government to sort out.
Fraser Nelson has written a really persuasive article about fiscal autonomy for Scotland here.
I already supported this, of course, but he has some nice graphs that should help to dispel any doubts.
Lots of unionists seem to see in the problems of Bank of Scotland (HBOS) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) the ultimate proof that Scotland is too small to be independent.
Not all unionists are convinced, however.
Apart from Fraser’s points, it’s worth remembering that independence would have consequences in many unexpected ways, and the size of banks is likely to be one of them.
If Scotland had been independent for the past hundred years, it’s unlikely that BoS and RBS would have grown so big. Other small countries don’t tend to have any banks that large. (Apart from Iceland, that is.)
It might also be that independent Scottish competition authorities would feel obliged to split up the banks as they’re too dominant here.
But even if Scotland was home to the headquarters of massive financial institutions, they probably would have separate structures in Scotland and England, and Scotland would only have to save the Scottish bit.
Just finished watching the Eurovision Song Contest (“Europæisk Melodi-Grand Prix” in Danish) with Phyllis and the kids.
The UK did badly, as usual.
According to this article, there should be nothing preventing Scotland from participating separately from the UK: “There’s nothing to stop Scotland submitting its own Eurovision entry . . . as the European Broadcasting Union has confirmed. The BBC, ITV, STV and Border Television could submit an entry.”
Surely Scotland could do better outwith the UK?
The LibDems said at some point that one should only hold a referendum on a topic that one is in favour of. And so they supported a referendum on the European Constitution (which they’re in favour of), but oppose one on Scottish independence (which they are against). A bit strange that they abstained on the question of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, though, given that they were in favour of that, too. Makes you wonder whether the principle is fully set in stone.
Labour seems to be of the opposite opinion: They were against a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (which they supoorted), but they now seem to be in favour of a refendum on Scottish independence (which they’re against).
I actually tend to agree with Labour here: A party is voted into power to implement their policies. It therefore doesn’t need a referendum to get a mandate to do so. However, if there is something the party doesn’t want to do, but that is very popular in the wider population, it can make sense to hold a referendum to defuse the issue. It’s a bit masochistic, though, and most parties would prefer to delay the issue instead.
I’m not very fond of referendums anyway. They tend to be about everything else, and they often get quite emotional. And in many cases, the major parties can only really live with one result, which tends to provoke the electorate to vote for the other option in spite.
I tend only to support referendums on topics that transcend political parties, such as Scottish independence. I am looking forward to that one, just like Bendy Wendy! 😉