julietJuliet Swann says both government and opposition is failing Scotland, and it’s time to call a moratorium on the simplistic either/or choice of independence and buckle down to the hard work of fixing the mess we’re in, together.


British politics is a mess. Wait, who am I kidding, internationally politics is a mess. In country after country we are seeing election after election demonstrating a feeling of discontent and of being ignored that sees voters choosing the party, individual or decision that represents a break from the status quo.

This is unusual. Voters usually like continuity, certainty and reassurance. But in the digital information age, where it is easier than ever to have your own opinions echoed back at you, where it takes moments to find ‘news’ that supports your views, voters are rebelling against the seeming ‘elite rule’. They don’t believe what they are told unless it fits their world view.

The problem is that our view of the world is fractured. Every individual is experiencing life differently in every moment, so no one person, cause or movement can speak to everyone, or even a defined group of anyone, at any one time. The days of Honda man and Waitrose woman (or whatever the focus groups care to call them) are over. In fact arguably the only causes that define groups now are the binary choices we have been spoon fed via referendums.

Politics hasn’t caught up with the sheer variety and multiplicity that is the 21st century. Despite the fact that (most of) our politicians deal daily with individual constituents and therefore see the personal stories that create this kaleidoscope of experiences more clearly than perhaps others, the systems that are in place to develop policy and progress change are failing. Even Trump is discovering that bureaucracy and public discontent prevents the action that he believes voters want. The black and white approach – vote, nothing much changes, vote – of the past is lost in a grey fog.

And in Scotland this discontent seems to be wrapped up in independence. Rather than seeing fault in our local systems (of which there are legion), independence supporting Scots have identified Westminster as the source of all evil. In some ways this bears a similarity to Trump’s pledge to ‘drain the swamp’. Westminster, its secrecy, its archaic customs and the legacy of years of white wealthy men being elected to parliament, is an easy target for ire, just as the seemingly remote world of Washington politics is to most middle Americans.

Can we just walk away? Arguably yes. We have our own parliament, we have our own legal system, education service, NHS. But at the end of the day, would Scotland’s departure reform Westminster or cause the elite to dig their heels in yet further? And let’s face it, it couldn’t be a clean break, it’s just bound to be a messy divorce.

The impact of Trump’s election shows us (if that was required) that politics is global. Even if Scotland were independent we would still be influenced by England and her parliament. As Brexit is demonstrating, relationships – from trade to travel – are multi-layered and complex and will be hard to disentangle, or re-establish. If an independent Scotland does join the EU, we will be part of a wider decision making enterprise that will also seek to have a relationship with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our interest in what’s happening in America is not just economic, it’s built on centuries of relationship building – and far fewer years than we’ve spent building relationships with the rest of the UK. We can’t walk away.

And in any case, are the systems we would be substituting really that much better? Or are they just preferable to a place that has become akin to the bogeyman?

In the 20 years since the devolution referendum Scotland has led the wider UK towards excellent policy changes like the smoking ban, tough climate change targets, LGBT rights, free prescription charges (okay, just Wales) and more. (And by the way, these things usually happen when we see collaboration across party lines – funny that.) But equally, in some cases we are all making mistakes and failing the least advantaged in our society.

Scotland has missed child poverty targets and fuel poverty targets. Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are depressingly constant. We have failed to challenge the power of corporations, including the banks, and more often than not local communities are frozen out of decision making. Council tax banding is stuck in the pre-housing boom age, and Scotland’s freeze / unfreeze without reform is a real failure of leadership. Obfuscation around economic policy in Scotland, with blame being directed at Westminster or local authorities rather than an intelligent examination of the difficulties of the current financial constraints across the board, is cowardly. The demise of Scotland’s education system is unacceptable and should be the focus of even more effort than is being shown now, so late in the day. And the blame does not just lie at the feet of the governing party – that opposition, both at Holyrood and Westminster – is so weak as to allow these failures to just float by without any criticism hitting home is profoundly frustrating.

