5/29/2005

Sunday Special - The sad state of Scotland

Scotland is dead.

It passed away on September 11 1997, the date of the referendum on devolution of power that Tony Blair had promised prior to his electoral annihilation of the Scottish Conservatives on May 1st, the date he swept into office for his first term.

Since then, Scotland's public life has been a twitching corpse, not a working democracy but a cheap, grisly and tawdry parody of what a successful democracy in a very ancient, proud and democratic country should be.

Devolution from Westminster to Edinburgh was given an overwhelming mandate on 9/11/97. It became the duty of Donald Dewar, Blair's Secretary of State for Scotland, to make the necessary arrangements for the handover of power.

Not all powers were passed. Westminster retained control of matters of state such as defence and foreign affairs, while Edinburgh would legislate for bread and butter issues such as health, education, agriculture and fisheries.

It soon became clear that the Scottish Parliament was to be elected on more consensual lines than the classic 'first past the post' system used for Westminster contests. Two-thirds of MSP's were to be directly elected for constiutuencies that mirrored those of Westminster, with the remaining third were to be elected on a 'List' basis, whereby their election depended on the number of votes they received as 'second' and 'third' choices on the ballot.

The inevitable consequence of this system is that Scotland ended up with a higher proportion of legislators per head of the population than the United Kingdom as a whole. Another inevitable consequence was the proliferation of small parties representing the worst facets of extremism. In the first elections held in 1999, it resulted in the List election of one Tommy Sheridan, the leader, or 'Convenor', of the ultra-Trotskyite Scottish Socialist Party, the worst extremists of them all.

Showing great contempt for the history and significance of the Loyal Oath required of all Members of the Scottish Parliament, the taking of which was required in order for him to receive his very generous taxpayer funded salary and expenses package, a package it is likely he would not have the qualifications to attain in the private sector, Sheridan took it with his fist clenched, Black Panther style; the posture of a knave.

The first Scottish Parliament of 1999 to 2003 was not a success. It was dominated by an ongoing, almost interminable, scandal surrounding massive escalations in the construction costs for a new parliament building, from £50 million to £400 million. Despite the fact that a fully operational parliament had been constructed in the old Edinburgh Royal High School in the 1970's, when the devolution dragon last raised its head, Dewar did not wish to use this site as apparently to do so would have conceded a political victory to the Scottish National Party. Instead, without consultation, Dewar selected a site at Holyrood, at the bottom of Edinburgh High Street ('The Royal Mile'), very close to Holyrood Palace, the monarch's official residence in Scotland.

A public enquiry under Lord Fraser of Carmyllie which reported in 2004 found that the hideous over-runs arose out of a series of systemic management failures at both the political and administrative levels. The type of contract selected, Construction Management, was the option that should have been chosen if the aim was to maximise taxpayer risk. The architect, a Catalan called Enric Miralles, did not possess current indemnity insurance and was prone to making last-minute design changes, all of which resulted in the building becoming larger and larger. it has been alleged that European Union rules on public tendering were broken by failure to award the building contract to the company which had submitted the cheapest tender.

Inside the debating chamber, Dewar's Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition quickly began to show what their true agenda was - the creation of a secular, politically correct hell on earth in the land that produced Adam Smith, John Paul Jones, Robert Burns, James Watt, Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming and John Logie Baird. One of the Scottish Executive's first acts, under the stewardship of Dewar's lieutenant Wendy Alexander (the daughter of one of his oldest friends from the Glasgow University Labour Club in the 1950's) was to legislate the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Section 28, one of Margaret Thatcher's very few pieces of socially conservative legislation, had outlawed the 'promotion' of homosexuality in schools. Wendy's brother Douglas is now a Cabinet level Minister at Westminster.

Dewar's death in 2000 caused the rank and title of First Minister to pass to former professional soccer player Henry McLeish. During his year in office, McLeish facilitated the most important piece of legislation to pass from the parliament, entitling the elderly receive free personal care at taxpayer expense. His resignation was prompted by what might be called a state of confusion over his arrangements for the sub-letting of his constituency office, which McLeish himself decribed as 'a muddle, not a fiddle'.

So in 2001 Scotland was left with an Executive which had lost two chiefs in a year and whose biggest problem was its own rapidly failing credibility, all caused by a hole in the ground at the bottom of the Royal Mile. As with all disputes between socialists, the fighting was intense, but it fell to an apparently colourless apparatchik called Jack McConnell to assume the mantle of First Minister of Scotland upon beoming the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Apart from leading Labour back into coalition government after the 2003 elections, the act for which McConnell will be most widely remembered is the choice of clothing that he wore to an event he attended while on a junket to New York City's so-called 'Tartan Day' celebrations in 2004. Eschewing tartan and the traditional kilt, McConnell wore what can only be described as a skirt. It made him a laughing stock, and made a laughing stock of Scotland in the process.

