What Next For Scottish Nationalism?

yes

Now that the SNP Summer of love has slowly been segueing into an Autumn of Amour has this beautiful lovefest changed my opinion on Scottish Independence? Have the SNP’s flirtatious glances at me caught my attention and caused me to gaze furtively at their beautiful dream? Have they made me giddy and light headed when they whisper sweet nothings to me? The answer to this would be no, but the nationalists sure do know how to pull off a ‘Rough Wooing.’

First off the bat, the SNP have postponed their entire independence campaign. What was looking likely to start during Summer 2016 has been pushed further and further back, until it probably won’t start until 2017. Of course, the idea that this was an entirely new campaign is something of a misnomer anyway.

The campaign for a second independence referendum started on the 19th of September 2014. Rather than calm the situation, former First Minister Alec Salmond stated that: ‘Scotland has by a majority decided, at this stage, not to become an independent country.’ The emphasis on the fact that Scottish independence was inevitable at some unknowable future date, regardless of the result the day before.

Demands for a rerun and allegations of fraud and mismanagement were rife in the hours, days and months after, despite the Electoral Commission stating that the referendum adhered to all the relevant legislation and was fair and unbiased.

One young girl was filmed outside the parliament claiming that the new powers promised in the last few days before the referendum in the Vow had not been granted to the Scottish Parliament, only after a few months, even before the Smith Commission had published its report.

I know we increasingly live in a fast paced world, but to effect and implement constitutional and legislative change in the UK can take years, not months. As earnest as this young woman was, she was protesting for the speedy introduction of new powers to the Scottish Parliament in the same time it would take to switch your broadband provider. The issue was not this young woman’s enthusiasm, but the fact that no one tried to correct her at the rally.

Of course, only a few months ago we had the referendum on if the UK should leave the European Union. The nationalists have forgotten that this was a UK-wide vote and the SNP have totally ignored over 1 million people in Scotland who voted to leave, just like they have ignored the 2.4 million who voted No. They have done this as these people don’t fit into the divisive SNP rhetoric of England bad, Scotland good and to further reinforce their prevalent notion that the SNP are the avatar of Scotland. The large majority of the Scottish electorate viewed this referendum for what it was; a vote on UK membership of the E.U. Not another vote on Scottish Independence.

Regardless, straight out of the gate, Nicola Sturgeon held a press conference, even before the then Prime Minister David Cameron. Again, much like her predecessor in 2014, she claimed that any and all options were on the table including a second independence referendum. Rather than calming an already uncertain situation at a critical juncture, it was again inflamed immediately by unnecessary rhetoric and bluster. This allowed her to act like an efficient statesman in contrast with the then paralysed British establishment still reeling from shock at the unexpected Leave vote.

Even after one referendum, it looked highly likely that Scotland would have another one foisted upon it again. One which the majority of us, regardless of your political leanings, have no stomach for, with Scotland suffering from political fatigue from the sheer number of referendums and elections, this isn’t surprising.

Rather than leading to certainty and stability, Nicola Sturgeon’s speech led to a feeling of despondency, as I’m sure was the intention. It probably had the exact opposite effect on the ardent, nationalist fringe who had been brought one step closer to indyref2.

Although some may have looked to Nicola Sturgeon and her party for leadership in the uncertain days following mass resignations from the Leave side and instability within the Labour and Conservatives party, the dust soon settled, the pound rebounded and politics and life returned to its natural equilibrium.

However, the Scottish First Minister then spent the intervening months travelling through European Capitals like she was on the ‘Grand Tour’, beloved by Georgian and Victorian aristocrats. During her excursions and busy rounds of talks with European civil servants and low ranking politicians she had time to report back plans about making deals with other cities and regions of the UK that had voted to remain, ultimately trying to overturn the democratic will of the entire British people. This was well out with her remit as the elected head of a devolved parliament and as an elected leader of an administrative and political division within the United Kingdom.