And so I humbly suggest that the energies of democracy be directed not towards yet another poll based on another simplistic ‘either/or’ scenario, but on working together to improve what we have. Let’s call a moratorium on independence, just until we can see what we might achieve when we focus on something else for a while. Who knows where that may lead us, but for me, calling for another independence referendum – or your only argument being accusing the SNP of being about to do so – is just further delaying the increasingly important work at hand.

For every month that we don’t work to improve education, or tackle poverty, address inequality, or regulate economic institutions, we postpone our shared future. And it will be shared. How can it be otherwise? As we are witnessing with Brexit, even a win doesn’t miraculously make the future bright and straightforward, it doesn’t help the losing side and it doesn’t entirely appease the supporters of the win either. And I’m so tired of hearing ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘if onlys’. I want to hear about a shared direction. I want to focus on what we agree on and for the best and the brightest to be working for compromise or to develop solutions where there is disagreement.

Because at the moment all we are doing is fostering division. I agree that often the discussion itself is reasonable and thoughtful. But then the discussion reaches the dead end or at least the ‘wait until’ that is independence. All parties use it, to cover up their own failings, their internal strife, their lack of policy direction or their honest confusion and dismay.

So buck up, Scottish politics. I don’t really care why you’re glossing over the detail, or playing bait and switch with people’s lives. I just want it to stop. I’m done waiting. Let’s fix this mess now.

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28 thoughts on “Let’s fix this mess now

  1. Scotland has a budget controlled by a foreign power outwith Scotland. Scotland cannot apply its full resources revenues incomes and assets on itself.

    Does it not occur to people like you Juliet that our present state of affairs is purely a direct result of this constitutional arrangement?

    That the answer THE ONLY ANSWER is to change this constitutional arrangement?

    I know the Labour party agrees with this because Labour policy is to keep Devolving more powers to Scotland. Problem is they don’t want to Devolve more powers to Scotland. Labour are an English political party run from London spread across the UK.

    Labour are trying to pretend they are a Scottish political party in Scotland an English political party in England and a Welsh political party in Wales.

    Once again we hear Labour offering up Devo Max Home Rule and Federation not because they believe in these constitutional arrangements or have any intention of actually delivering anywhere near these constitutional arrangements but because they are failing to attract Scottish voters to their party and out of old political habits they promise us all the Gold we can eat if only you’d trust us this time.

    There is only ONE answer for Scotland and that is to remove Westminster from the Scottish political equation completely that way we can employ our FULL resource potential our FULL revenue potential our FULL asset potential here in Scotland and not have it “Pooled and shared” throughout the SE of England.
    And if that isn’t enough then NOTHING will be. NOTHING! Because that’s the very best we can hope to be.

    1. ” Labour policy is to keep devolving more powers to Scotland. Problem is they don’t want to devolvemore powers to Scotland” Shome mishtake shurely. Just a touch confused, are we, Mike?

      1. Don’t be a bigger arse than you can help Jimbob.
        If it wasn’t for the threat of full Independence Scotland wouldn’t have a Devolved Parliament at all.
        Labour supported the idea of Devolution because they believed it would kill Independence now they are being forced by the growing support for Independence to once again pretend they believe in Devo Max Home Rule and Federation.
        More worthless promises more worthless vows from a branch office controlled from a leadership in London who aint promising Devo Max Home Rule or Federation to anybody.
        We’re supposed to believe that there is a Labour Ideology for Scotland one for England and one for Wales.
        We’re supposed to believe that there are separate distinct Individual Labour parties in the UK not one single party run and controlled from London.
        Problem is Jimbob nobody believes that no matter how badly you try to present this farce.
        Labour will always be the party who offered Scotland the least possible level of Devolution possible and gave Wales nothing but an Assembly instead of a Parliament.

