Branding Scotland’s mainstream majority as ultra-unionism is a separatist slur

Branding Scotland’s mainstream majority as ultra-unionism is a separatist slur

by Allan Sutherland
article from Friday 12, February, 2021

LAST FEBRUARY Colin McKay of STV described a conference in Newcastle run by that mildest of pro-UK campaign groups, These Islands, as “ultra unionist ….mostly male and not much youth  on show”

It was his introduction to a short interview with me, after I pointed out, during one open session, that during the whole conference nobody mentioned the brutal fact there’s an election in 2021 and unless the opposition vastly ups its game the SNP will annihilate them.

A year, Brexit, Covid and multiple terrible polls later, on BBC Sunday Politics former First Minister Jack McConnell said Scottish politics is divided between extreme unionism and extreme nationalism.

I beg to differ. I’m male, 65, pro-UK so apparently I tick all of Mackay and McConnell’s “ultra/extreme unionist” boxes, and yes once I was a proud member of the 134,000 crowd that screamed profanities at Messrs Moore, Ball and Stiles at Hampden in 1970. But I grew up, got an education, travelled, lived in Essex for 5 years – and saw sense.

It’s despicable that a mainstream politician (one of those who got us into this mess) and a supposedly impartial STV reporter should caricature the hundreds of thousands of ordinary decent Scots like me who despair at what is going and want to do their bit to stop it.

How does that make me an extreme, ultra-unionist?

I could have been open to the concept of independence if it was promoted by a party and movement who had shown they could take over areas of government that had already been devolved for centuries, such as law and law enforcement, education and local government – aided by a wave of extra funding, politicians and quangos – and made a great job of it. 

Our education system might have been back at, or near, the top of world rankings.

Innovative fiscal, land and planning reforms could have dismantled the oligopoly of big building companies, their land banks and cramped, overpriced dwellings, and created more, better, truly-affordable housing, thereby reducing household costs, encouraging families to have more children and more time to spend with them and facilitate greater labour mobility. 

These two factors – education and housing – would have encouraged businesses to invest in Scotland and its skilled, mobile, hard-working labour force, made a huge dent in the attainment gap, revived the social mobility (that was a great feature the post war years), reduced poverty and ill health, and eventually the size and cost of the public sector.

What an opportunity to then say we could do more on our own and have the track record and plan to back it up…

The SNP could have demonstrated a regular GERS surplus and claim the reforms needed to finish the job would require more financial and legal “levers” and a new relationship with the UK – enshrined in a grown-up, costed, deliverable plan based on a Brexit-style treaty of independence.

With a proposition like that, and a genuine wave of confidence and enthusiasm as opposed to chip on the shoulder bravado, they might have increased their vote by 25% to 2m and won the 2014 referendum by a 55% to 45% . In that context of success I could possibly have voted for it and I would certainly have accepted the result, as would most “No” voters.

But that’s not what happened, was it?  Instead in 2007 the SNP inherited eight years of already complacent, bloated, directionless stasis. They’d have been hard put to make things worse and had a good chance of actually showing they could do better.

They actually made a great start . On 18 May, in an article headlined “All change in Calton Hill” the Scotsman wrote about a revolution in how the country would be governed.

They quoted Alex Salmond’s vision of a slimmed down, well organised and value for money public sector "I am not sure we need that complexity for a nation of five million people. If you are going to have joined-up government you need less bits to join up."

But instead of setting proper expectations and saying the transformation required to get us in shape for independence might take 10 years, they got a whiff of a referendum and proceeded to trash our education system, society and governance in their ludicrous fixation on Indy. They avoided taking tough decisions so they would not offend voters and the rot set in.

The one thing they did well was manufacture grievance against England at every turn, but using words like ‘Westminster’ and ‘London’.

Their 2014 plan has proved to be wishful thinking at best, a pack of lies at worst. Now the array of new policies just don't stack up and they have no settled position on core issues such as currency, EU, pensions, borders or Trident.

Neither can the SNP agree on how to get a legitimate referendum,  a situation that, along with the Salmond Inquiry, is ripping the party apart. As a friend said, “they’re fighting like nats in a sack”.

The country is increasingly agog at the growing evidence, rumours, and off-piste revelations from Wings Over Scotland, Common Weal and former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray. They talk very credibly about feuding and rumours of witness coercion that if true may in the end amount to crimes involving the SNP, Civil Service and the judiciary surrounding the events that led to the Salmond inquiry. Now we’ve had to rely on, of all things – The Spectator – that most traditional and conservative of British publications to go to court to force a Holyrood Committee to consider afresh the publishing of witnesses evidence.

And increasingly we get an eyeful of truly repugnant side of nationalism, the Robert the Bruce Wannabes manning the English border and 4  couch potatoes on YouTube fantasising about  shooting English policemen (pictured) if they cross the border to quell any civic unrest.

Who in their right mind can get behind any of that? Why is it ultra or extreme unionism to be against this seditious cabal trying to divide and steal my country? As comedian Leo Kerse said in a recent video, when did  the SNP become the BNP?

The answer is those who speak out against it are in the right and quite right to voice their opinions. We are the ones who can look in the mirror when this is all over and say well, at least I did my bit.

Allan Sutherland is the Director of Scotland Matters – you can follow him on Twitter @sud55allan 

Extremism? Photo of nationalists discussing shooting police that might be sent from Manchester to suppress an 'insurrection'...

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