“Unfortunately, it is true that only one side is even on the park playing in this match.” Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, Scotland’s first minister from 2001 to 2007, on the proposed Independence Referendum. The Scotsman, Sep. 7th 2011.
“We need someone people will listen to; this should not be restricted to the 36-or-so MSPs” former Chancellor Alastair Darling MP, speaking on Labour’s leadership contest, Good Morning Scotland BBC, Sep 7th 2011.
As has been said in the last blog, we live in strange times. After over 100 days for the political chatteratti and nomenklatura of all stripes who run Scotland to come to terms with the unprecedented result of May’s election, the silence from Unionists lambs verges on the deafening. The SNP called the event ‘historic’ and have busied themselves over the summer with building on the political momentum it generated. The only efforts to derail that momentum are a few apopleptic splutterings from the CBI and a border raid by Danny Alexander who galloped north to fling down his half-dozen questions before galloping off without waiting to see if anyone answered.
This was, according to Joan McAlpine, part of a co-ordinated plan to resist the SNP and all its works. The problem seems to be that nobody north of the border either knows about it or has the stomach to do more than stare at their feet when elbowed to get with this programme. Let’s be clear about this; the next five years will be as pivotal for Scotland’s future as the decade that followed Scotland’s near-bankruptcy in the odious Darien disaster and the scramble of self-interest that led to the 1707 union.
Love or loathe the SNP, they now have both the will and the means to take Scotland to independence. Whether they do requires some intense debate over many details, and not just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. To hear the pro side of the argument, grab your local SNP member over a coffee a pint or lunch and get talking. Finding one isn’t hard these days—there are over 15,000 members and 902,915 people who voted for them. By all means ask hard questions but listen to the answers too—the SNP has been thinking about independence for decades and has its own proposals for which currency, whether the Queen should stay, what sort of armed forces, etc.
But finding someone to make the opposing case is nigh-impossible. The papers are full of dinosaurs like Michael Forsyth mumbling the same unsubstantiated predictions of disaster they did decades ago. Where is the opposition? Well, the Lib-Dems—whether from entering UK coalition or not—have managed to machine-gun their feet so they’re barely standing. The Tories are locked in internecine rammies along “to be or not to be” lines. And Labour? Well, Jack’s observation of there not being another team on the park reflects more on his old colleagues than on anyone else.
Scotland deserves better.
For the main (only?) opposition party to faff about leaderless for months, doing little but spitting venom and looking surly when the country it claims to love stands on the brink, is reprehensible. There surely must be unionist arguments to make and Labour should lead in making them. I therefore offer articulate unionists (not an oxymoron but I sometimes wonder) this blog as a platform to make their case. This will not be a comment but a full blog with title. As long as it is not libellous, I will print it. And if the arguments are good, I will try to parry them.
Scotland needs this debate; let’s get it going.