Tuesday 2 June 2015

The death of decency

English: Charles Kennedy, British politician a...
Charles Kennedy, British politician and former leader of the Liberal Democrats. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I never had much sympathy for Charles Kennedy's politics. But he always struck me as a decent man endowed with great wit, warmth and sincerity. A man who served both his party and his constituents well despite a considerable handicap.

There was an essential genuineness about the man, and a strength of character which helped him deal with his alcohol problems in a way that commanded sympathy and respect.

These qualities may explain why he always seemed so uncomfortable and out of place with the grindingly negative and endlessly nasty anti-independence campaign. It just wasn't Charles Kennedy's kind of politics.

Given his undoubted talents, abilities and personal qualities, not to mention the tragedy of his untimely demise, it is all the more disturbing to find hard-line unionists seizing on the occasion and manner of Kennedy's death as an opportunity to vent their mindless hatred of the Scottish National Party.

This is but one example of the politics of obsessive, vitriolic hate being expressed in a few callous keystrokes and with varying levels of spittle-flecked vehemence by unionists in the wake of Charles Kennedy's death.

There is a great sickness at the heart of the unionist cause. A rancid rottenness at its core. A bitter, bilious, British nationalist fanaticism has arisen which regards any obscenity as fully justified in defence of the British state. They won the referendum, but lost the country and have since been obliged to watch as those they supposed they had defeated were awarded all the prizes by Scotland's voters. 

Their resentment is implacable. All intellect is crippled by it. Rationality is abandoned in favour of base emotion. Propriety is forsaken for a revelry of petulant anger.

Some of the decency in British politics died with Charles Kennedy. Whatever remained has been killed by the cretins who have laid claim to his newly deceased body, declaring it the moral high ground while using it as a vantage point from which to spit venom at their political rivals.

Monday 1 June 2015

The new devolution

What a strange demand from Ruth Davidson. In one breath she boasts that her bosses in London are graciously giving the Scottish Parliament sweeping new tax powers, in the next she demands that the SNP make a solemn undertaking never to use those powers.

It all seems a bit crazy and contradictory, until you realise that the whole devolution process has undergone a significant shift in emphasis and purpose. It used to be that the endless constitutional tinkering was intended to fend off the electoral threat of the SNP by putting on a token show of addressing the aspirations of Scotland's people. Now, devolution is all about laying fiscal and political traps for what is presumed will be, for the foreseeable future, an SNP Scottish Government. The whole process has become an exercise in anti-SNP manipulation.

The aim is to force the administration to do things that will make it unpopular with the electorate. Essentially, the UK Government is set upon waging a campaign to undermine the Scottish Parliament in the hope of eroding popular support for the SNP and getting Holyrood back under the control of the British parties.

Of course, this campaign is all but certain to be be damaging to Scotland's economy. In order to be effective, such a campaign must impact negatively on large numbers of people in Scotland so as to provoke widespread dissatisfaction. It is, in essence, an anti-Scottish campaign.

Ruth Davidson's odd demand that the SNP promise never to use the new tax powers is just a foretaste of what is to come. The so-called "powers" being handed to the Scottish Parliament are a poisoned chalice. The Scottish Government will be attacked if it uses these "powers", and however it uses them. It will be attacked even more viciously if it rejects the "powers", or doesn't use them. Devolution is now entirely about contriving opportunities to attack the Scottish Government.

All of which creates some complex problems for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Which is hardly surprising given that this was the intention. With his Commons majority and less than token resistance from British Labour, David Cameron has moved from regarding Scotland as a nuisance to be placated to treating Scotland as an enemy to be subdued. But it may not be politic for Sturgeon to respond in similar vein. She and her team have an increasingly complex political maze to negotiate.

Personally, I have no doubt that they are up to the task. But, in the face of the nefarious machinations of the UK Government, those of us who recognise what is going on must all be resolute in our support for the First Minister and our democratically elected representatives at both Holyrood and Westminster. They are there for us. We must be there for them.