Since the EU referendum in 2016, there has been loads of discussion about whether it’s right for the Scottish Parliament to be trying to save England from itself by preventing Brexit from going ahead. The majority in the EU referendum was entirely created by voters in England and Wales, so there was and is a strong argument for England and Wales getting the Brexit they voted for, while Scotland and Northern Ireland remained in the EU, which they voted for.
But that was never going to happen. As is normal in the UK, English opinion always takes precedence and is imposed on the other countries in the UK, whether they like it or not. So Brexit it is.
But the original question remains. Is it right for the Scottish Government to try to prevent England (and Wales) from getting what a majority of their voters wanted? I know that, in the current circumstances, England will drag Scotland out of the EU as well, but is there not another way to prevent this from happening?
Two recent events brought this strongly back to mind.
First, there was the utter insanity of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s decision to close down the system introduced earlier in the Covid-19 crisis which allowed MPs to take part in debates and vote remotely and force every MP to return to the potentially virus infected House of Commons. According to JR-M, it was not possible to have a proper debate unless you were face to face with those you were debating with, to allow proper understanding of the debate and proper interventions. This seemed to lack any real appreciation of the dangers involved in putting 650 people into a room together when it was possible that some of them would be infected and therefore could be spreading it to others.
Many of the fears were realised when pictures came out of the conga line waiting to vote and the crush at the bottom of the escalator. So much for social isolation. Then we had the sight of Alok Sharma, a government minister, struggling to finish a speech before being carted off into isolation. He was tested for Covid-19, but found negative. Maybe a false negative? Or maybe the Tory party were just following JR-M’s advice that any MP with a positive test was under no obligation to tell his colleagues? Time will tell.
Much was said in Scotland that Scottish MPs should not attend. Many SNP supporters in particular wanted their MPs to stay away, as much for the MPs own safety as to make a political point, but mainly because it would seem to break the Scottish Government’s rules about travelling, a rule strongly emphasised by the First Minister in her earlier briefing that day. It could hardly be said that they were essential workers as they could have no influence on the vote, the Tories having such a large majority. Unfortunately, with the First Minister’s approval, a contingent of eight MPs headed south to take part in the farce that was to happen. Just why was it more important to be a part of a fiasco in a foreign parliament than to be in Scotland planning independence? Beats me.
The second event was the news that the Scottish Government had released a report justifying the need for an extension to the Brexit negotiations.
As I said in an earlier posting, what the last few months have shown us is how little the Tory government cares about any part of the UK outside England, maybe even outside the southern half of England. They actively prioritised the supply of PPE to English hospitals and care homes. I say prioritised, but they actually tried to prevent supplies reaching Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at all. Now, we have the Chancellor telling us that if the Scottish Government even thinks of extending lockdown beyond that decided by Westminster for the South of England, they wouldn’t get funds to extend the furlough scheme. As they have done often in the past, we see Westminster trying to use their control of Scotland’s finances to force the Scottish Government to do something which will harm the Scottish people, in this case, possibly kill some of them. Better together?
However, despite Westminster’s obvious lack of concern for Scotland’s wellbeing, despite the obvious signs that Westminster is only interested in what is can get out of Scotland, not in how Scotland can thrive, the Scottish Government spends time and money producing a report showing the UK Government how to save itself from the worst effects of an action that they’re determined to take. Will anyone in the UK Government even look at the report? This can only benefit Scotland if we remain part of the UK. Why do we want to remain part of the UK?
As an aside, here are a couple of examples showing why England wants Scottish resources.
Since 2000, the amount of Scottish produced electricity transferred to England over the National Grid was almost 203 thousand gigawatt hours. Of course, electricity is also transferred the other way and the National Grid have written a whole document explaining how the Grid protects Scottish consumers by allowing transfers from England to Scotland (read it here). However, over the same period, the amount of English produced electricity transferred to Scotland was just over 8 thousand gigawatt hours or about 4% of the Scotland – England total. It’s quite clear which country benefits most from the arrangement.
The idea has again been raised to build a canal to transfer water from Scotland to the drier parts of the UK, mainly London and the South East of England. Fortunately, for Scotland, the cost of such a scheme would be enormous, so the South of England hasn’t yet reached a state of dryness that they’re prepared to suffer the cost of construction, though the cost of the water is likely to be zero. This is not the first time the idea has been raised and a similar scheme is already in place in Wales. Of course, if it went ahead, it would be considered a national project, so Scotland would have to pay about 8.5% of the total cost. Yet again, Scotland would have to pay to give away our resources to England. It’s quite clear which country would benefit most from the arrangement.
So, once again, as the UK Government has clearly demonstrated that they couldn’t care less about the Scottish people and that their only interest in Scotland is in taking its resources, the question remains. Why are we in Scotland spending so much time and money trying to make staying part of the UK as painless as possible, when we should be concentrating on saving ourselves from the disaster and the enormous money pit that England represents. Why can’t we spend more time planning to go?
Answers on a postcard to Bute House?