      2. When Labour were in charge of Hollyrood they degraded its significance by referring to themselves as nothing but an Executive administration.
        And because Labour were also in power at Westminster that is indeed all they were. We in effect had no Devolution at all until 2007 when a REAL Scottish political party took control and turned it from an Executive administration into a Devolved Government not directed and controlled from London.
        If Labour again gain control over the Parliament then it wont matter how many devolved powers it has it will once again revert back to being nothing more than an executive administration controlled from London.

  2. another instance of the Homer Simpson arguement against independence.

    “Son, I always say, if something’s hard to do, then it ain’t worth doing.”

    Of course it’ll be messy. But we’re already in a mess, as you point out.

  3. Yet another indy smearing piece from SLab, ‘too hard’ they wail.
    As for fostering division? It is already there and will never be healed. I would never come together and work with rabid brit yoons. I despise you. You have held us back too long.

  4. We currently have two parliaments which, for different reasons, are not functioning properly. Westminster lacks a fully operative opposition because of the different operations and representations of the two major parties. While the campaign over the EU was never a clear cut party division, the Tories, as ever, are better at keeping their divisions behind closed doors and, while Corbyn made some contributions to the ‘debate’ on the EU they were too complicated to get much coverage. Labour is being ripped apart and ripping itself apart, not least by the master puppeteer, (the unelected) Mandelson, with a gap between membership and parts of the PLP. The Scottish presence has been often useful and heartening but has also been selective in its representation. The 56 out of 59 card is played over and over again, equating SNP MPs as ‘the voice of Scotland, momentarily forgetting that the first past the post system does not lead to a set of representatives that reflect the diversity of political opinion within the electorate of Scotland. Each of these positions is enhanced by the mainstream media, with Corbyn’s economics, actually no more radical than those of Merkel, being characterised as ‘Trotskyite’ and little attention paid to the dolorous record of the present government on the economy, the social services and the environment or the internal mud-wrestlings of the ego-fest of the cabinet.

    At Holyrood, the better electoral system has broken down in its delivery, not through any Machiavellian manoeuvres but through the combinatory consequences of the referenda. The strong presence of Blairite heritage makes SNP look radical (with a blind eye turned to the solely gestural position regarding land reform, for instance) and who knows how long it will take Labour to overcome the heritage of the disastrous appointments of the head of Glasgow’s Labour mafiosa followed by the arch-hypocrisy of Murphy. The dominance of the remaining question of possible independence debilitates Labour opposition in perception with the narrow categorisation of Labour as the tool of Better Together skewing the memory of the earlier functioning of Holyrood. (It was possible to oppose independence without flying the flag of fantasy and lies of BT but that was the not the road taken,) Some of the improvements identified above were the product of the Labour/LibDem coalition but they are written out of political awareness. This means that the effective opposition to SNP rests on the numerically weak shoulders of the Greens. The issue is not a matter of appraising the progressive or regressive nature of SNP policies; a crucial part of any democratic system is the provision of an able and critical opposition.

    This applies particularly to the issue of local government. There is a disabling of critique, primarily due to ignorance. We have the largest areas in terms of populace and space defined as ‘local’ in western Europe which encourages a sense of detachment and anonymity. We have also failed to undo the legacy of Thatcher in keeping the purse strings controlled centrally, albeit with a devolved centre, a system which was designed to empower ‘approved’ local governments and to provide the means to demonise ‘disapproved’ ones. It is unhelpful to see debates over the forthcoming elections filtered through the lens of independence as this focus lessens the very real failings (and occasional achievements) of local government.

    Finally, I was saddened to see that the first comment concentrates solely on independence and sees that as a panacea. No, it is not the case that ‘our present state of affairs is purely a direct result of this constitutional arrangement’. There are issues of the disempowerment of the nation state by globalisation, the triumph of places on the spectrum of neoliberal economics as the economic orthodoxy, the only momentarily suspended willingness to kowtow to the interests of the oil industry and the daunting power of corporations and Big Pharma, the cross border influence of nationalism of the ‘blood and honour’ variety (which, to be fair, SNP has now rejected), the substantial reform needed of the EU whether we are in it or not, the imperialist interests of the US not abandoned by Obama but taken into unpredictable directions by the new regime, the enhanced instabilities of the Middle East and east Africa made worse by our turning a blind eye to the human rights record of Saudi Arabia et al and the breaches of international law and the Geneva Convention by successive Israeli governments dependent upon the financial and political support of the west, the favouring of landlords over tenants and the consistent serving of the 1% across most of the political spectrum. Independence can bring a more accountable system of governance (and I am in favour of it) but to see it as the only solution rests upon a mixture of delusion and patience which fails to take on the scale of the task and the complexities of power.