However, one of McConnell's more significant policy initiatives has been the adoption of the 'One Scotland, Many Cultures' policy. As its title might suggest, it proceeds on the assumption that all white Scots are frothing racial bigots; a strange assumption in a country where people are more likely to be murdered on account of what soccer team they support than on account of their skin tone. All the while, the most basic statistics are working against us - male life expectancy in Scotland continues to drop. A male in the west of Scotland now lives an average of 11 years less than a male in the south of England. The simple act of creating more politicians does not seem to have had any profound effect on this fundamental meter of national well-being.

The elections of 2003 were characterised by an extremely low turnout; perhaps a signal that the Scottish people had seen what devolution looked like, and didn't like what they saw. However, by now the genie was out of the bottle and Scotland would soon be able to see the lunacy of the Scottish Socialist Party in all its tarnished glory.

Between 1999 and 2003, Tommy Sheridan had been Scotland's lone voice of taxpayer-funded Trotskyism. In 2003, he was joined by five others, and all of them came from 'The List'. One of them was a single mother of two from the South Side of Glasgow called Rosie Kane.

Sheridan's disgraceful performance at the swearing-in ceremony of 1999 was more than matched by his new colleagues in 2003. He gave a clenched-fist encore, while another, Colin Fox, insisted on singing verses of Burns' 'A Man's A Man For a' That. Kane's contribution was to display on her raised palm the words 'My Oath is to the People', while taking the Loyal Oath.

By itself, all this would show a country in a severe state of decadent and terminal decline were the Scottish Socialist Party not an extremely dangerous, almost subversive, group. Sheridan resigned in 2004 on account of sex allegations. At their party conference in February 2005, they gave what the BBC called 'a qualified expression of support to the popular resistance' fighting, and killing, British soldiers in Iraq.

Although that might be regarded as treasonable, what has prompted this article was seeing the news today that Rosie Kane is going to Cuba this week, as she puts it 'in the spirit of international solidarity for truth and justice and I'll be taking the message that the people of Scotland stand alongside the people of Cuba in opposition to the warmongers in the White House. From Cambuslang to Cuba the brutality and greed of capitalism can be seen easily with the naked eye". She will also be "seeking a meeting with Fidel Castro so that I can deliver a message of solidarity and unity from the Scottish Socialist Party to the people of Cuba against the US blockade."

Rosie Kane, with all her affectations of the most gutteral Glaswegian speech, is perhaps what some would call a 'useful idiot': I might quibble about the choice of adjective. On the other hand, she's a paid public servant on a very good salary who has no trouble reconciling her conscience to seeking a meeting with a tyrant who keeps political prisoners - even making prisoners of librarians.

But the greater fault for this situation lies with us, the Scottish people, for electing them. As a rule, the Scot is a slave to his grievances, and one cannot help but wonder whether the industrial decimation of the 1980's created such a strong sense of grievance against Westminster that people actually thought that a Scottish Parliament would not turn out as it has, filled with failed local politicians, former shop stewards and others culled from the ranks of the talentless and visonless. Even the Conservatives do not stand absolved of blame. Opponents of devolution even up to the date of the referendum, they have jumped on the bandwagon wholeheartedly, and may even be ready to disengage from the national party if that will further their electoral chances.

Was electing Tommy Sheridan and Rosie Kane a price worth paying for getting one over on the English? Did everyone who voted 'Yes, Yes' in 1997 really think it was going to be Bannockburn all over again?

For what sort of people have we become when we see merit in electing the heirs to an ideology which has been responsible for the deaths of millions? What values do we have?

The answer is, we have no values - and without values, we're not going to survive.

1 Comments:

Blogger Neil Craig said...

Having seen this linked on Mr Mangan's US blog I would like to put the opposite view. Firstly the Scottish Parliament would only be a step down if London had previously been running the place well. That they haven't is obvious from the example of the grossly overpriced Parliament building - this was started & all the contracts signed quite deliberately by Donald Dewar & London before the Parliament was formed - Scotland was left quite literally holding this baby but we weren't invited to the conception.

Equally you don't like the PR electoral system because it allows the toy town Marxists of the SSP seats - that is a fair position but if we had FPTP elections we would have 80% Glasgow dominated Labour (on 40% of the vote) - to my mind PR, which allows all sorts of new types into the closed world of politics is a good thing, if some SSP representation is the cost of that that's democracy & it feels quite good.

I am not going to say that most of our politicians are not numpties but it was ever thus (I suspect any American working out what a numpty is will agree) but the only way to learn government is to try it & Scotland is now statring to do that. The fact that the SNP (& perhaps the Lib Dems) are seriously looking at a low tax, high growth option (like Ireland) is perhaps the most hopeful news in Scotland since WW1 & it is inconceivable that they could have considered this without the Holyrood Parliament.

7:59 PM  

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