In the first of our series exploring responses to the White Paper, Mike Small summarises the mood.
The week when we saw the launch of a historic vision of the future of our country, the Better Together’s response was muted. A line of commentators asked No aficionado’s, apologists and Unionist mouthpieces a simple question: “You may criticise this, but what are you offering in its place?”
There was a stoney silence.
Jenny Marra told us on Radio Scotland we’d have to wait till Spring 2014 to hear the individual parties policy ideas.
The nation is on tenterhooks.
The reality is that, despite protestations they have a shared vision, but they really don’t want you to hear it. As Kevin McKenna described it:
There are many reasons why Better Together would never dare to produce its own white paper entitled “Britain’s Future”. For how could any Scottish Labour supporter subscribe to a document that would talk of penalising the poor; cutting the taxes of the rich; allowing our defence and intelligence policies to resemble those of Texas and re-introducing a light touch for bankers? Not to mention leaving Europe and telling immigrants to go home.
But if multiple representatives seem a bit coy – their allies and colleagues at Westminster are a bit more self-assured. Want a glimpse at Britain after No? Here’s some.
In highly provocative remarks, Boris Johnson mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130. Britain under a (very) possible PM would be a celebration of Thatcherism, greed and inequality.
In an outrageous speech Johnson celebrated greed as a great driver in our society, reading it you are left wondering if it is perhaps some absurdist prank. But it’s not, this is actually the worldview on open display. It’s impossible to imagine a senior Scottish politician descending into such 19th C politics with almost supreme media latitude. But despite media ineptitude and complacency, Boris has fresh honesty and we should thank him.
You can take all of this as typical jaundiced opinion. But facts suggest otherwise. Whilst the The People of No criticised free pre-school child care as ‘impractical’ or derided the overturning the Bedroom Tax as ‘a gimmick’, here’s 5 shocking changes to the benefit system that are happening NOW.
This is an uncontested reality.
No scribes like Brian Wilson (UKOK) said bitterly: “The document, which was supposed to answer all of the questions, in fact answers none. It ranges from hoary grievance through dubious assertion to fanciful solutions” – and Alistair Darling chipped in describing it as ‘a work of fiction, thick with false promises and meaningless assertions’. Alistair Carmichael managed: ‘Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little.’
Having whined for substance and answers they reverted when such was delivered to pre-recorded utterances. The tangible hostility in the room (you can see loyal hacks shaking their heads in disbelief here at the idea that some non-approved journo should get a voice – at 51 minutes in):
The actual alternative to democracy that the No campaign is ashamed of voicing is leaching out. It’s about a contempt for the weak and a barely contained racism that bridges all parties. It’s led to some unexpected allies. Here’s Mary Dejevsky, the Independents Chief Editor, who writes:
If I needed any further convincing that Scotland not only can, but should, go it alone, it came from the grudging and simplistic attacks on the day from Alistair Darling. Superficially, Darling is an inspired choice to front the “No” – or “Better Together” – campaign…when you look at Darling now, though, and you listen to what he says about Scotland, and you hear him saying petulantly, as he did on Monday, that he was “angry, very angry” about what he insisted was the loose way of the Salmond team with its economic figures, did you believe him? Or did you think, as I instinctively did, that Darling, with his clipped phrases, his mock scorn and his negativity, were the past, and the future was somewhere and someone else?
The reality is that we’re being asked to take lessons in democracy from the people repressing Catalonian self-determination (good luck with that project) and we’re being asked to believe that the vision being presented by Big Boris (“Rich people are rich because they are better, cleverer, more ambitious. We should worship them for paying taxes”) isn’t an alternate future?
Boris is a clear and present danger. But no more so than others, it’s just he speaks his mind openly.
The biggest and baddest arguments of the No campaign are threadbare. Despote a heap of bluff and fear mongering propagated through the usual channels, real politik would ensure a Sterling Zone and EU membership, to the chagrin of both the Scottish Left and the English Right. The fact is there’s no precedent for throwing out a country that wants to be part of Europe, and already is. As John Palmer, former European editor of the Guardian explains:
The most important question that the no campaigners in Edinburgh or London cannot answer is: what provision exists in EU law to withhold citizens’ rights from a people seeking continued EU membership and about whose country there is no question of any violation of fundamental European values? They cannot because there is none.
That sort of demolishes the No response, so we’re left waiting for some input.
Anything will do.
If they want to wait till Spring 2014 to respond, that’s fine. In that vacuum the reality of the Coalition will paint a clear picture of what a No vote will really mean.
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