A Tale of Two Unions
Posted on September 4th, 2016
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
The Tories, as you would expect, have united behind the Brexit banner. That’s because the Tories are more concerned with retaining power than with the welfare of the country they are supposed to govern or its citizens. In keeping with this new zeal for UK independence, they are already trotting out the usual propaganda aimed at winning the next Scottish IndyRef which, coincidentally, they insist isn’t necessary.
David “Fluffy" Mundell was the latest to repeat the mantra that the best Union for Scotland is with the UK, not the union with the EU. This, of course, is a gross over-simplification of the situation aimed at influencing people who don’t bother to think beyond a headline. The fact that Scotland is currently within two Unions allows the Tories (including their allies, Labour and the Lib Dems) to conflate the term “Union" as if there is a direct comparison between the two. This is complete nonsense.
The EU is a trading union which also involves an element of political and financial union depending on whether a country uses the Euro and on what other deals it may have made for membership. Yes, the EU has its faults because all large organisations do. There is no doubt waste, bureaucracy and very probably some corruption but the EU does not wield the same sort of control over any member state that matches the control Westminster has over Scotland. Even Greece retains control over some areas of government in which Scotland must defer to the UK.
For example, the EU does not:
set our rates of tax;
Order our armed forces into conflicts;
Tell us we must retain nuclear weapons;
decide on levels of Social Security payments;
Control our monetary policy;
control our economic policy;
set laws on any areas outside those within its remit, e.g. trade & competition and Human Rights.
It is the UK Government which does all of these things and, in most cases, does them rather poorly. So the real question is whether it would be better to remain part of the UK and be controlled by Westminster, or should we go our own way and stick with the EU?
As mentioned above, the EU certainly has flaws. TTIP is probably the biggest threat it presents to our society. Nobody in their right minds thinks TTIP is a good idea. Fortunately, people appear to be seeing sense and the latest rumours from within the EU suggest that the deal might collapse. That can only be good news since the UK Government has declined to exclude public services from the scope of TTIP as currently envisaged. And that fact should serve as a warning because, assuming the UK leaves the EU and Scotland remains part of the UK, does anyone seriously believe the Tories would not sign up to a TTIP deal with the USA at the drop of a hat? TTIP’s entire premise is that it places the rights of global corporations over those of any civil authority. This is precisely the sort of society the Tories are attempting to build in the UK.
As for the much-vaunted cost of EU membership, member countries do pay their fee and receive investment funds in return, thus reducing the level of overall financial commitment. It does not, as the UK does to Scotland, take every penny and then hand back an amount which Westminster deems appropriate. Don’t be fooled by the new tax powers which are to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. These are very limited and the taxes will still, in practice, be collected by HMRC and then handed back. Whether anyone within the Scottish Government will be allowed to check and verify that the amount being handed back is accurate isn’t clear.
There is no doubt that, whatever Scotland does, it will face issues and problems. That’s life. There is no country in the world that doesn’t face problems of some sort. It is having the ability to deal with those problems that makes the difference to society. It is well known that, politically, Scotland has a very different attitude to England in how society should operate. The Tories have demonstrated their desire to punish the Disabled and Unemployed and there is no reason to believe they will not continue down this route, especially under Theresa May who will no doubt soon demonstrate that she is the most Right Wing Prime Minister the UK has ever had. If you doubt that claim, consider the Investigatory Powers Bill which she champions and which will give the UK Government the right to intercept and read every email, text or other transmitted message by any citizen. May has already instituted secret courts where people can be tried without being told what the charges are, without seeing any evidence against them, and without being able to present any defence. Big Brother is coming and that should scare us all.
But it is not only the ideology that is different. One of the other claims the Tories like Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale like to make is that the Scottish Government isn’t concentrating on its main job of running the country. It is a claim which doesn’t stack up when you look at the statistics. It is true that the Scottish Government makes mistakes and certainly doesn’t get everything right but can you name any Government that ever has got everything right? When you consider some details, though, it becomes apparent that, in the areas where the Scottish Government has control, things are a lot better than they are in England.
NHS Scotland is, by every measure, performing better than any other NHS in the UK and patient satisfaction levels are at an all time high;
Crime is at its lowest level for forty years;
Scotland has the best educated workforce of any country in the OECD;
Scotland is the only country in the world which holds the Carbon Trust’s triple Standard Certification for carbon, water & waste reduction.
Yet in every area where Westminster retains control, we see incompetence and a distinct lack of interest. According to the UK’s own figures which they supply to the Scottish Government to produce the infamous GERS figures, Scotland has the worst economy of any country in the OECD. This is despite 308 years of management by Westminster and despite Scotland possessing an enormous wealth of resources. Something, somewhere, isn’t working within this Union.
Nobody is claiming life will be easy as an independent country but surely it would be better to take control of every lever of our economy. We certainly couldn’t make a worse job of it than Westminster has done.
Then, as we adjust to life as a normal country, we’ll also be able to wave to our fellow holidaymakers from England when we jet off to Spain and breeze through the EU Citizens’ border channel while they queue up to present their visas.