Included in this busy itinerary was the ‘foreign’ leader, British Prime Minister, Theresa May as well. ‘Two flags’ Sturgeon had procured twin saltires just to remind Theresa May where she was. At times it looked like she was greeting an enemy belligerent for a peace conference.

Back on the Home Front, the attempt to make me change my mind on Scottish Independence is becoming further unstuck. For a start, the cybernats are still at their abusive best. I was informed that ‘We don’t want your kind here.’ a phrase that has probably never been uttered to a white, heterosexual man in all of human history. This was because I had the audacity to suggest that after nearly ten years in power, the SNP have not turned Scotland into a healthy nation, culturally and politically. The commentator recommended that the only way to remedy the situation was for me to ’emigrate’. After pointing out that the SNP control almost every political lever in Scotland, another gentleman informed me, ‘that’s the way we like it’. Unfortunately, this is the mass, admittedly private and uncontrolled, army of the SNP. The ones that should be persuading me to vote for their cause the next time round.

To be fair they have their work cut out for them. With the GERS report suggesting that Scotland spends almost £14 billion more than it raises in taxes, it can be hard to argue that the people of Scotland will be better off after independence. All governments run deficits, but Scotland’s would be nearly 10% and double the one for the U.K. as a whole.

It is very revealing that no one who believes in Scottish independence is now trying to refute the claim that Scotland would be a land of milk and honey, post independence.

Rather than challenging these horrendous statistics, the SNP have now embarked on a new and noble tactic: the truth. According to the First Minister: ‘The case for full self-government ultimately transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national wealth and balance sheets and of passing political fads and trends.’

This is partly true. I might be far worse off as a citizen of an independent nation, but I might be emotionally happier. I might be closer to my parliament and its representatives. Perhaps I would have a better sense of community with my fellow citizens and be more engaged in politics. I doubt this, though. For a start, most indicators of happiness start with a certain level of income that is deemed necessary, not just for survival but for a decent quality of life as well. In general, the electorate tends to vote for what party and set of policies will benefit them, economically and socially. Those nations with a poor economy and less money tend to have less happy people. If you have less money, you have a lower tax base and thus less efficient or even non-existent public services.

The people of Scotland still have an important choice to make. They can either go on believing the nationalists, in that they will live in a state resembling the ‘Nordic’ model with excellent good public services but with low taxes, rather than punishingly high ones. This was certainly the idea that was falsely sold to the Scottish people in the ‘Yes to everything’ campaign of 2014. Alternatively, Scotland could resemble the Baltic states that are buffeted by the winds of globalisation and try to anchor themselves to a larger political and economic union, mainly the E.U., with all the potential restrictions and limited sovereignty that this can entail.

In more bad news for the nationalists, the predicted Brexit bump is no longer inflamed and has returned to the exact same place as it was pre-Brexit. Also, according to all opinion polls, there is little demand for another independence referendum, with the majority of Scottish people recognising the tiring, blunt and divisive nature of their use in politics.

Despite the people of Scotland voting against independence, the primary raison d’etre of the SNP will always be the separation of Scotland from the UK at any cost. Even their party leader has acknowledged this fact, as well as unintentionally acknowledging the reality of the economic benefits of being part of the U.K.

Advertisements

The appeal of Donald Trump

Donald Trump. Billionaire property developer. Future President of the United States. Fascist. Demagogue. The personification of Americas id. God Emperor of Mankind. Parasite. Businessman. Twitter user. All of these have been used to describe the man that many in the United States believe will ‘Make America Great Again’.

trump

Many people, including the Republican establishment, can’t actually believe that he has made it this far and is now the Republican nominee for the presidential election this year. He has constantly exceeded expectations by severely mauling traditional republicans such as Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. What started out as a joke candidacy in June 2015, is no laughing matter now.

How has an outspoken, business mogul with views that seem to run at a tangent to most other mainstream politicians, crashed through political barriers and is in now being treated seriously as the future president of the United States of America?

