The independence campaign’s descent into a quasi sporting fixture is a detachment from reality, says TERRY MURDEN
Humza Yousaf will take his seat in the Holyrood chamber on Tuesday to announce his first Programme for Government, buoyed by the flag-wavers and face-painted fanatics who marched through Edinburgh on Saturday in what has become a come-what-may call for independence.
Evidence stacks up daily against the Scottish Government’s record which has not only under-performed on just about every measure, but has failed to prove its competence and honourable intent in handling even basic disciplines, from the census and deposit return scheme to the selective interpretation of research on the minimum unit pricing of alcohol, the ferries debacle, the police investigation into missing money and battles over short-term lettings.
The marchers who turn out routinely to damn the union and all it represents seem oblivious to this wretched scorecard and in true Monty Python style continue to ask: ‘what has the UK ever done for us?’
Maybe they should start by averting their eyes from social media messages that reinforce their prejudices promoting this notion of a separate Scotland as a land of milk and honey that somehow has answers to everything from inflation, energy supplies and high interest rates that have escaped every other country in the world – including those in the SNP’s beloved EU.
Apart from the failures of the Holyrood government on the above mentioned issues, there has been some good news from Westminster on the economy and the cost of living that ought to at least prompt some of the anti-unionists to pause for reflection on what they wish for.
The SNP-Green coalition thrives on an underperforming UK economy, so it will not welcome revised data showing that it has already grown faster than Germany, Italy, Japan and France since 2010, recovered from the pandemic faster than any country in Europe, and is second only to France for foreign investment.
Based on such evidence, why would Scotland want to pull out of the UK?
Because many of those campaigning to leave will not countenance views that contradict their own and have turned it into a quasi sporting fixture. The constitution really has become the ultimate ‘political football’ in which Scotland’s independence proponents are engaged, not in a rational debate, but in an emotionally-charged battle for bragging rights against the auld enemy. It draws inspiration from the ‘anyone but England’ mantra that accompanies international competition. Most worryingly, it embodies the worst in nationalism and social division.
Details over economic performance, the enormous cost of dismantling the UK and the dubious promises of re-joining the EU (which, by the way, is under-performing the UK), are cast aside because the prize of separation is the political equivalent of winning the Calcutta Cup, by fair means or foul.
The SNP has produced “evidence” papers on how an independent Scotland would operate. They’ve so far failed to convince sceptics. There is no detail on monetary policy, aside from a brief mention of retaining the pound in the short term, or how Scotland would hope to join the EU with a deficit that could only mean significantly higher taxes and deep cuts in public spending. The papers have come up with no solutions to Scotland’s poor productivity record, or its failure to meet targets on housing, health, education or jobs in renewables.
The deficit has been fuelled by the SNP’s addiction to spending, seducing voters with free prescriptions, university tuition, personal care and bus travel, wrapped up in a cloak of social wellbeing. Labour leader Anas Sarwar last week said better public services are “only possible if we also have strong economic growth”. This is now dawning on those who overlook the subsidies from Westminster that keep the gravy train on track.
On Saturday, many SNP voters marched behind a banner proclaiming ‘Believe in Scotland’, but polls show that those believing in the party’s ability to deliver a better Scotland are in decline and are beginning to realise that nothing worth having comes without a bill at the end of it.
Supporting separation against these stark realities would be like casting aside a warning that the national stadium is about to collapse when there is an important game to be played and national pride is at stake. Pride, as they say, comes before the fall.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business