Westminster’s orchard of poison apple trees

The recent opinion poll from IPSOS-Mori for STV was a huge boost for hopes for independence, putting support for independence on 55% and giving a clear lead to independence support in every age group in the country except the over 55s. The poll even shows a majority for Yes when don’t knows are included. This poll comes after a run of polls which have given a narrow lead to opposition to independence, leading apologists for Westminster to dismiss it as a rogue poll which does not accurately reflect the true position on the ground. This poll is significant however, and cannot be dismissed so easily despite the hopes of British nationalists because it is the first telephone poll in a very long time. All the other polls have been online polls which perforce have a very different methodology. Time will tell which polling company has got it right.

What it does tell us, and in the most resounding way possible, is that the oft repeated assertions by anti-independence politicians and commentators that support for independence is declining cannot be substantiated and can be dismissed as fond hopes and attempts at wish fulfillment rather than facts. A massive 80% of people in Scotland say that they are dissatisfied with the performance of a Prime Minister who leads a party which is constantly mired in allegations of sleaze and corruption and who repeatedly demonstrates a casual contempt for the standards of behaviour expected of the rest of us. Across the UK three-quarters of the public are concerned about corruption in government, including seven in 10 of 2019 Conservative voters, according to recent polling. In Scotland just a mere 10% of the public think that the ruling party of British Government does not give the impression of being sleazy and disreputable.

Under such circumstances, and amidst such widespread dissatisfaction the so-called Union cannot in any way be described as safe. There is one thing we know for certain about Conservative corruption scandals. While the British Government aided by a media which prefers to look the other way will do its utmost to move public attention away from this story, nothing meaningful will change and some new Conservative sleaze scandal will come along later.

It should be clear by now that sleaze and corruption in the Conservative party is not the limited aberration of a few bad apples, it is a property of the entire Westminster orchard. Those aren’t apple trees, they’re sleaze trees growing entitlement and privilege.

From a royal family which erases the line between public and private for the personal enrichment of its members and which is treated with a sycophantic deference which places it beyond any accountability to an unelected and undemocratic House of Lords which is a machine for patronage and a House of Commons which awards absolute power to a party which can win even less than 40% of the popular vote and a Prime Minister who suffers few effective checks on his or her authority, the Westminster system is designed to perpetuate the privilege and entitlement of the few over the many. Corruption and sleaze are not unfortunate occasional lapses in this system, they are what it is designed to facilitate.

Expecting Westminster to take effective action to crack down on the sleaze and corruption of senior members of the Conservative party and to introduce meaningful checks and balances on the power of the Prime Minister, never mind democratic reform of the House of Lords or cutting down to size the bloated entitlement and greed of members of the House of Windsor is like expecting the most narcissistic vampire to take up veganism and then not to remind you every five minutes that they’re a vegan. It’s simply alien to the nature of the beast.

As supporters of Scottish independence, one of the most crucial messages for us to get out to the people of Scotland is that meaningful and lasting change is only possible with independence. If we want to live in a country which is truly democratic and where everyone is held to account equally, there’s only one way we are going to get it. Under Westminster we are condemned to a perpetual Groundhog day of Westminster sleaze and corruption stories which are met with promises of reform which are carefully calibrated to placate the media and to take the heat off the government of the day and solve its short term political embarrassment but which have no meaningful effect at all.

The Tories are easily the worst offenders but the intrinsic corruption of Westminster infects all parties who attain control of Parliament. The Labour Government of Tony Blair was no stranger to allegations of corruption and the selling of peerages to party donors.

Fundamentally the issue of Scottish independence is about democracy and accountability and ensuring that those who have the powers to change our laws, make public policy and determine the path that this country takes are answerable to and led by the people of Scotland. The Westminster Parliament with its carefully constructed veneer of democracy is designed to ensure the perpetuation of entitlement, privilege and inequality. It has had several hundred years of practice at co-opting and neutralising any radical or democratic threat to the ability of a small minority who are well-connected to continue to enrich themselves and to arrogate to themselves the ability to direct public policy and the course of the state. It is a system which has well-developed mechanisms designed to protect it from the threat of reform. The current public outrage about Conservative corruption will go the same way as all the other bouts of public anger about corruption and sleaze in the British establishment – nowhere.

The message of independence is a message of change and a message of hope. We can live in a better country. We can replace the weary cynicism generated among the public by Westminster as a self-defence mechanism with a realistic vision of a country where public office is not a route to private enrichment and where the priority of those in power is the common good not personal gain. It’s a better country which is within our grasp, all we need is the courage and confidence to grasp it and to root out for good the poison apple trees that constitute Westminster orchard of greed and privilege.

I have been in a lot of pain and discomfort this past week, so much so that I am having difficulty walking and am experiencing a lot of fatigue and exhaustion. I have a physiotherapy appointment on Thursday and an occupational therapy appointment on Monday, so unfortunately I am not operating at full capacity and consequently won’t be able to get new blog pieces online as frequently as I would like to.


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