Part of the reason may be that trust in the establishment is at an all time low, not just in the U.S but in the Western world in general. According to the Pew Research Center, Trust in the U.S Federal Government to do the right thing has been steadily declining from a high of 75% in the mid-1960s to below 20% in 2015. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hilary Clinton, is one of the most establishment candidates of all time. She was First Lady. A Senator for New York. Then Secretary of State. With such a long political career, you’re bound to end up slightly tarnished by your political deeds. Trump, on the other hand, has made his lack of establishment credentials the main facet of his campaigns. No one really knows how Trump will perform as a politician, as he’s never been one before. He can’t be judged on a previous political crisis, he’s never managed one (The Jury’s is out on how many he could potentially cause though).

At his most recent political rally, he asked black voters, “What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?”. Clearly, this sense of being something new, unsullied and untarnished by the existing political machine will be more important as he approaches November.

For some of his adherents, he is a genuine breath of fresh air. For the first time in thirty or forty years, they have a potential mainstream politician that speaks his mind on almost all issues. If his comments on women (The infamous, ‘You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever’ tweet ) Mexicans (‘They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people’) are anything to go by, this is patently true. Many voters will be turned off and will find such unfiltered outbursts abhorrent. Others will dismiss them as misguided attempts at humour but believe there is a kernel of truth in what he says.

Many voters may also see the rise of the social justice warrior and prominence of the ‘illiberal left’ that they represent as another reason to vote Trump. They feel that their free speech is being curtailed in a minefield of ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘no platforming’. Indeed, American university campuses appear to be one of the most active fronts for Trump supporters and debates are often heated and often just descend into verbal abuse from both sides.

Either way, many people find this ‘shot from the hip’ style of debate very appealing when you have had decades of scripted responses and soundbites from politicians, that sound like they originated in a policy think-tank. It should also be noted that being controversial does not automatically exclude you from high office or hinder your chances at winning multiple elections. Former Italian Prime Minster, Silvio Berlusconi, spent his spare time comparing a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp guard, disparaging Finnish cuisine, claiming that his female supporters that were over 50, were the ‘menopause brigade’ and stating that: ‘I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I sacrifice myself for everyone.’

On a larger scale and in an abstract way, Trump may even represent the retrenchment of the nation state after the large scale globalisation that has occurred since the 1970s. Globalisation has brought us all many benefits, interconnectedness, cheaper consumer goods, the idea of the ‘global village’. However, the benefits have not been evenly spread, even in the Global North, and in particular areas such as Detroit have been decimated. They have witnessed the hollowing out of their traditional heavy industries and manufacturing jobs. Many of these jobs have ended up in special export zones in South East Asia and China where manufacturing costs are lower and labour legislation lax. Trump himself has made his views on the role of the nation-state quite clear by stating that:

‘We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am sceptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down.’

This isn’t something that just appeals to the traditional white, working class either. Many employees in America are now a member of what has been termed the ‘precariat’. They are individuals in employment but without job security and absolutely no job satisfaction. Not on the breadline but far from wealthy either. This is an issue that affects the middle classes, college graduates and those from former ‘blue collar’ employment. Indeed statistics collated by The Economist in April 2016, indicate that Trump has broader support than is initially assumed, across most social and economic groups.

These are a similar type of people that voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Ones that have been abandoned by the lofty ideal of globalism and internationalism and have been ostracised and sidelined when they have tried to speak out against political correctness. Hilary Clinton should remember these people if she wants to win.

Trump does appeal to more groups than the mainstream media like to make out. He didn’t become the Republican nominee by appealing solely to ‘rednecks’. Whether he can broaden his appeal further, particularly to minority groups and women remains to be seen. Whether he will actually be able to implement some of his more outlandish schemes like building a wall along the U.S. – Mexico border or cajole Apple to manufacture its products in the continental United States, thus rolling back decades of globalisation, remains to be seen. Perhaps, as some of his followers like to say: You Can’t Stump the Trump.