  5. “The 56 out of 59 card is played over and over again, equating SNP MPs as ‘the voice of Scotland, momentarily forgetting that the first past the post system does not lead to a set of representatives that reflect the diversity of political opinion within the electorate of Scotland.”

    Except for the fact that it is reflected in the Scottish Parliament election results as well with a different more proportional voting system.
    Both voting system reflect the fact that nearly half the electorate of Scotland are voting SNP within a diverse ideological split between 6 competitive choices.

    “Finally, I was saddened to see that the first comment concentrates solely on independence and sees that as a panacea. No, it is not the case that ‘our present state of affairs is purely a direct result of this constitutional arrangement’”

    Yes it actually FACTUALLY IS the case! We are where we are for no other reason than the State of the Union. The unbalanced criminally run despotic nature of the corruption Westminster represents is holding Scotland back from its vast potential.

    An unpayable debt not of our making expenditure not of our choosing foreign policy not to our liking imposed ideology detrimental to our welfare.

    Its a sad sick unnecessary State of affairs that is only a referendum away from changing. But as long as there is the level of reality denying people like you indulge in then it may be a sad sick state of affairs we will be stuck with for the foreseeable future.

    Even when you people make a decent attempt at sounding reasonable and pliable you still cant get away from having to ignore or deny the very reality we all are living with.

    Scotland can do nothing to help itself within this unbalanced union. It simply cant because its smothered by a stronger more powerful influence dragging us off into directions we don’t want to go in but which cost us resources manpower revenues and assets we need at home.

    It really is that fucking simple!

    Independence wont bring Brigadoon but it will remove us from Alcatraz.

  6. Its Scotland or the Tories, we know who labour picked last time and you know the result of that.

    Everyone is watching to see who labour will pick next time.

  7. Juliet, you said it. Let’s fix this mess now. With an Independant Scotland.

  8. Really is time to stop the experiment that was the SNP …. 10 Years they have had and the only thing to show for it is …. everything is worse ….. Lets disband the non political lets just work together party and get down to tackling the abysmal mess that is the result of a decade of NATIONALISM ….

    1. Everything is worse? Take a look at how bad things have become south of the border and then be grateful that we have at least some level; of protection afforded to us by having a devolved parliament. Unfortunately, Westminster cuts are still having an impact and Scotland lacks the balance of taxation powers to allow us to take a different path.

      Independence is the first step to creating the kind of society we wish to be.

    2. No actually that’s a bare faced LIE. Nothing is worse. No public service in Scotland is worse off as a result of SNP Government. ALL are in fact better off.
      Take any service any issue and compare it from 2007 and the result will see we are better off.
      And for fuck sake try and do it without stupidly lying its gets really fucking tiring highlighting and pointing out stupid in your face bare faced lying.

  9. I think this article is missing the point. Like it or not we have effectively had a UKIP take over of the UK government: indeed we actually had a UKIP MEP recently saying that the Conservative government was too extreme for his tastes.

    Fraser of Allander are estimating 80,000 jobs going in Scotland thanks to Brexit. The deficit is bad enough as it is. What are we going to cut to fund that? The NHS has got to be in the firing line.

    The UK government is planning to dramatically reduce the number of international students coming to Scotland which will financially destabilise our Universities: it’s impossible to see the free education policy continuing without the fees paid by these students in addition to the cultural loss. My daughter won’t have the opportunity to work and travel in Europe that I had.

