On Tuesday in the Annual Spending Review, Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance minister announced that the Scottish Government has set aside £20 million for holding an independence referendum in 2023, a higher sum than was spent on the 2014 referendum, which cost £15.8m, £2.1m more than had been estimated. The extra funds were required due to the exceptionally high turn-out and it is thought that the next referendum will also attract a high voter turn out.
Both the SNP and the Scottish Greens, who together enjoy an unassailable majority at Holyrood were elected in May 2021 with unambiguous and unconditional manifesto commitments to holding a second independence referendum within the term of the current Scottish Parliament. Naturally the anti-independence parties are furious that the Scottish Government is setting aside the funds to do what it was elected to do in an election in which the issue of another independence referendum was the dominant and defining issue.
What about the cost of living crisis, eh!, eh? harrumph the Tories and their mini me Labour and Lib Dem counterparts. Yet these are the exact same British nationalist politicians who have no problem at all with the fact that the British Government is spending £1.3 billion of public funds on celebrating the platinum jubilee of an obscenely wealthy woman whose contribution to helping out in the cost of living crisis begins and ends with scowling at the peasantry as she is wheeched past union flag bedecked lampposts in a Rolls Royce that the peasants have paid for. That £1.3 billion is 650 times the amount that the Scottish government has set by in order to facilitate the exercise of the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine the future of their country. The despots of Ancient Rome were not keen on democracy either but at least they provided bread as well as circuses. With British nationalism we don’t get the bread, and we don’t even get a proper circus, we just get the clowns and an elderly bejewelled woman steadfastly refusing to crack a smile at anything other than a horse. But never mind the UK’s descent into authoritarianism, presided over by a shameless law-breaking liar who refuses to accept responsibility for his behaviour, let’s all just carry on flag-shagging.
The uncomfortable fact that the apologists for British nationalism in Scotland refuse to accept is that the question of whether or not to hold another referendum has already been decided. It was put to the electorate of Scotland in last year’s Holyrood elections, and the people of Scotland said, “Aye, we will have ourselves some of that,” and returned a Scottish Parliament with the largest pro-independence majority since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.
Despite this, the likes of Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar persist in trotting out the same tired arguments which they trotted out last year, the arguments which failed to win them the election despite a concerted and well funded campaign for British nationalist tactical voting and embittered contrarians such as Jim Sillars helping to fund the election campaigns of Labour MSPs.
On Tuesday evening Lord Geidt, the British Government’s ethics advisor, a post way up there in the annals of improbability with the Spanish Inquisition’s guide to religious tolerance or Harold Shipman’s big book of best practice in elderly care has said that there is a “legitimate question about whether Johnson broke the ministerial code.” That’s a bit like saying that it’s a “legitimate question” about whether Prince Edward’s Royal It’s a Knock out was spectacularly bad TV.
Geidt expresses his concern that Johnson is his own investigator judge and jury when there is a question about whether Johnson broke the ministerial code. Essentially that means Geidt could only investigate whether the PM’s £50 fine for breaking the law also broke the Ministerial code if the PM gave him permission. Geidt has just submitted a letter of no confidence in himself.
Geidt seems to be concerned that Johnson’s open contempt for the Ministerial Code means that it will become an object of ridicule. He need not worry. That ship has already sailed, struck the iceberg, and the Tory party is busy rearranging the deck chairs so they can have another ABBA party.
What all this boils down to is that Johnson’s own ‘independent’ adviser on ministerial standards thinks Johnson may have broken the ministerial code, but has no power to investigate him, and won’t even advise him to follow it, because if he did he would have to quit. Now there’s a system to inspire confidence. Even the most powerful electron microscope on the planet, which is capable of producing images with a half-angstrom resolution, less than the diameter of a single hydrogen atom, could not find any integrity in this Conservative government.
Johnson’s reply to Geidt would be, in the words of old-school Tory Dominic Grieve, “funny if it wasn’t so serious”. Johnson has told Geidt that there’s no need for an investigation into whether he broke the ministerial code by being fined over Partygate, because he didn’t mean to break the law. So that’s OK then. Johnson’s reply was, Grieve said : “A mealy mouthed, dishonest letter about his own behaviour that flies completely in the face of the evidence.” Johnson’s reply was basically an Etonian version of Geidt tae F…
The other uncomfortable fact for Ross and Sarwar, as well as their refusal to accept the democratic verdict of the Scottish electorate is that their parties are unable or unwilling to do anything about the dysfunctional bad joke that now passes for the Westminster system of government. That is why the people of Scotland voted last year for parties that offered another independence referendum. Both Labour and the Tories are in thrall to the possibility of absolute power without proper accountability that the Westminster system offers, they have no incentive to make the changes that are required. So they are both guilty of exposing us to the dangers of an unprincipled liar like Johnson, who will burn down democracy before conceding that he must be accountable and held responsible for his misdeeds. Scotland needs to get out of this mess, and since all that British nationalism offers is carry on flag shagging. Scotland has to get out of the UK. That £20 million that the Scottish Government has set by, it’s basically just the ransom money to get Scotland out of a hostage situation.
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