Scotland ‘a commodity’? That’s public policy.

by | 25 Feb 2022

As the SNP and too much of the independence movement continues to 'wheesht for indy', economic policy in Scotland is moving well to the right of anything Michael Forsyth ever achieved

The sorry position into which the ‘independence movement’ is manoeuvring itself was starkly revealed by two stories in yesterday’s media. One the one hand a massive lurch to the Osborne-right of the political spectrum; on the other an ever-increasing degree of outrage at trivialities.

Why do I place ‘independence movement’ in inverted commas? Because the picture painted by these two stories does not reflect the independence movement I know (or perhaps knew). That was independently-minded, intelligent, critical and seeking to escape the corrosive effective of, well, the Osborne-right.

That remains the position of the vast majority of the movement, but because it has been so suppressed and fragmented (neither accidental results of SNP leadership actions) our public face now looks quite different.

The first story is in the National and it involves people getting up to high doh about a marketing stunt in which a computer games company is going to give away tokenistic plots of land in Scotland as a gimmick for the game’s launch. Various people got upset that this is treating Scotland like ‘a commodity’.

But ask yourself this – why is it Scottish land that is being given away to gamers from around the world? The game itself is not set in Scotland but in a fictional mystical fantasy land replete with elves and orcs. It would have made every bit as much sense to give away pieces of Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland or the Czech Republic.

Sadly these countries generally have a bit more self-esteem than Scotland. For example, Denmark makes it illegal for anyone who isn’t a citizen to purchase land. We positively beg the rich to come and buy up our assets.

That takes us to the second story. In the Herald Tom Gordon has quite clearly received a leak of the new economic strategy for Scotland to be published next week by the Scottish Government. That will replace the one produced last year which replaced the one produced the year before that and has been created by a economic advisory group set up to replace the then-existing economic advisory group.

And Tom Gordon’s take on it? That it is startlingly right-wing. Tom is no socialist and didn’t produce any analysis of how right-wing the Growth Commission was, even though that was startlingly right-wing. So it implies a degree of rightward shift that is more significant even than all the previous rightward shifts.

It would have made every bit as much sense to give away pieces of Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland or the Czech Republic, but sadly these countries generally have a bit more self-esteem than Scotland

From the details he reveals it would seem he is clearly right. The education curriculum and the entire gamut of government regulatory action are to become the province of corporations who will now be gatekeepers to Scotland’s democracy. This so Scotland will become a haven for corporate money, a place where everything is for sale.

When the Growth Commission came out it was a difficult time for Common Weal. We stood virtually alone (along with some individuals like George Kerevan) in opposing its blatantly right-wing pitch. It was us who had to lead the campaign against it (which resulted in the party overturning one of its most egregious elements).

The problem was that an awful lot of people who should have believed us didn’t believe us. They bought into the whole story of Poverty Tsars and closing the attainment gap in schools. These narratives couldn’t be from the same party, right? Lovely to the poor, even lovelier to the rich? It had to be one or the other, surely?

It was. The Poverty Tsar sleeps with the fishes having had the temerity of producing a report stating that the Scottish Government had done nothing substantial on poverty and the attainment gap promise turned into a testing regime for children which people at the time struggled to believe was as right-wing as it sounded.

It is only now that it is starting to dawn on people that they may have been victims of fraud – because where the left-leaning promises have largely gone unfulfilled, the right-leaning promises have been delivered in spades.

Every square inch of the SNP is still busy wheeshting for an independence referendum which never, ever comes

Had I (back in those heady days of 2016/17) claimed that Scotland’s energy future would be sold off to foreign corporations for peanuts and with virtually no conditionality attached, I’d have been attacked for hysteria. Repeat the oil mistake line-for-line? No way.

Had I predicted that the Scottish Government would whole-heartedly embrace low-tax free ports in the heart of Scotland I’d have been called a conspiracy theorist. The cognitive dissonance between what was said and what was done was too great for many people to resolve at the time.

And that time was well used by the SNP leadership in the pursuit of at least one of its goals – total control over the entire story of Scottish independence. I will one day document exactly how officials went about dismantling, suppressing and fragmenting the 2014 movement (the Growth Commission was key, as were vitriolic attacks on the Scottish Independence Convention).

Now it seems confident enough to announce an economic plan which is way to the right of anything Tony Blair or even Michael Forsyth ever thought they could get away with, safe in the knowledge that once again it’ll be only Common Weal likely to fight (along with criticism from trade unions).

Why is a global computer game company treating Scotland’s land like promotional plastic figurines or novelty elf ears? Because making it as easy as possible is public policy in Scotland. That some people still believe the Scottish Government is pursuing serious land reform is beyond me.

Why does the National seem more concerned about a minor promo-stunt than by the ScotWind auction? Write in and ask them folks.

Why is Scotland treated like a commodity? Because the Scottish Government demands it. How can they get away with it? Because much of the independence movement and every square inch of the SNP is still busy wheeshting for an independence referendum which never, ever comes.

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