Almost every day lately we’ve been reminded one way or another of the contempt and disrespect in which Scotland and its representatives are held at Westminster. Thankfully this will cease for a while now as we enter general election purdah, but the images and soundbites remain.
Picture the Tory benches emptying as Ian Blackford, leader of the country’s third largest party, rises to speak to shouts of ‘Go home’ and worse. The prime minister threatening to take back control of the Scottish NHS (for all its faults, still the best-performing health service in the UK) as the prelude to an all-out assault on devolution. Luke Graham (Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire in case you’re wondering—and he really ought to know better) referring to Scotland as a ‘principality’. The list goes on.
Sadly, it’s nothing new. When Jo Swinson, a Tory in all but name (having voted with them more times than Rory Stewart), declares that she would not ‘allow’ a second Scottish independence referendum, or calls for a three-way general election debate with Labour and the Tories, having 19 seats to the SNP’s 35, she aligns herself with the predecessors whom Don Roberto condemned as ‘that fast decaying race of pterodactyls who have been ground to extinction between the upper and nether millstones of Toryism and Socialism.’
When Damian Green suggests that, in the context of Northern Ireland, Scotland has no more entitlement to a special relationship with Europe than the county of Kent, he simply echoes the view of those Parliamentarians whom Don Roberto accused, nearly a century ago, of viewing Scotland as ‘a mere appendage to the predominant partner, a mere county of England such as Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottingham or Middlesex.’
‘Liberals…that fast decaying race of pterodactyls who have been ground to extinction between the upper and nether millstones of Toryism and Socialism.’
Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist principles Don Roberto might understand, though long before he died he had reached the disappointing conclusion that Labour, who once promised so much, ‘have simply become a party struggling for office like any of the other parties’; and Corbyn’s paralysis in opposition would baffle him. As for Farage, I doubt it would be within Don Roberto’s powers even to imagine such an uncivil or dangerous creature. No stranger to the cut and thrust of political debate, he would nevertheless be left gasping by Farage’s discourtesy to Europe’s leaders.
Had Don Roberto lived through the recent decade, had he seen Cameron on the Downing Street steps announcing English Votes for English Laws the day after the independence referendum; had he observed the hostile immigration environment at work in a country where it’s people’s instinct to welcome incomers; had he looked on at the disastrous effects of Tory austerity, the failure to increase taxation on the wealthy while grinding down the poor with Universal Credit and other punitive measures; had he witnessed the food banks, the creeping privatisation of a health service he never lived to see but would surely have applauded; had he watched the corrupt elite take power in Westminster through lies and obfuscation and recognised the possibility of remaining shackled to them for years to come, he would have cried out once again for that ‘prayer that every Scottish man and woman should … perpetually put up until we have achieved that which we have in view, complete autonomy for our native land.’
Complete autonomy for our native land. That what is normal for the 195 countries recognised as full sovereign states by the United Nations should be considered a prayer to be put up, a prize to be fought for, by Scotland, a mature and wealthy nation, is a stain on natural justice. Yet both a prayer and a prize it is and now we have it within our grasp. The wind is no longer blowing from the south. I hear Don Roberto cheering us on.
Hi there – I suspect Don Roberto’s voice (in spirit) cheering us on will be heard by growing numbers of people in Scotland in the coming Westminster election and the interesting next political phase that follows it. It is slow, hard graft – but we’re getting there bit by bit. We’ll need plenty of Don Roberto’s clear-sighted diplomatic skills in the tough negotiations ahead.
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