I AM OLD ENOUGH and indeed fortunate enough to have had the sort of education that seems, alas, to have fallen by the wayside for political reasons. By the end of my early years at secondary school, I understood that the British parliamentary system was intended, not to represent every possible view in the country, but to provide a mandate to govern by the party favoured by the majority. In our parliamentary system, each elected constituency MP should represent the interests of all their constituents, and be available to serve them without favour. Unfortunately this understanding no longer seems to exist.
I first became fully aware of this change when I approached my local Labour MP and asked for his help with a planning issue. Members of my local planning department were oblivious to their legal obligations so I needed independent help and advice. The first thing my MP said to me was, “Why should I help you? You are a Tory.” I replied that I was a constituent, and moreover that I was a significant local employer and rate payer. Despite hearing me out, he did not help me in any way, and ignored my invitation to attend the opening of my much delayed new factory extension.
Sadly such political tribalism is now commonplace, with one SNP minister reflecting on Twitter recently that Tories make her want to “boak”, in spite of the fact they comprise tens of thousands of ordinary hard-working constituents. Such politicians could do with spending less time pandering to the baser instincts of narrow audiences on social media and more time delivering social and economic improvements for their long-suffering and disrespected taxpayers.
Instead those running local and central government alike can learn many lessons from successful business models on how to maximise the use of money and minimising waste, while delivering a full service to the taxpayer.
Unfortunately, since the SNP assumed effective control of the Scottish Parliament, the party’s primary agenda has been about reinforcing its power grabbing tendency. It drives a relentless campaign for independence from the rest of the UK, co-opting supporters in the public sector, press and trades unions as cheerleaders for separatism, rather than attending to the business they got a mandate to deliver from the voting public in Scotland.
A key problem is that in spite of the fact that large swathes of policy are reserved to Westminster oversight, Holyrood increasingly seems to recognise no limit to its members’ authority, or legal remit. Members whose job it should be to fix struggling healthcare and failing educational systems waste time debating foreign affairs and tasking civil servants to hypothesise at vast taxpayers’ expense about monetary policy, and Brexit, while ignoring the things that really matter the most to the mass of the Scottish population who deserve to be properly represented. That includes the majority of the electorate who did not vote for independence, and who still do not want it, or another divisive referendum.
Woe betide anyone who asks MSPs to stick to their day jobs. The SNP was an early adopter of a policy of tacit encouragement for the worst excesses of hysteria and fanaticism amongst its most extreme supporters on social media. Those of us committed to Scotland, but not committed to the polarising agenda of those in power, find ourselves vilified.
I speak from experience as someone who is frequently told that my company, which employs people of many different political views, will never be able to sell my products in Scotland because I am hostile towards Scottish independence. They neither know nor care that like most major manufacturers in Scotland who export to worldwide markets, we sell less than two per cent of what we make within Scotland. Our biggest market by far is England, and the rest of the UK. (Pictured - the iconic Linn Sondek LP12 that started the company's success - Ed).
What we do provide on our doorstep are viable and productive jobs, valuable tax revenues, and an example of a strong work ethic which has made us relevant and successful in the real economy; not the imaginary economy that online warriors tell us is just around the corner if we vote ‘Yes’ to independence.
For a healthy and prosperous Scotland, we need a broad-based competitive economy and tax regime, and we need to educate our people on the constitutional and economic realities of the UK, and Scotland. In particular, what we must disseminate is a fundamental understanding of how the most successful democratic system in the world evolved, how it worked, and why ignorance and arrogance is putting our future at jeopardy.
Ivor S Tiefenbrun MBE
Board member of SBUK and founder of Linn Products Limited