The Tories are sworn to block the bill. This, I don’t understand. They would almost at a stroke become the majority party in England, were Scotland to become independent. The Tories were so unpopular in Scotland in the 1980’s that they did a year-long trial run of the Poll Tax here because they knew it wouldn’t harm their election prospects one bit. In the 1997 election, there was not a single Tory MP in the Commons from a Scottish constituency. Indeed, socialism is so politically entrenched in Scotland (and, for that matter, Wales) that the promise of devolution was a major factor in the New Labour victory of 1997; by co-opting the nationalist vote in Scotland and Wales, they effectively counteracted the right-wing voters of the south of England, and swung the vote. Nevertheless, the Tories seem determined to keep Scotland in the UK – but why? What is the perceived value? Is it just the oil?
Alec Salmond understands this, and in this, his timing is very astute. For some time, it has seemed unlikely that New Labour will be in overall control after the general election this coming May; although, at present, it seems that a hung parliament is the most likely outcome. Either way, the parliament in London is going to be in opposition to the SNP-led parliament in Edinburgh. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the SNP have been popular, and have certainly pushed through a number of socialistic policies of which the Scots are proud – free healthcare for the elderly being but one example.These, however, are expensive policies. So what we are likely to have, come June, is a situation where a predominantly conservative UK parliament has to deal with an expensive and combatative devolved Scottish parliament. The Scots will not be happy with having another Tory government foisted upon them, especially when questions of money inevitably begin to arise in Westminster. This sets the scene perfectly for the SNP to win a majority in the 2012 Scottish election, and be able to push through any policy they wish – including the independence referendum.
Devolution opened a door that cannot now be closed. It is a one-way process, almost impossible to imagine being reversed – were Labour to do it, they would be vilified for backtracking and betrayal, and were the Tories to do it, they would hopelessly entrench their popular perception in working-class Scotland as the purveyors of all evil. But it is also an expensive and clumsy solution. It is frequently unclear to the public to what extent Edinburgh or London is in charge of a particular policy, and the double parliamentary system means double bureaucracy cost for the public purse. And at this time, with this level of public debt, can only become increasingly challenged.
The statistics speak for themselves: rightly or wrongly, the Scots vote for socialism, and the English (in the south, at least) vote conservative. Scottish independence would, if nothing else, mean that the citizens of these two countries, so long tied artificially together, could at least see their political views more accurately represented.