Kevin McKenna: Spare me the emissions of fake virtue over Cop26

ALL the mediocrity and fake virtue on which Scottish politics proceeds was on full public parade this week. Rarely has so much chicanery and unctuousness been exposed over such a short period.

You knew, of course, that the UN Climate Report, described as the earth’s final wake-up call, would be the catalyst for evangelical charlatans in the environmental sector. Scotland’s political classes were quick to respond to the challenge and didn’t disappoint.

The glee of Scottish Labour in particular was boundless. One former Lanarkshire Labour activist, still sorrowful at the fate that has befallen his old party, described them to me as the Third Lanark of Scottish politics: gone but remembered with affection.

This week though, they caught a glimpse of relevance and headed for it at full throttle. The UN report had given them something, finally, with which to nail the SNP. In 21 years at Holyrood, the Labour Party in Scotland have done precisely nothing to represent and protect those communities whose traditional support has provided the sort of lifestyle and influence to which many of their politicians could never aspire in real circumstances.

They may point to 14 years of Nationalist rule in Scotland but during this period they have failed adequately to trouble or even merely oppose the SNP. Since 2007 they have gone through eight leaders and two interim ones. As the neighbourhoods in which they thrived moved reluctantly to the SNP each new leader Labour pledged to re-connect. That they all did so principally by wrapping themselves tightly in the embrace of the Union Jack and a Conservative-led Unionist alliance told its own story. But none of these short-term leaders seemed to want to listen.

Now, it’s all about the Cambo oil-field and the projected millions of CO2 emissions it will yield along with the 250 million barrels of oil. And so now they’ve all become environmentalists. Seven years ago, during the first independence referendum, Scottish Labour chiefs united with the Conservatives to dismiss future oil reserves. Not once during that campaign did they voice any environmental concerns. Only now when it’s convenient to do so are they all channelling Jacques Cousteau. The chance to cause discomfort to a party who’ve been sustained by the sacred mantra of “Scotland’s oil” was too good to miss.

So, they say, let’s not become too emotional about the thousands of jobs the Cambo oil-field development will yield and the many more in the supply chain. The effects of the pandemic are demonstrably proven to have been more ruinous in working-class communities, with worse to come as capital seeks to protect profits by offloading excess baggage … or workers as they’re more commonly known.

And let’s disregard for the moment this inconvenient reality: that much more tightly regulated UK oil production means we would be more reliant on imports from less regulated regions paying slave wages to their workers. Not that this ever figures when we deal with these regimes in other sectors employing serf labour.

If the governments of North America and the UK could truly act in accordance with their consciences then there might be a chance to make real progress to net zero. These nations, though, are driven and financed by predatory capitalism who bow only to the unquenchable demands of their shareholders. How can you expect them to have a care for the earth we’re bequeathing to future generations when they’re impervious to the needs of this one?

Governments can only go thus far and no more on reducing global emissions before the planet’s Haliburtons yank their chain and pull them up short. If you want to address climate change seriously then you must start dismantling capitalism. Anything else is just pallid sanctimony performed for an audience.

The squirming that’s presently occurring among the leadership of the SNP is palpable. For decades they have traded on Scotland being denied the bounty of North Sea oil. Now, they find that this argument has fallen on the wrong side of history. This party of course doesn’t possess a single conviction it hasn’t been willing to offload; just so long as it holds out the promise of independence to keep us all on the teat.

Lately though, even that single conviction seems to have become a gaseous substance. You’ll have your referendum after the pandemic. “After the pandemic” here is testing the concept of elasticity to its utmost. Whoever thought it was a good idea to enter into coalition talks with the Scottish Greens just before the UN was about to declare a climate emergency might soon be asked to give up their cabinet post for them.

Whichever path the SNP opts for is guaranteed to be the one of least resistance, or the one the energy lobbyists will have demanded of them during their weekly access sessions.

In Glasgow meanwhile, the party’s council leader, Susan Aitken has already decided to gift the city to big capital by telling us all to ditch our victimhood and our addiction to paternalism. That’ll be the same paternalism that permitted her to rise to such a remarkably lofty position.

Thus, on the 50th anniversary of Jimmy Reid’s great speech at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, the city’s leader is softening us up for closing the libraries. These are same libraries that once fed and nourished the beautiful big brain of that fine man. Just pull up that ladder before you go, Susan.

Three months out, I’m not relishing the prospect of Cop26 in Glasgow. It will be a no-risk, free-for-all for Ms Aitken and all those other lately converted disciples now dooking for Twitter likes and vying to show the rest of us how virtuous they are.

Glasgow will have so many people brandishing piety in November we’ll need sunglasses for the glare of a thousand shiny halos. Perhaps though, we should be thankful. At another time they’d have been buying motor-bikes to deal with their mid-life crises. So, think of all those saved CO2 emissions.

And did I mention the Scottish Liberal-Democrats? There goes the man tipped to be their next leader, flogging his garden shed for a few more grand on Airbnb.

Scottish Politics: the grift that keeps on grifting.

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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