    On top of that the ageing of our population will be accelerated thanks to the immigration cuts too which will increase our deficit further in the long term.

    Meanwhile, a free trade deal is proposed with the USA. In order to provide a level playing field for our companies we will need to cut the minimum wage, tax, environmental and labour standards to the level of Trump’s America. Otherwise our companies will be wiped out by US competitors.

    Not only are we leaving the EU but May is promising to exit the European Human Rights Convention. The new leader of UKIP says his next challenge is to bring back the death penalty which has support from the right wing English press and elements of the Conservative party.

    It’s not a case of “fostering devision”. There is a choice. Do we want to be part of the EU? Or do we prefer being part of a Trump/UKIP axis?

  10. Juliet, try to see self government as a GOOD THING on its own merits.
    Of course Westminster is not “the source of all evil”—that’s just daft. What it is is England’s parliament continuing. It’s focus is on England. It’s perspective is English, politically, economic and cultural. Look at the make up of May’s Cabinet. How many of them have even been in Scotland or shown the slightest interest in Scotland. Then we have David Mundell, who clearly stated he does NOT represent Scotland’s interests in Cabinet.
    Westminster sets the economic rules for us all–our terms of trade, interest rates, which industry gets a financial “leg up”, infrastructure projects(name one big infrastructure spend in Scotland initiated by Westminster?) and all the rest. Holyrood has extremely limited fiscal powers.
    None of this is wrong, but we are at the wrong end of the island to benefit from London’s economic and political hegemony.
    If you want Scotland to prosper (and it won’t be easy or quick), then decisions made “by Scots for Scots” to find a solution to our own problems, economic, cultural etc—-that is the best way to go.
    Reliance on others to solve what ails us, is to believe in a Fairy Godmother, and I think you MUST be smarter than that.

    1. Westminster is actually “A” source of Evil. Nobody says anything is the source of “All evil. Its just daft to suggest there is a single source of all evil. Westminsters evil is manifested within its corrupt privileged closed shop nature. It has the power to effect change direct and destroy our very lives and very little holding it back from doing so.
      The manner in which this power is manipulated is more often evil than beneficial so don’t go giving the Westminster idea a reasonably clean slate. Its a murderous institution capable of unspeakable horror on a mass scale.
      Just because it doesn’t maintain this murderous nature every day doesn’t mean its not a feature of its makeup.
      I truly wish that was an exaggeration.
      Its murderous nature rather than being malicious is more in line with being indifferent. It has an Ivory tower mentality where many of its members don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions proposals ideas or even ideology.
      They see and understand the benefits but never the full cost.
      Welfare cuts which actually have the consequence of death by starvation and malnutrition have become common policy because the bigger picture is the view taken by those who would never personally suffer from the consequences or have to witness them.
      They see measures taken to tackle a debt and a deficit they themselves grow through corrupt ideological management and criminal indifference to the public service they are supposed to be employed to perform.
      Their “Evil” indifference is really highlighted however with their foreign policy agendas relative to their domestic agendas which are bad enough.
      Don’t tell me it isn’t murderous and criminally corrupt.
      For 310 years this murderous institution has done nothing but warmonger and thieve its way through History. It has cut a bloody swath through every continent on the planet and I’m not talking about ancient or past history either I’m talking about recent and present day history writing.
      It hasn’t stopped being evil since it stole Scotland Wales and Ireland through conquest bribery extortion and annexation.
      I don’t understand why so many people refuse to acknowledge its true nature I really don’t. Its not as if it makes any real attempt to hide it except to pretend it fosters Democracy which is laughable in a black comedy way.

  11. The Greens generally approve of the SNP government. Slab generally approves of The Greens. Who approves of Labour(home and away) other than their fellow Unionists?

