One month on from the election in which the impossible happened—a party secured a majority at Holyrood—and the world has yet to come to an end, although it might have for some parties, if the way they are behaving is anything to go by. Whether on Scots Law/Supreme Court or ‘how-many-referenda?’ issues, fur is flying and much ill-temper is on display. Given that the SNP were given substantial mandate, is it any surprise that they hit the ground running? More surprising is how unprepared unionists seem to have been to deal with it.
While allowance must be made for them being gubbed or leaderless or both, none of the three unionist parties is doing itself much good. Labour continues its four-year hissy fit of denial (see earlier post) while ‘Politician of the Year’ Hugh Henry talks of ‘elected dictatorship’ in committee posts which his own party practiced when in power. Defeated as Labour now are in their very heartlands, they must also address Curtice’s ‘cracked and hollow shell’ that is their local orgaisation if they are to avoid another drubbing at local elections next May.
The arch-unionist Tories have had a better time of it, partly because their staunch hostility appears principled. What they appear not to have grasped is that pooh-poohing independence (as Annabelle did with her ‘little Scotlandism’ jibe this week) is the tactics of the nineties; they failed. Unless they seize initiative in the debate, positing cogent arguments how Scotland will benefit from union going forward, unionists will find themselves carping from the sidelines.
But the party in deepest yoghurt is the Lib-Dems. Newsnicht ran a very insightful piece last night about how they may have lost their Highland heartland through Tavish Scott steering them away from any truck with the SNP in 2007 and resolutely ignoring their own fairly radical federal principals. Even senior statesman David Steel seems non-plussed just how ramshackle his party’s statements have been; Michael Moore’s recent call for two referenda looks arrogant, deliberately provocative but as out of touch as discredited John Reid/Michael Forsyth bully-boy attempts to browbeat opponents.
What we need is a debate. Their is a virile, enthusiastic government now steering Scotland towards its future. There are informed and lucid commentators like Ian MacWhirter, Joan MacAlpine and Jim Mitchell articulating the Zeitgeist and throwing down the challenges to unionists to make their case. With few exceptions, such as the never-confused-with-a-sunny-day Alan Cochrane or the dry-but-cogent Peter Jones, these challenges are being ignored and a playground-like disjointed series of petulances and threats are the response. When Ian Davidson MP argues for carriers we don’t need and keeping the criminally useless Trident to ‘punch above our weight’ as shining factors to keep us in the union, he implies this offsets £1 trillion of debt, twice as many citizens who’ve never had a job than a decade ago and the bottomless lunacy of Afghanistan. This implies unionists can’t be bothered finding decent, let alone convincing, arguments.
But, then, how do you recover from unexpected defeat in colonial wars, even here in the last colony? You recover your pride by sending in gunboats to intimidate them.