England - not bothered about Scotland?

England - not bothered about Scotland?

by Eben Wilson
article from Monday 13, January, 2020

CONVERSATIONS in the South of England over the festive season have convinced me of a change taking root. It’s a driven by the political re-focussing towards the needs of the North of England as an outcome of the December election. 

As a global Scot I have often suggested to Scots in Scotland that we should never under-estimate the power of the English should they turn against us.  That’s not a call to arms, nor for use as a reason for independence; it’s a pragmatic stance in that we are inter-connected economically within a globalised world where we operate together and relationships matter.  There is a parallel here with the SNP idea that Scotland is connected into the European Project and needs the “togetherness” of the EU to thrive. 

But there is a difference. England has decided it does not need support of the regulatory and mercantilist kind offered by the EU – looking forwards. Scotland, at least the SNP in Scotland, favours this life of protection and control – looking backwards.

And so the change; it is apparent to me that the South of England not only doesn’t care what Scotland thinks, people there are actively beginning to object to Scotland’s stance.  When even Michael Heseltine declares that the Remainer fight is over and we need to look forwards, Nicola Sturgeon’s stance is more and more seen as carping grievance. 

That one-dimensional politics can actually become damaging is of course unpalatable to the SNP – acting positively to build UK relationships would threaten its existence – but think of Scotland’s position in marketing terms; we are seen in the South as a small supplier, with possibly hostile views, self-serving, and dedicated to an EU relationship which the English plan to push away to arms-length.  Does that, in terms of real politic, offer strategic leadership for economic success?  

Worse, if our largest market turns away in disgust, is Scotland left with only an even greater branch office presence in the UK economy, with deliveries from Manchester? 

To quote one of my relatives, Scotland faces locking itself into being “a great wee country with a fabulous past ahead of it”. 

Which brings us to the Scottish Conservatives; Linda Holt’s piece on this site lays down a good challenge to their dullness and clubbishness.  We all know that there are many small “c” conservatives; those who take the position that devolution has all been a mistake, Holyrood is a useless and ugly sinkhole for our taxes and by ignoring it or laughing at it we can pretend it isn’t there and instead live and work as British people or businesses.   But for the Scottish Conservative Party to kowtow to this negativity, the only response can be look at the polls and recognise that the use of power affects us all with its mistakes. 

And power is what the SNP is for. Its advocates lay claim to be good administrators; and nice people to do business with; but their core ideas are essentially socialist, in tune with their core vote. They want to control Scotland’s destiny; to do that they need to deceive the half of Scotland that actually does not believe in socialism. That duplicity is intrinsic to their strategies for success; and they are very successful at it, given their actual performance in education, health and social support policies despite massive deficit spending. 

For the Scottish Conservatives, this should be an open door through which to drive a counter-attack based on evidence and a wide offering of new policies.  But they have to do this on the basis of Scotland’s needs and outcomes for Scotland, taking the Union as a given and, as Linda Holt has also stressed, not harping on and on about it.  There is an opportunity to be grasped, now, where Conservatives can divest themselves of the pro-EU legacy of Ruth Davidson, and operate within the same globalist perspective as Southern England but not be slavish to Westminster. 

In fact, Scotland’s stance should be the opposite to the negativity the SNP is offering now. Downing Street is eager for supportive new ideas.   Scotland’s Conservatives should be knocking on No 10’s door offering those – acting as enterprising equals within a new Union looking outwards. 

And in policy, there is time to be brave. Eighteen months to the Holyrood elections is not long, but “the Tories” start from such a low point that they can go no higher unless they become to be seen as Scots’ centric and not toadies of Westminster.  Not a lot can be lost in shaking up Holyrood with some new ideas for Scotland that put the Scottish Conservatives at the centre of debate even if they are only floated as ideas. 

  • Scotland could introduce a Road Use Levy for all visitors heading north of the Ochils. The levy could be made tax neutral by using the revenue to cut income tax rates to less than that of England.  That includes higher rate thresholds that punish the ambitions of the skilled.
  • Scotland could be demanding that, post Brexit, the UK can set differing levels of VAT across sectors. A reduction to 10 per cent for the hospitality industry could be proposed. 
  • Scotland could scrap the Land and Buildings Tax. Defend this on the basis that property turnover promotes the enterprising self-employed blue collar trades. 
  • Scotland could change the BBC licence fee to become a voluntary subscription.  Let the BBC contract for its Scottish audience. 
  • Sajid Javid is re-organising National Insurance.  Scotland could be asking for control over NIC (payroll taxes) and re-introduce a contributory element to build Providence Accounts for the next generation’s social care and support. 
  • In the NHS, life health planning on the Californian Kaiser Permanente mutual for managed care could be adopted.  Those in work could pay for their prescriptions from their own care fund. A hypothecated levy from tobacco and alcohol duties could endow an individual’s right to an ambulance service. Drunks and drug addicts could pay a fee for the ambulance that takes them to hospital out of their Providence Account. 
  • Budgets payments for local councils could pass through lower-level community councils who can opt out of council provided services or re-commission them from alternative suppliers, including highly localised suppliers. 
  • All Scottish oil revenues could be saved into a Sovereign Wealth Account.  That wealth could be offered as collateral (but not loans) to Scottish town development corporations to issue infrastructure bonds. 
  • The fishing industry needs to be given an environmental challenge; to rebuild itself over a decade through self-regulatory constraint on output. The farming industry likewise, it needs to innovate to a new product offering. In return the food and drink bureaucracy could lose half its staff and most of its regulations.  We can start again, and trade globally in quality. 
  • In education, not only parents, but teachers too could be carriers of funding packages.  We could scrap half of the qualifications and standards “blob” and no-one would notice. 
  • For industry, Scottish Enterprise could be closed, its agency for Innovate UK and other research funding could revert to UK management. Any business development funding could be highly localised for single trader start-ups alone.  All government taxpayer funded networking, business advice and so-called “development support services” could be scrapped. 

 

Now, a politician looking for votes is likely to see many of these ideas as foolhardy rather than brave, but so be it. The “effing Tories” have nothing to lose here, except Scotland itself to a socialist miasma of sclerotic badly managed public services based on models that became outdated in the 1970’s. The centre-right in Scotland needs to decide whose side it is on. That cannot merely be the professional wealth-owning middle classes; many of whom feed of a Scottish Government they secretly view as merely an administrative executive to be tapped. 

The Scottish Conservatives not only need to obtain a lot of votes, they have to get onto the electoral map as being relevant to a modern, outward looking, advanced trading nation; supportive of all levels of self-reliance and wealth creation.  

We need a fabulous future, not a fabulous past.  Now is the time to invent it, leaving the left in the dust wondering what happened to them… that’s what England has done, and they now think we look quaint. 

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