  12. I think that what is happening is people are fed up with politicians Trump cottoned on to that . He is not a politician.. Agree with him or not and I don’t .He is doing what he said he would do . On the news conferences he is doing he is being clever . The conferences are live so he is bypassing the mainstream meadia and talking directly to the public . America first is working with the public. Brexit another simple slogan here in the UK. The public never looked past immigration . Here in Scotland where we voted remain as did I it was still an issue. One of the biggest fibbers in politics and his crew Nigel Farrage came up with take our country back. Nigel has done well out of it . He is still a member of the European Parliament he wants to leave he is also now an advisor to Fox tv in the USA . Guess who Trump gave interviews to. Here the Nationalists will never take the Indy threat of the table. Their members would not let them even if they wanted to and they don’t. When we were demonstrating against the poll tax and we were trying to persuade our leaders to set up an assembly if labour got power .I remember a very senior SNP member being bood and insulted when on stage speaking in support of a Scottish Assembly. The people doing the booing were a large group of SNP students who regarded an assembly as some sort of half way house .I don’t remember the SNP being very keen on it. The first administration was a lib lab coalition . Labour have never been in sole power .Alec Salmond canny lad the BBC cheeky chappie before hfell out with them came in on a minority administration had no trouble doing backroom deals with the tories to get his budgets through. The tories did not want Labour back in. That’s politics todays politicians are already trading insults over an Indy Ref that has not been called yet. I was out delivering local election leaflets today and the public made it quite clear they want Holyrood to concentrate on local issues . The public are sick of it and we better acknowledge that or here in Scotland a Trump will come through. A British Bomber . Refugees Religious hatred no respect for each others beliefs . The rise of the right its all there .On the other hand John Snow has just had to apologize for saying a world famous actress is dead she is not. Then the are looking for the remains of King James 1 in Perth. I can save them the money just look under the nearest council car park ha ha. Well it got a laugh in the library and on the bus today

  13. Whilst I don’t agree with a number of the points on this article, I do agree with the general point. Politics is letting the people down. In my view it’s the archaic politics of Westminster which is the root of the problem. It’s an adversarial system with, generally, a winner and losers. So the Conservative party gets 36% of the vote and is the winner. They now get the chance to ram their views down our throats until we get fed up and vote them out. Just like Labour did before them etc. etc… Long term planning, forget it.

    Westminster has also shown it will protect the system, both houses, so the likelihood of seeing any change is minimal. So, if you believe as I do that Westminster won’t be changed in the lifetime of my kids, what option does that leave us other than to look to create a more consensual system in our own country. We’ve started that. It’s by no means perfect but then how could it be with the shadow of Westminster over it. It is unlikely to be a perfect system but surely we need to try to have our government representive of the whole society in its decision making and not just the “winners”.

    1. In Scotland: way more than the number of members they claim to have unless either, memberships are being given away at rock bottom, penny on the pound, prices, or there is some sort of subsidy going on to make it look like membership is higher than it actually is.

  14. Ive just found out that Kezia Dugdales Idea of Devo Max Home Rule and Federation is to keep as reserved to Westminster Defence, foreign affairs, pensions, Oil revenues, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax, AT THE VERY LEAST! I’m sure she has a lot more ideas about how much should remain reserved because clearly her priority is to ensure Wesminster keeps its subsidies rather than allowing Scotland the means to run itself.
    Unbelievable. This level of duplicity is why Labour will die in Scotland.

  15. This mess can’t be ‘fixed’ now as The Tories are in Power at Westminster and Labour are 18 points behind in the polls.
    In a Scottish context, only about 15% of all money spent on Scots is controlled by Holyrood.
    To believe that the devolved Scottish government can ‘fix’ the ills of decades of misrule with Air passenger duty and partial control of income tax is the reason Labour are heading for oblivion.
    For that reason Scottish independence is becoming more and not less likely.

    1. It’s not only the money that’s the problem: Holyrood can’t control the hard Brexit that’s underway.

      Juliet’s idea that the UK can become a “northern Singapore” as is being promised by some Conservatives and that Holyrood can reverse is sadly mistaken – and this is from someone who was a Better Together campaigner last time round.

  16. Problem for everyone it was a UK wide vote. If we do leave the UK demands for another EU vote would quickly appear

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