Kevin McKenna: Another week, another fake SNP pledge on independence

YOU wonder if there’ll ever come a point when the SNP run out of idioms indicating support for independence without actually setting the controls for it. This week, Ian Blackford reached for another of these. The leader of the SNP’s Westminster group said the SNP had been handed “responsibility” to deliver a second independence referendum.

Mr Blackford’s address was replete with short, trite declarations of the stunningly obvious: “We had an election in May.” (Indeed we did). “There is a clear majority for an independence referendum in the Scottish Parliament.” (Really? Fancy that!) “We have the backing of the people who went to the polls in May of this year.” When this man speaks people tune in to the shipping forecast for light relief.

Trying to get a handle on the SNP’s independence strategy recalls the labyrinthine soliloquy delivered by Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Just insert the words “about independence” after each clause.

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns ¬- the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Mr Blackford was visiting a Glasgow foodbank when he made these remarks. Presumably, he’ll have provided advance notice of his visit to Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council. Ms Aitken seems lately to have become a devotee of the late Mrs Margaret Thatcher, accusing trade union leaders of using “far-right” language and urging Glasgow’s lieges to wean themselves off the “paternalism” of public resources like libraries and community hubs.

She might have told her SNP colleague that foodbanks are a bit, you know, paternalistic. Many of us believed we’d already bought and paid for our community places and that they existed to foster aspiration and a sense of belonging in those neighbourhoods lately denuded of such. But what do we know?

In the seven years that have elapsed since the first referendum an entire glossary of bogus declarations about independence has materialised. Thus, we’ve been on our marks for/set for/ready for independence many times. It’s been pledged by 2020, 2022 and now 2026 (but not before “the end of” the pandemic, you understand). We’ve been told it is “inevitable”; that it’ll be “delivered” and that it’s to be “demanded”.

This week we were told that Indyref2 is at the heart of the SNP-Green deal. And then you actually read the full text of that concordat and discover that beyond saying both parties want independence there is no actual detail. No Plan B about what will be done when Boris Johnson turns down the next request for a Section 30 order; nothing specific about what currency an independent Scotland will have; nothing about how to overcome that little problem about the Scotland/England border.

Nor was there anything about how or when, as an independent country lacking our own currency, we’ll re-join the European Union.

This is independence as a figment of a lively imagination. The most dynamic action to indicate forward momentum in the drive for independence was the purchase of what looked like a re-constituted bread van for Mike Russell to drive across the country selling independence to the voters. “How do you like it: plain or pan? We’ve got an artisan version too.”

This might even have been acceptable if we knew that the Scottish Government had specific, detailed and costed commitments to mitigating the effects of the pandemic in Scotland’s neediest neighbourhoods. Two weeks ago we learned that Scotland had set another record high for drug deaths. This has already begun to fade in the public consciousness. Beyond a pledge to “look seriously” at a Right to Rehab there’s not been much more.

Millions have been allocated to local authorities for various addiction services but the rehabilitation that users need to help them break their habits is almost non-existent. Scotland spends more than £40k per head annually to keep a prisoner in jail in the knowledge that many are incarcerated over drug-related issues, stemming from neglect, abuse and marginalisation caused by multi-deprivation.

Scotland still has a housing crisis, yet beyond ethereal manifesto pledges, there is no specific commitment on how to make more homes available for social rent. In the communities whose need for housing is acute, the approximation of what “affordable” means doesn’t equate to a £150k semi-detached villa tacked on to the end of a £500k Chardonnay development as a means of complying with porous local planning regulations.

Waiting until 2025 to set rent controls just won’t cut it. Not when landlords, themselves reeling from the effects of coronavirus, are about to resume evictions once more. An opportunity exists to double the Scottish Child Payment in the upcoming Programme for Government, a move which would go a long way to improving the life chances of our neediest children. In the long-term this wouldn’t be a hand-out, it would be an investment made good by future saved costs in imprisonment and drug and alcohol rehab.

Even the commitments to combat climate change don’t begin to address the major issues in this sector: that a grossly disproportionate quota of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the invasive activities of the world’s largest corporations. Yet, rather than assume full public control of all the means of production of Scotland’s vast energy resources, we wave our fists at the Cambo oil-field. And we refuse to work with the unions in forcing the energy sector to transition while protecting jobs, conditions and pay.

This week it was revealed that one industry in Scotland has enjoyed significant growth. The salary bill for Government Special Advisors now sits at more than £1m. This is probably necessary. The cost of gas-lighting entire working-class communities for using inappropriate language or not being fully conversant in the bogus politics of gender reform and hate crime is a punitive one. It requires all your spin doctors to tell these people, through a well-funded empathy sector, that these vestigial, bourgeois caprices matter more than real jobs, decent homes and a viable industrial strategy.

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The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992