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From Glenrothes to EWNI

Mike Small
17 October 2008

Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): Last week's lost cause is this week's cause celebre. Mr Bean - virtually laughed out of office two weeks ago - is this week's giant of fiscal rectitude bestriding the world stage like a colossus of economic management. Inconvenient truths like the role New Labour played in the deregulation of goods and services, the 'liberation' of the Bank of England or support for the policy of basing your economy on spiralling housing prices, are swept aside in the glib wave of back-slapping that is sweeping the political commentariat.

The media is fickle, not feral.

Gleefully Jim Murphy the new Scottish Secretary mocks the SNP with reference to the 'arc of insolvency', a reference to the 'arc of prosperity' that the SNP have used to describe Iceland, Ireland and Norway. The problem with Labour's new found chutzpah is that they are treading on thin ice. The markets are faltering, the terrain unpredictable. Just as the SNP's original triumvirate of Ireland, Iceland and Norway was a too-convenient set, it equally fails as an example of why Scotland must be held to the Union. Norway is doing fine in the financial crisis, Iceland is not. The scale and impact of crisis has little or nothing to do with the size and constitutional make-up of the country involved.

Brown's argument, and Angus McLeod's commentary, excludes the role of the British financial community in landing us in this. As one respondent from Forres succinctly put it:

Sorry Angus, but I still think we can build a better Scotland than the one we've got (or you can imagine) through independence. Neither your sour form of the cringe, nor the collapse of 2 UK banks brought down by a failure of UK regulation and UK political incompetence, will convince me otherwise.

Angus McLeod's newspaper it should be remembered is one that still refers - in a fit of wonderful wishful thinking - to the long defunct 'Scottish Executive'.

If anything the collapse strengthens the hands of those of us arguing for a more radical departure from the British State, one that transforms not just the constitution, but the economy and the polity. The financial collapse that Bush and Brown have presided over will not strengthen the Union, it will hasten the Republic.

Norman Dombey puts a geopolitical question over at the Guardians Comment is Free:

What will be the fate of "Britain's" nuclear deterrent if Scotland becomes independent? If the result of the Glenrothes byelection on November 6 mirrors that of Glasgow East, an answer may soon be needed. This is the biggest conundrum among a series of challenges concerning Scotland's stance on defence if the country were to become an independent state - leaving England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) as a separate independent state.

Norman seems quite clear which way the wind blows, summarising thus: 'The SNP Conference in Perth this week will have plenty to discuss. Their decisions could reshape the strategic map of Europe.'

At the same time his assumptions seem fixed in the current military-industrial complex. Many of us would prefer that Scottish civil society was realigned not to be dependent on military bases dotted around the country. The question seems stuck around the bizarre issue of 'how would an independent Scotland send troops to Afghanistan?' Rather than the blindingly obvious alternative: what else could we putting our resources into other than this mad imperial misadventure?

Less optimistic - or perhaps far more - Hamish Macdonell, the Scotsman's Political Editor writes in praise of Iain Gray, Red Wendy's replacement heading up the Scottish Labour Party in Holyrood. In an incredible passage Macdonell writes:

There have been several reports from the constituency of canvas returns showing a hardening of the Labour vote, of SNP supporters moving over to Labour, of voters wanting to demonstrate faith in the Prime Minister and even of Tory switchers moving to Labour simply to make sure the SNP doesn't win it.

Now then where might these 'several reports' have emanated from, exactly? One wonders. It's a stretch not so much of credulity as credibility that a senior journalist could pen these words and attempt to maintain a scintilla of political detachment.

The idea of SNP supporters going over to Labour seems far-fetched, and surely needs to be backed up by some reference other than hearsay, while the SNP remains convincingly ahead in You Gov polls (as the First Minister mentions in the weekends Politics Show).

However the idea of Tories voting for Labour - particularly at a time of a 'national crisis' (which obviously sparks the questions: whose nation? whose crisis?) is not so difficult to imagine. After all, what would possibly be the policy issue that would prevent them?

However, whether Macdonell's musings are manufactured, imagined or carefully placed is irrelevant. There's no doubt that Brown is benefiting not so much from having led us into this disastrous financial meltdown, but seeming to be the person to turn to in such a crisis, as the realisation has sunk in that the Tories policies are equally superficial.

But quite whether Macdonell's extraordinary suggestion that: "Some Labour MSPs are secretly allowing themselves to dream of a victory in next month's Glenrothes by-election" is based on anything other than wishful thinking, we shall see.

The efforts by Labour to make political capital against the independence movement on the back of the collapsing failure of capitalism is as doomed as Bradford and Bingley shares portfolio.

Having assiduously cultivated the sense that they are the friend of big business, banking and finance deregulation and private capital, it's going to be very difficult for Labour to now pretend that they are the ones who will stand up to and regulate the banks. This is the old stick of fear that Labour traditionally uses to beat down independence.

This is politics a la Karl Rove.

It failed last year and the year before as caricatures of independence were put together to instil fear into people's minds. At the last Scottish elections arch-unionist dinosaurs like John Reid and George Foulkes were rolled out to persuade voters that if they voted SNP the skies would darken over and their first born would be seized. It's the politics of failure. The failure to articulate any alternative vision of a good society or to innovate beyond bailing out failed banks and a crumbling degenerate economic system. It's not going to win them Glenrothes, never mind save the Union.

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