By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I came across a tweet by Stephen Daisley the other day. He was promoting his article again, this time apparently focusing on the drugs death toll in Scotland. I will readily admit that I did not read the article because Daisley really only writes one piece, and it’s always about how awful the SNP are, and how Scotland is uniquely incapable of operating like a normal country. I did, though, take a quick look at some of the replies, and that is really what has prompted this piece. That’s because most of the responses pointed the finger of blame very squarely at the SNP in general and Nicola Sturgeon in particular. Not a single one of these respondents seemed to have any idea that drugs policy is reserved to Westminster. I’m sure Stephen Daisley knows that well enough, but presumably he either glossed over it or didn’t mention it in his article. Or perhaps the respondents simply gave a knee-jerk reply because blaming the SNP for everything is their default reaction.

This lack of basic understanding of how devolution works is a testament to the power of the British media in Scotland. By keeping people ignorant, they can play on fears and distract from the fundamental point that independence is normal. It is so normal that, even if the SNP were the worst Government in the world (and they’d need to go some to be worse than the Westminster lot), then I would still want Scotland to become independent. That’s because, once we are a normal country, we can elect whichever Government we like, and elections will not always be overshadowed by the constitutional question.

Getting back to the drugs death figures, I will agree that they make grim reading. But blaming the Scottish Government ignores the fact that addictions to drugs, tobacco and alcohol are symptoms of poverty, not causes. Poverty is a result of Tory rule, and Scotland has been particularly badly hit since the days of Margaret Thatcher and her de-industrialisation which offered very little in the way of alternative sources of employment.

There are ways to tackle the drugs problem, and Portugal has done an incredible job on that front, proving that alternative strategies can work. The Tories, though, will never budge in their view that criminalisation of drug users (unless they are Tory MPs) is the way to go. The Scottish Government is, as with so many aspects of governing a country, operating with its hands tied because of Westminster control. This should be self-evident, yet as the replies to Stephen Daisley’s tweet demonstrate, it clearly is not evident to some people.

As ever, the media is going to provide the greatest obstacle to independence. I was unlucky enough to hear a radio news bulleting on Heart Radio just this morning. There was a snippet about politics, with an SNP spokesperson being quoted by the newsreader, and then a clip being played of a Tory MSP giving his response. The subject of the snippet is not important here; what is important is the way these pieces of news are presented. Pro-Indy politicians are usually quoted by the newsreader, but pro-Union politicians tend to have their quotes recorded and played back. Should that make a difference? It shouldn’t, but it does. Listeners hear the words being spoken by the person concerned, and are more likely to remember that because it stands out from the rest of the newscast. It’s a subtle and common trick, used by most broadcasters, and it’s another media weapon we will need to overcome in our quest to become a normal country.